Cass Pennant is the best-selling author of eight football fan-related books, five of which have been UK Top Ten bestsellers. Pennant is also the eponymous anti-hero of the British feature film Cass (2008), based on his best-selling autobiography about his turbulent life and character, constantly strengthened through adversity.
Cass was directed by Jon. S. Baird and filmed starring Nonso Anozie, Nathalie Press and Tamer Hassan. It was a culmination of events and a violent lifestyle as a leading member of notorious 80s football gang the ICF that saw him convicted and sent to prison; it was at this time that Pennant began to write.
In the range of hooligan literature, the singular elements of humane dynamism and sympathy within Pennant’s writing stood out. His story showed an escape route for those brutalised by their early experiences, a way out of the dead end towards moral redemption and peace. As an acknowledged authority on the culture of hooliganism and gang culture, Pennant has advised on numerous TV and film projects, including Guy Ritchie’s acclaimed Snatch (2000), Lexi Alexander’s Green Street/Hooligans (2005), Alan Clarke’s The Firm (2009) plus Bravo TV’s The Real Football Factories (2006) series, ITV’s Bouncers series and Ian Stuttard’s award winning Thames TV documentary Hooligan (2005).
Today Cass Pennant works mainly in film after being instrumental in the 2011 production of Casuals – a feature film DVD documentary exploring the early 80s fashion movement instigated by young football supporters. His latest venture finds him credited as a co-producer on British gangster film, The Guvnors which stars Harley Sylvester from rap group Rizzle Kicks in his first major role. The Guvnors is on general release from Friday 29th August 2014.
The British Blacklist caught up with Mr. Pennant to talk about the film set amongst the clans and firms of South East London, bringing two generations together in brutal conflict… Hello Cass, welcome to the British Blacklist. You are an acclaimed author and self-confessed Hooliologist. Can you explain the latter term for our readers?
The books had brought me a lot of requests to be interviewed from students to press and media as an authoritarian about hooliganism. I found myself replacing a role normally reserved for sociologists. Me and a friend came up with the name as a tongue-in-cheek reference knowing no such word existed and is clearly a play on the word ‘criminologist’. The challenge was to get it in the English dictionary but the first official recognition came via the Daily Express when I was described as the nation’s foremost “hooliologist” and soon after it entered the Urban Dictionary.
You are a co-producer of, The Guvnors. How did your link up with writer-director Gabe Turner come about and is the film an unofficial sequel to Cass?
Through film distributor Metrodome I was introduced to Gabe Turner and Fulwell 73 late in 2012 as the film is a collaboration partnership from the outset. Metrodome knew me after producing the successful football fashion documentary Casuals and was offered the opportunity to work freelance on both the film and script. The story of my own life was made a film by another director Jon S. Baird (Filth) in 2008 but there is no planned sequel.
The Guvnors is a fictional work and Gabe Turner’s first feature movie. Is the core message of The Guvnors essentially the ‘knock-on’ effect of a violent lifestyle and the importance of setting a good moral example for our future generations?
The Guvnors is a story focussed on the violent lifestyles of two alpha male roles awesomely played by Harley Sylvester (Rizzle Kicks) and Doug Allen (The Firm, EastEnders) and the knock-on effect of that lifestyle is massive as you will see at the end of the film. Throughout the story you feel certain messages, some strong some quite subtle but you feel them. The hunter can become the hunted and the abuser can also be the victim, trapped by the environment lived in. The director feels the message in fatherhood is key but for me the movie’s message is that there really are two paths in life and eventually you’re going to have to choose, sink or swim.
There are no real lead female characters in this film so how do you respond to critics who may stereotype this as a gratuitously violent “lad flick”?
With the title being Guvnors rather than ‘Governess’ and along with its action packed trailer the film is rightly going to appeal strongly to the genre most favoured with the lads, the bonus is that the wider appeal of the film is via the excellent casting of several female supporting roles played to an importance. The likes of Melanie Gutteridge and Lorraine Stanley and newcomer Nina Cranstoun carry a strong screen presence. The feedback with this week’s west end premiere and early screenings has been surprising in that it has been generally been the women who have commented first about how much they enjoyed it, simply because it surpassed their expectations. I also think it a plus to have had the film’s distributor Metrodome heavily involved at the start of production. They have experience of targeting a film’s audience and knowing their market. Trust me the film has no need to rely heavily on critics, as I believe we have built up a film people wanted prior the 29th release date with our social media campaign and the trailer which has already reached 100k views.
Do you have anything in the pipeline for the rest of the year?
I have produced a crowd-funded short film (Beverley) about a mixed-race teenaged girl who struggles to find acceptance in Leicester in 1980. Whilst the film follows the protagonist’s journey, it simultaneously explores British cultural history and concepts of British identity. The backdrop to the film is one of the most explosive post-war British subcultures, which saw the coming together of black and white musicians and the union of the musical influences of Jamaican based Ska and British based Punk.
The movement would leave an indelible mark on British identity as it remains a symbol of British multiculturalism and continues to have an iconic cultural legacy. The film starring Laya Lewis (Skins) and Vicky McClure (This is England) is in post-production as a short for the festival circuit. Along with director and writer Alexander Thomas, I have already began working to make it a feature film project and I couldn’t express enough words to describe how passionate I am about making it.
Cinema Listings For ‘The Guvnors’ Released From 29th August
- CINEWORLD CINEMA: Aberdeen, Ashton-Under-Lyne, Bolton, Bradford, Cardiff, Castleford, Enfield, Glasgow Renfrew St, Sheffield, Stevenage, Wolverhampton,
- SHOWCASE CINEMA: Bluewater, Bristol, Cardiff, CDL Leicester, Coventry, Derby CDL, Dudley, Glasgow East, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newham, Nottingham, Paisley, Peterborough, reading, Teesside, Walsall, more to be confirmed.
- VUE CINEMA: Birmingham Star City
The Guvnors will be out on DVD & Blu-ray 26th December 2014