Tony Pitts Interview
Exposed meets Sheffield actor Tony Pitts as he chats about his latest role in film Hyena.
A straight talking man from Sheffield, Tony Pitts’ down-to-earth attitude belies his impressive and varied career. Having worked in film, TV, radio and theatre as an actor, writer and director, Tony is a seasoned profession. His latest film, Hyena, sees him star alongside a roster of fantastic British actors in a film about a pack of corrupt police officers on the brink of destruction. “It’s about power,” says Tony, “they’ve been extorting and selling drugs for years and years. We find them just before the fall, we get to the point where they feel untouchable – nobody is.” Tony is not naïve, but he says working on Hyena was eye-opening. It was a glimpse into “that world that walks alongside ours, that we’re not always aware of.”
Pitts’ involvement in Hyena began when he was sent writer-director Gerard Johnson’s debut feature film, Tony. “It was an extraordinarily, beautifully shot film. So then I went in to meet them,” Tony recognised his friends and trusted co-performers, included the likes of Peter Ferdinando (Starred Up), Stephen Graham (This Is England), and Neil Maskell (Utopia). It was the opportunity to work alongside his “tribe” that convinced Tony Hyena was an interesting project.
Reluctant to discuss the acting process, Tony states that he is wary of actors who do share the details of their methods. “I’m not really interested. If I have a plumber round, I don’t want to know his theory on plumbing.” Tony does says that he always prefers to follow his instincts, “I love the moment of invention. I’m not so keen on repetition, I usually think I’m better on a first take than a third. That’s what I enjoy, the spark, that’s the adrenaline.” With a more than 30 year long career behind him, Tony’s instincts clearly haven’t led him astray so far.
Seemingly appearing from nowhere in 1981, Tony was working as a truck mechanic in Sheffield when Ken Loach came to Stannington College looking to cast extras for Looks and Smiles. “He asked us how we would react if somebody stole our moped. I think it’s fair to say that I reacted with the degree of realism that they wanted.” Loach was so impressed with Tony that he soon gave him a lead role in Looks and Smiles. “I was literally a truck mechanic one Monday, and then started shooting the following Monday.”
Tony went on to work in theatre, before being cast as Archie Brooks in Emmerdale in 1983. The exposure to such a massive audience was “a big gear change” for Tony. “I was a kid,” he says, “at that age you don’t really know who you are and what you’re about, I think you do well to go through that and survive it.” Tony’s time on Emmerdale also gave him the opportunity to work on other projects, he says it was good training ground. Archie Brooks was eventually killed off in the infamous plane crash, in 1993. After leaving Emmerdale, Tony didn’t work in TV for two years. “In the meantime I’ve always written, so those two years turned out to be really productive. I just churned out cupboards and cupboards of stuff. Fortunately some of it is now getting made.”
Tony’s writing has mostly been for radio. He has won awards for his radio play On It, and has three series of a show called Shedtown under his belt. “It’s fantastic,” he says “I’ve got control there. I write direct and perform. It’s a tenth of the money but a thousand times of the control, there’s no filter.” Tony likes the purity of radio, which gives him ability to express with his own creative voice and tackle issues. Currently working on his next project, which Tony says is about male anger, called Monster starring himselfand Neil Maskell. Speaking on the split between acting and writing in his career, Tony says “I’m a writer-performer. Today I’m a writer because I’m writing, but next week I’m back on set for My Mad Fat Diary, so I’ll be an actor. I am whatever I’m doing on that day. I need both.”
Hyena is showing in cinemas nationwide now.