From specialist to spectacular

04 December 2010 - 22:24 By Lifestyle Magazine

John van de Ruit never thought of Spud as a movie. "When I started writing Spud I was hoping for a small, specialist cult following that would allow me to write a second book. But from the day it went into bookshops, it grew and grew," he says.

Says Ross Garland, the producer: "John had been a friend for a long time, so we immediately started talking about the movie version. As the Spud phenomenon went overseas, the idea of the movie seemed more possible every single day.

"We started writing and after about the fourth draft we saw the book sales growing. When the second and third book became a success, we were elated, but we had still not found the funding to make the movie," says Garland.

"The turning point came when we sent the script to John Cleese and his agent said that he would do it. I sent that message to John, not realising it was April Fool's Day, and people thought I was playing a bad joke."

As the film proceeded, everyone had a favourite scene that "had to be in the script".

But, says Van de Ruit, "we all had to make sacrifices. Some of the great comic moments, what I called the 'whirligigs', had to be cut.

"If a scene did not have a bearing on Spud's journey, we had to drop it. A bunch of gags that were funny but did not really carry the story forward had to be sacrificed.

"There was a scene with Reverend Bishop that we kept for about three years as we built the script, a great comic scene with the boys taking the mickey out of him, but just before shooting started we decided to kill it, because it could not justify itself in terms of the rest of the movie.

"Eventually, we had a really potent story. Audiences who go in looking for a laugh a minute will also find a really profound situation with a strong message," says van der Ruit.