Home South London An Oral History of South London’s Sci-Fi Hit

An Oral History of South London’s Sci-Fi Hit


You can normally decide a movie by it’s tagline, and “A teen gang in South London defend their block from an alien invasion” appears like the sort that goes straight to DVD and is barely talked about once more in whispers on boards for many who sarcastically love shit cinema.

Instead, Attack the Block is within the higher echelon of movies which have come out of Britain, that includes a forged that features Jodie Whittaker and Nick Frost and offers us John Boyega’s on-screen debut. Even now, ten years on from its unique launch on the eleventh of May, 2011, it nonetheless holds up. 

Taking place on bonfire evening, the movie follows Sam (Whittaker), a nurse, and the group of 5 youngsters; Dennis, Pest, Moses, Jerome and Biggz, who mug her earlier than teaming up along with her to defeat the aliens which have descended on their South London property. 

Released in 2011 after the success of movies like Kidulthood and Adulthood, it’s precisely the sort of movie that will additionally flip right into a cult traditional. But mixing a traditional British style with sci-fi is a tough factor to tug off. Here, Cornish together with some of the forged inform the story of how Attack the Block got here to be. 


Joe Cornish (Writer and director): It took ten years for the thought to type of coalesce, and it was impressed by getting carjacked by these youngsters exterior of my home in South London. It struck me as such a bizarre state of affairs on the time. It was so synthetic, like one thing out of a film. I considered how cool all of them regarded of their masks and it felt like being in a scene from a Western and everybody was simply position taking part in. I assumed ‘what would occur if a meteor fell out of the sky and hit the automotive? How would that change the dynamic?’ Suddenly, the children who I used to be frightened of, I’d most likely need them to have my again in that state of affairs.


Jumayn Hunter (actor, performs Hi-Hatz): When I learn the title, I assumed ‘OK, that is some hood factor like Kidulthood’. I missed the audition for Kidulthood so I could not kick begin my profession at the moment, however after I clocked that the style was sci-fi I actually misplaced my shit. I used to be sitting smoking shisha in my pals home, there’s about 20 of us, and I’m in my very own zone freaking out. I’m like this factor that simply got here by means of, the style combine is mad! This goes to be mad, you simply don’t combine hood stuff with sci-fi. It was precisely what I wished and in my head I assumed, God, if I don’t get to be in it, a minimum of simply let this be pretty much as good as I hope will probably be as a result of I actually need to watch the ultimate product. 

Alex Esmail (actor, performs Pest): When Joe Cornish first mentioned that is what it was earlier than I had even learn the script I used to be a bit like, ‘OK…’. Going into filming, even as soon as we had the roles and stuff, a couple of of us thought it was going to be a discount bin film. But at the moment I didn’t perceive how good of a author Joe was and the way properly it will work out. It was naivety.


Cornish: We wished to make it seem like a comic book e book and put fantasy cinema in a spot the place fantasy cinema wasn’t normally allowed to go. I’m a giant comedian e book fan and as a primary time director, I discovered {that a} very helpful option to visualise the movie, plan what cool frames can be like, and what have been the individuals and objects would look their finest.

I used to be impressed by Walter Hill and John Carpenter’s films, like The Warriors, Assault on Precinct 13 and Streets of Fire, that are all set at evening and do actually cool issues with psychedelic colors at evening. Most British movies are set in that basically grim, gritty, miserable atmosphere, however we have been making a sci-fi film so we wished it to be escapist and otherworldly. We wished to make the pill seem like a spaceship and the mopeds seem like Speeder bikes from Star Wars and, you already know, like, put the inexperienced gentle of a visitors gentle behind the cloud of exhaust, and make it seem like the smoke from the Wicked Witch of the West. 


Hunter: A man I frolicked with was like ‘I’m going to place you ahead for [a role] that I feel you’ll be actually involved in’, which turned out to be Moses. Then Nina Gold, who’s the very best casting director within the UK, gave me a shout as properly. I run down there on the day – I haven’t discovered the traces and I’m half an hour late, all the pieces that would have gone incorrect that day went incorrect for me. So in that second, I used to be like ‘screw inhibitions’. Then Joe [Cornish] was like, ‘don’t go wherever you’ve got the half’.

Cornish: As quickly as Jumayn got here in to audition, we knew he was the man. He’s such an enthusiastic and passionate individual. He’s so fucking good. We have been very, very fortunate to search out him. He actually introduced the character to life.

Esmail: It was my first bit of skilled performing you already know, I used to be 15. I came upon about Attack the Block by means of my drama school. They got here in and auditioned us at one of our classes. We performed a load of open-ended drama video games with us and a few of us have been going to be thought of for the movie auditions. 

