by Tim Ricketts
Being a fan of both Film and Professional Wrestling, I have always found it intriguing when the two forms of popular culture collide. From youthful memories of ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper’s starring role in ‘They Live’ or Andre the Giant in ‘The Princess Bride’, to the more recent output by WWE Studios, there has always been a link, often with a comedic edge. So when I heard about ‘Spandex and Fake Tan’, a British independent film centred around the weird and wacky world of wrestling, I had to look in to it.
The writer and creative force behind the project is Chris Welch, otherwise known as ‘Filthy’ Chris Walker, one half of prolific independent tag-team, The Magnums. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the particular blend of lecherous sleaze, puerile slapstick and skilled athletic performance of The Magnums across multiple wrestling promotions this year, all executed with exquisite timing.
Spandex and Fake Tan’s social media shows the film’s good progress, with the refinements of several script read-throughs and locations scouted. Coupled with Chris’ obvious ‘insider’ knowledge and comedic skills, it really has me intrigued. I caught up with him before a show to find out more.
Before I ask about the film, let’s find out more about you. A lot of people will know you from your wrestling, so how did you get in to that?
Like any person really, through a training school. 10 years ago I went to a local school in the Oxford area. You train, start doing shows, get a character, get yourself out there. It really kicked off for me when I started the Magnums 4 years ago. That was by chance. I knew Nick [‘Dirty’ Dick Riley, Chris’ tag partner] anyway from other shows and then we were paired together because of the Movember thing. I had really big mutton chops and a big moustache and he had a big moustache so they were like “you two are together, you’re the bad guys”. We were messaging each other before hand saying “let’s do something like Magnum P.I. – kind of womanisers.” It all went from there and people seemed to warm to it and we’ve done it 300 times since.
I noticed it was your fourth anniversary yesterday. Congratulations!
It’s like a marriage.
Other than Wrestling, what else do you do that has an impact on the Film?
So outside of wrestling I’m quite creative, like in wrestling. You have to be quite creative, so I do a lot of writing. In the past, as a job, I have written for people; I used to do freelance script editing for the BBC. All the way through, I’ve been writing. It’s only this project that I’ve been really invested in, everything else I’ve done, you do it, you put it to the side and say ‘that was nice to do, on to the next project.’ This project, I think because it links to my wrestling, it’s a bit more personal – I’ve got a bit more passion for it.
So rather than just being work, it’s your ‘baby’?
Yeah, exactly; and outside of it, I’m a project manager. I do a 9-5 job, work in an office and I think those skills in my work will help me with the project coming up.
So you have the knowledge of your subject, and the experience to handle the logistics, but what is the film really about? Hit me with the hook.
So I’m going to say, imagine ‘Dodge Ball’ meets ‘Rocky’. It’s a comedy film about a chap called Tim. [This provokes a chuckle, and Chris assures me it’s not in there on purpose.] Like most of us who like wrestling, we come from being fans of it as a child, so when he was a child, he loved it, he adored it, it was his passion, he emulated it. He was Hulk Hogan. He was Randy Savage. He used to be those characters, his room was full of everything, t-shirts, posters, but as with everything in life – things change. Fast forward, he’s 30 years old, he’s in a job that’s not going anywhere, his girlfriend’s left, he’s basically at a dead end. Suddenly wrestling comes in his town and his friends are like ‘hey let’s go, it could be good, you need to get out.’ He goes along, he has a few too many drinks and he gets involved a little bit too much. The main bad-guy, called Diamond Jackal challenges him to a match at the big show in 3 months time. Being kind of hyped up in the emotion, the match is made.
He finds a trainer, Stretcher Stan, a grizzled old veteran who has trained hundreds of wrestlers and has had thousands of matches. He trains Tim for the next few months, and then it’s all about the big match. Will Tim take part? Will he win? Will he make his friends proud? Will he do something in his life? That’s my interesting little story, but I say Dodge Ball meets Rocky because it has elements of the ludicrous way Dodge Ball built its story and characters but then a few similarities to Rocky about someone doing something they’re passionate about … and the training and all the way to the big fight.
I can certainly see the parallels, but does it have any other influences?
I’m a big of the late 80s/early 90s comedy, so I’m a big fan of Black Adder, Bottom and Red Dwarf, all those type of iconic comedies. You know, in the writing there are hints of that style of comedy but I’m also a fan of the American [Judd] Apatow style of comedy. I’m a big fan of improvisation so the script is written in such a way that it’s open to the actors. I write a joke or I write a scene that has a joke in it and then I think to myself “yeah, that’s loose, that could go anywhere, that can go where the actor wants it to”, so, those are my influences. Some are my experiences, some of the people that I’ve experienced and worked with. There’s a character who’s a promoter and maybe that’s based on someone or maybe it’s based on people I’ve had interactions with. There’s a big bad guy, and a secondary villain, and the secondary villain is maybe based on people I know. It’s all on my experiences.
Yeah, I wrote it 4 years ago… just before we started the Magnums and I was about to stop wrestling. I wasn’t really doing anything with it, it was every few months, but I think that when we started the Magnums, I went back to the script and I got a bit more passion for it.
I noticed that you’ve been out scouting locations. Is that going well?
Yeah I think so, there’s a lot of areas in my town and around the Oxford area which I can use and I’ve managed to get on board a few local businesses that can act as locations for it. The thing is that the script is written in such a way that it doesn’t have many locations anyway. We’ve linked up with Pro Evolution Wrestling, who have a fantastic training school in Gloucester, to act as kind of one of the locations. Hopefully we’re going to link up with another wrestling company who will help us with some of the show logistics, because we need to film some matches… so everything on that side of things is going well and I’ve started to do my storyboard and stuff so I think we’re in a good position at the moment to make progress next year.
What is the next in the process? Casting? Filming?
The next phase for me is a break down of the script, which I’ve nearly done, I’ve got put together a little schedule … and then what I’ll do is, I need to link up a potential production company about crew. Then casting will hopefully come around April time in my plan, so I can get some cast on board, do some rehearsals and hopefully some filming round about July/August time. I don’t think it will be a big shoot, maybe 12-13 days, something like that, maybe Friday, Saturday, Sunday, you know, something along those lines… but yeah, for a small, independent film things are falling into place and it’s looking quite good at the moment.
I’m hoping I can try and get some British Wrestlers involved, some of the parts in there are quite close to the wrestlers. I really want to touch base with Johnny Saint and see if I can get him involved. I think it will be quite an interesting film, a comedy film, some recognisable people in there from a British wrestling point of view and also showcasing the best and worst, not just in wrestling but in people too. I think it’ll be quite good fun so keep an eye out!
So whilst in the early stages, this film has the planning – and more importantly, the potential – to make it to production. With the mental image of inadvisable challenges and training montages, I leave Chris to prepare for his match, and look forward to following the film’s progress. Hopefully I will catch up on developments with another interview next year, but in the meantime please give Spandex and Fake Tan your support by following them on Social Media:
Photo Top: Chris in action (credit (c) Turning Face)
Photo Bottom: A recent script meeting for the Film.