Each week we talk to an artist about their best-known work. This time around, Irish singer-cum-actor Andrew Strong recalls the craziness, craic and cream buns which surrounded him as he brought The Commitments’ character Deco Cuffe to life for the 1991 cult movie.
Basically, I never really auditioned for the part, I was just asked to come in as a session singer. I was on summer holidays at the time and I was still in school. Alan Parker, the director, wanted to hear what these old soul songs [Mustang Sally, In the Midnight Hour] would sound like with a more ‘‘modern feel’’. So each day four or five of us singers would be assigned four or five songs each and the next day we would come in and play with the session band in a rehearsal hall and they would record
"I couldn't wait until that bloody scene was over and then I just went and completely spewed the whole lot up." Andrew Strong on having to consume a pile of cream buns.
the songs. Mustang Sally was among the songs I was assigned and the musical co-ordinator just asked me to take a break while he rang Alan Parker who was in the middle of doing a casting session in some other part of Dublin. ‘‘You’d better get over here, this may be the guy you’re looking for,’’ I believe he said to him. About two weeks later, I eventually got a call from the casting director to say, ‘‘congratulations, you got the part’’ and everything just kind of snowballed from there.
There wasn’t much improvising on set because, from Alan Parker’s pointof-view, he was working 10 or 11 kids, only one or two out of whom had had any acting experience. He was quite vigilant about that. He was very strict. Put it this way – by the time we got to set, we knew our lines back to front. It was very much his way and only his way. Even if you tried to act, he would just say, ‘‘stop acting’’.
I think we were one of the first films to record the singing live. Sometimes that was quite challenging, especially when there were so many camera angles to be covered. I remember one time, I sang so much that the following day I said, ‘‘I just can’t sing any more – I’m not a robot’’.
On the acting side, I remember there’s one scene in the movie where I’m eating cream buns and I think that day I had to eat 20 of those things. I couldn’t wait until that bloody scene was over and then I just went and completely spewed the whole lot up.
However, I was 16 years of age, and to be handed an opportunity like that – any kid would jump on it, so I was extremely grateful and very, very lucky. – As told to James Croot
Andrew Strong will be performing soundtrack when he visits Auckland and Wellington in early March.