Franz Drameh (actor, performs Dennis): I had simply turned 16. I had solely carried out a small, small position in Hereafter which was directed by Clint Eastwood simply earlier than Attack the Block and some TV roles right here and there. There was the standard rounds of auditions and at that final audition everybody who was going to be within the movie was there, like, auditioning for his or her respective roles, and all of us came upon collectively, which was loopy. It was within the highlight constructing in Leicester Square and I keep in mind working down the steps cheering with Simon Howard and Alex Esmail after we came upon all of us obtained components within the film. 


Joe Cornish: I wrote an overview of the story that was most likely about 12 pages with a bit of chapter headings. And then I obtained a pal of mine, who was an illustrator who did comedian strips, to do about 5 comedian e book pictures for it. Then on large bits of polyboard I had blown-up pictures of images of avenue youngsters in South America who’re holding up pretend alien carcasses. 

For Hi-Hatz, particularly, I used to be watching loads of Channel U on the time. It was one of the primary TV stations to indicate grime and hip-hop across the clock. He was really based mostly on an actual rapper referred to as Pound Sterling who simply appeared actually unintentionally humorous. Like he was actually making an attempt to be actually laborious, however was inadvertently fairly foolish. 

For the boys, I went round masses and masses of youth golf equipment throughout London and switched a tape recorder on and settled teams of younger individuals and mentioned ‘think about this occurred’. I went house and transcribed it and ended up with two large binders of interviews, full of all types. As the totally different characters emerged, we went out to try to discover the characters. We tried to search out the boy that was as near Moses as potential.


Esmail: It was principally sensible results. It’s completely insane. The man who wears the swimsuit, Terry Notary, is an absolute legend. It was genuinely scary. It wasn’t only a dude in a vibrant inexperienced swimsuit that’s obtained to have results placed on it. The swimsuit was actually large, black and furry and the pinnacle had glowing inexperienced sharp arse enamel on it. In actual life it regarded like what it’s.

When I obtained chased by the aliens earlier than my leg obtained bitten within the movie, I actually obtained chased by a factor working on all fours that runs loads sooner than I do. Terry had these two arm extensions that enable him to run like a gorilla. It’s scary man. He’s a very nice, tender spoken man from California however he’s amping himself as much as chase me like, ‘I’m gonna get you bitch’ they usually’re all like ‘Alex are you able to run a bit faster, he’s really going to get you’. 

Cornish: My cartoonist pal really got here up with the thought for the inexperienced enamel, which we then figured may very well be glow at the hours of darkness, most likely, simply from these plastic vampire enamel.

The thought for them being ultra-black got here from my black cat. They look actually stunning once they’re backlit, similar to silhouettes. So we had individuals in fits and rubbed out all of the reflections, so it was only a black shadow. In the 80s, the previous Space Invaders online game in arcades had an illustration of the aliens and despite the fact that they’re standing on two legs they’re simply silhouettes. So yeah, it was simply it was simply type of protecting my eyes and ears open and gathering influences and that kind of thought forming.

Drameh: There was a component of realism to it. It’s one factor to run away from pretend aliens once you’re working with inexperienced display screen and CGI, however when it’s bodily all the pieces adjustments. They can’t actually see as properly within the fits, so in the event you cease they’ll cost at you. Terry can actually transfer on all fours. It’s no joke. 

Hunter: During manufacturing I refused to see the aliens as a result of I wished the primary time I noticed them within the film to essentially be the primary time I noticed them. So my response was one hundred pc real. Joe began rolling the digital camera, didn’t inform me, and mentioned there was an influence minimize or one thing. The lights went out after which this factor nipped not far away towards me and I freaked out! My pure response was to start out capturing blanks. I used to be like ‘What the hell is that? Oh my god!’

Hunter: They made a forged of my head for when my face will get ripped off by the aliens. I feel in some unspecified time in the future they have been promoting them on eBay. They made my complete chest and head as a robotic and advised me to make some faces and they’d make the robotic do these faces, which was so creepy. Then they put it subsequent to me and superimposed it into the movie. That scene was insane. Never carried out a scene like that earlier than. 


Drameh: It was most of our first movies, so everybody was variety of simply having enjoyable. We would play video video games on a regular basis and there was loads of rehearsals and stunt coaching, so we obtained to hang around loads and all of us simply grew to become actually quick pals. So the chemistry that you simply see on within the movie is actual. We would pull pranks on one another. It was hilarious filming, it’s actually one of the very best jobs I’ve ever carried out to this present day. 

Esmail: There was rather a lot of time on set to only discuss, so loads of time we spent engaged on extra intense backstories for our characters and simply foolish issues that basically helped us perceive what we have been doing. I really feel like all of us have been very passionate concerning the mission, so it was very easy for us to throw all of our power and our concepts in direction of it and our characters. 

