King Eric to the rescue

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 October, 2009, 12:00am

Directed by social realist Ken Loach, Looking for Eric is a tale of two very different Erics. Bit-part actor Steve Evets stars as depressed postman Eric Bishop. Eric is in his early 50s, his marriage is over and he is struggling to take care of his two out-of-control stepsons. In a nutshell, he's losing grip.

He reads a self-help book which suggests choosing a personal hero and looking at life through that idol's eyes. A diehard Manchester United fan, Eric chooses Eric Cantona, the famous soccer player.

In an interview with magazine Socialist Review, Loach says: 'We wanted to deflate the idea of celebrities as more than human. And we wanted to make a film that was enjoying the idea of ... solidarity [or] for your friends, really, and the old idea that we are stronger as a team than we are as individuals.'

Cantona plays himself in the movie, a role he clearly enjoyed. 'In the film, I was myself in Eric Bishop's ... imagination. That gives me a lot of distance from myself and I liked it a lot ... It is like being and watching yourself. You have to be spontaneous, be yourself, but in a fiction,' the Frenchman says.

Known for his realistic representations of characters, Loach didn't tell Evets Cantona would actually be in the film in hopes of capturing the actor's sincere surprise.

The director says: 'Surprise is the hardest thing to act. Evets knew Eric Cantona was involved as a producer but he didn't know that he was in the film. On the day he was going to [appear on camera], I said to Steve, 'The light's not quite right... Give us 10 minutes.'

'Steve went out and we let Eric hide behind a black drape ... and then we played the scene. Steve was looking towards the life-sized Cantona poster and Eric slipped out and stood behind him, and spoke.'

'When I got the bit of script where my character talks to Eric Cantona the poster,' says Evets, 'I thought to myself, well, they'll use his voiceover for the poster to talk back at me. I never in a million years dreamed that Eric Cantona would be in it to the extent that he is.'

This realism is also reflected in Evets' casting: Loach sensed the actor was a man on the edge and honest, qualities which made him empathetic. Another reason is that Evets is from Manchester, like his character.

'The Eric in the film is a Manchester United supporter when most [Man U] supporters came from Manchester. So we thought it was important that he was played by a Manchester man,' Loach says.

Looking for Eric opens October 29