A short film about the impeccably stylish, hugely talented and sorely missed Mod legend - Steve Marriott.
Midnight Of My Life is directed by Phil Davis (who played Chalky in Quadrophenia) and stars the one and only Martin Freeman (The Office, Sherlock) as the Small Faces and Humble Pie frontman. The film was written by Nina Gerstenberger and composed by Oasis and Beady Eye guitarist Andy Bell.
It's July 1985 and while Rock and Roll's great and good are strutting their stuff at Wembley, Steve Marriott is propping up the bar of a dingy pub in Putney waiting to play to a small crowd of boozers. While he waits for the rest of his band, bitter and drunk, an encounter with a young revival Mod restores Steve's faith.
Steve Marriott is one of the British music scene's most revered but widely overlooked vocalists, his life and premature death were marked by the incredible pace at which he lived out his passion for music, performing and partying. Midnight Of My Life is a poignant study of talent, ageing and what success means.
The film was produced by newly formed production company Very Nice Joe and the majority of the budget was raised through crowdfunding - over 200 Steve Marriott fans worldwide helped raise over £15,000.
The film was shot in East London in April 2015 and was completed by July 2015. We've been lucky enough to be given access to some interview questions with Martin, Phil and Nina, read on to find out what they had to say about the film.
An interview with Martin Freeman.
What does Steve Marriott mean to you?
"Steve Marriott has been a huge figure in my life since my teens. He’s simply one of my favourite artists."
It's no secret you're a fan of mod culture - what were you able to bring to the film? How did you prepare?
"Well, Steve was someone I’ve always wanted to play, and someone people had always said I should play. So as I got older, I thought that ship had sailed, but lo and behold, mid-80s dungarees threw me a lifeline! I looked at footage of Steve from that period more than I ever had before. I do a pretty mean Steve impression on left-handed air guitar, but miming right-handed with the real thing was a bit of a challenge!"
He has this appeal as a cult figure - aside from his neglected status, what do you think set him apart?
"Well, he basically invented the template for what we see as the archetypal Mod. Great hair, wicked gear, a little white kid in thrall to black music. And a sense of humour too, something not always inherited by those who’ve nicked his barnet! Also, we love an underdog, which he has become in our minds. And of course the Small Faces didn’t go on long enough to make terrible records."
An interview with Phil Davis.
Do you remember the first time you came across Steve Marriott's music? What set him apart? Can you relate to him on any level?
"I first came across Steve Marriott's music in 73. I was working in rep in Lancaster and sharing a flat with the theatre electrician. We had a very few albums between us and among them was Ogdens Nut Gone Flake. It was played over and over again. I became a fan. But I can't pretend to that I was A Small Faces nut back then. It was much later that I realised that he, and the band, had been important. Were they the first mod band? They were there or thereabouts. I loved his voice. It amazed me that a kid from the East End of London, one of us, could sound like that. Can I relate to him? Well, relating to people, empathising with people, is one aspect of my job as an actor and director. He and I are nothing like each other. But we made the film for its own sake, for the love of it, so there's a thread that binds us."
Is Steve a more romantic figure as there is some sense of unfulfilled promise to his career? Or do you think his refusal to compromise is what made him great?
"There was a great deal of unfulfilled promise in his career. It's a rock and roll cliche isn't it? The talent that burns very bright but not for very long. But the story of our film is that of a man who loves to play, loves it with all his heart and soul, more than being famous, more than being rich, more than anything else. Perhaps if he had been less of a contrarian, an easier character to deal with, he may have burned brighter for longer, he may have been playing at Live Aid. Of course there’s regret, but you know, it is what it is, he gets up in the back room of a dingy boozer, on the night of Live Aid and plays as well as he possibly can. For the love of it. That was what attracted me to the script, what made me come out of directing retirement to make the film."
An interview with Nina Gerstenberger.
Have you always been a Steve Marriott fan?
"I've been a Small Faces fan since the happy days of Britpop when so many of my favourite artists – Oasis, Ocean Colour Scene, Paul Weller – would name this East London band and their quirky singer as a major influence. But I hadn't known much about their lives until I read John Hellier and Paolo Hewitt's superb biography - All Too Beautiful."
So Martin Freeman as Steve Marriott. Did you have him in mind whilst you were writing the script?
"From the moment I started to write the older Steve, Steve in the 80s, I always saw Martin playing the character because first of all, I am a massive fan of Martin, I just think he’s one of the best British actors of our time and also because he’s a mod, Steve must be a hero of his. So while we were developing the short film I said to Hatty – and I didn’t believe it for a single second – we need to get Martin on board. And as it turns out, he always wanted to play Steve and he actually said to me during the shoot ‘I always wanted to play Steve but the older I got, my hopes were fading. I thought, I’d never get the chance to play him until your script came along.’"