Hunter: It’s nonetheless Top 5 of something I’ve labored on, in phrases of the individuals who have been on set and with the ability to mess around. It was an excessive amount of enjoyable. I nonetheless discuss to them. We used to dick about on set, even Joe [Cornish]. He was probably the most infantile of all of us. He was pulling pranks on us and sending out dumb emails and stuff, he was hilarious. It was a very good expertise.

Cornish: When I went to see the actors on the times of their loss of life scenes, they have been at all times actually bummed as a result of it meant they weren’t within the movie anymore. Often they’d simply come again in, despite the fact that they have been completed, simply to hang around with with all of the others. They did genuinely type a good bond over the shoot.

Esmail: I keep in mind after we shot Franz’s [death] and there’s the shot the place we’re all trying down on the useless alien and him and we begin crying. When they referred to as minimize, we got here off and we couldn’t cease crying. We have been blubbering like idiots for ten minutes and couldn’t flip it off. It was emotional man. 


Bassment Jaxx featured on the Attack the Block soundtrack, however an unique tune created by composer Mikis Michaelides for Hi-Hatz, a rapper who solely listens to his personal tune “Get That Snitch”, which shortly grew to become a fan favorite. With lyrics like “I’m so chilly, blud I shit snow/ And I piss ice” it’s no shock.

Cornish: With “Get That Snitch” the temporary was to put in writing a tune that appears actual, however in the event you have a look at it extra intently it’s ridiculous. If you heard it from a automotive from a distance, you’d assume ‘oh that is fairly good’, however in the event you really listen, you realise it is the stupidest tune ever written. 


Joe Cornish: We have been formidable, you’re not purported to do aliens, automotive chases, explosions and motion sequences in low funds British films. Lots of individuals advised us we weren’t going to have the ability to do it with that funds, however we mentioned fuck it. I simply must credit score the crew for doing a very good job with that. 


Drameh: It’s one of the one movies the place I’ve really been in a position to variety of simply use my very own voice, my very own dialect, in a movie. It’s refreshing, however it’s humorous how you already know you’re younger, like 15 or 16, you do not actually assume into the politics behind it a lot. At that point, if there’s Black individuals within the movie, they’re the token variety of thrown in, so it was actually refreshing.

Esmail: When we first began doing press, one of the issues we obtained requested about loads was how we’re creating empathy for these characters once they’ve mugged somebody within the first place. I’ve spoken to some individuals who don’t really feel that approach and I’ve actually compelled them to observe the movie once more with extra open eyes as a result of they’re lacking one thing. 

Hunter: Race is a giant factor in all the pieces now, so the truth that it was accepted for what it’s and wasn’t checked out in a destructive approach, like making an attempt to make the children look unhealthy as a result of they’re Black or one thing. Plus there was sufficient variety within the group to signify most of London. I’m very glad that it didn’t seem like a stereotype in any approach, however I feel that’s right down to the style that it’s and the way in which that it was shot and everybody’s particular person characters.

I actually liked the group of ladies within the movie too. It’s one of the primary sturdy ladies scenes I’ve seen from UK cinema in my era. That was a giant factor for me. Not solely are they defending themselves however they saved the boys too.


Cornish: I’m amazed that it’s caught round for this lengthy, as a result of it did not do very properly on the field workplace. But then it actually took off on house video, or when it was proven on TV. Then as John Boyega’s profession took off that gave it one other enhance. You know, you make a movie and put it on the market and actually it is by itself variety of journey, so it is unbelievable that individuals nonetheless watch it and prefer it.

Hunter: I like that not everybody is aware of about it and that there are nonetheless individuals to expertise it, however it’s not us pushing it. It’s the those that find it irresistible. People will recognise me from it to this present day. One time on the airport some dude, a safety man, comes as much as me and he’s screaming with a gun in his arms and I’m scared however he’s like ‘No! Big fan! Attack the Block!’ I’m like ‘oh my god, please don’t do this to me.’


Although some of the group of boys succumbed to the aliens, Joe Cornish talked about a rumours a few sequel on the Script Apart podcast.

Cornish: John [Boyega] and I’ve talked a few sequel. He came to visit to my home a couple of weeks in the past, earlier than this final lockdown, and we sat collectively within the backyard speaking for hours and hours about it till it obtained darkish. Don’t maintain your breath although, it took ten years to put in writing the primary one.

Esmail: John had an thought which, to this present day, I nonetheless assume would look so wonderful. The invasion has gone London-wide, those that get us go and get their masters, then we work out that they’re coming again. We didn’t work out full story kinks, however we had an overarching thought of it changing into this complete people versus aliens factor headed up by some of the characters that survived the primary one.

He had this shot of a load of us lot, with about 30 or 40 extra individuals from the South London space, and the shot can be us coming throughout the bridge to Parliament all on BMXs and motorbikes with a meteor bathe behind us as all of the aliens got here down.