Bio's on the cast
Douglas Booth as Boy George
When Douglas Booth found out he'd got the part of Boy George in BBC Two drama Worried About The Boy, his first emotion was "elation", even though the prospect of playing such a cultural icon was "scary".
Soon after being cast he got a message on Facebook from none other than George himself.
"The title was 'Well!', and then he just said: 'I hear you're going to be playing me, I'm certainly not complaining! Just want to wish you all the best, I can't wait to see it – just don't be camp... I'm not camp!'
"That was followed by more excitement on my part – then I realised I was in every scene so I'd got quite a few lines to learn and I was starting shooting two weeks later! So it was about cracking on and researching the part, and just getting on with it – I didn't really have too much time to think."
Being born after the Eighties, Douglas had little knowledge of George yet has always been intrigued by him. He explains: "I knew who Boy George was, obviously, because he's extremely famous, but I never really knew anything about him. I knew he was this very colourful character and I'd seen him on TV, on interviews, and I think I'd always had quite a bit of fascination with him – I don't know why, I just always thought he was very interesting."
With so much written about Boy George and so much of his life played out in public it was important for Douglas to have a focal point for his research, but he was wary of impersonating him.
"One of the first things I did was read the first section of a wonderful biography 'Take It Like A Man' and it brought me all the way up until where the script starts. I wanted to find out who George is as a person, what's made him the person he is up to the point when I start playing him.
"I looked at a lot of interviews of George – obviously they started a little later when he was already famous – but I just took on as much information as I could, I kind of processed it all, but then I put it to the back of my mind.
"I didn't want to obsess over trying to imitate George – I just wanted to get a very strong flavour of George and then let this person become real, bring my interpretation to him."
Worried About The Boy focuses on George's journey to becoming one of the most iconic and famous pop stars of the Eighties. In Tony Basgallop's 90-minute drama George is a sharp, witty young man with outrageous style, who is determined to be noticed, to be loved, and to become famous. Capturing all aspects of his character was something of a dream role for Douglas.
"I'm lucky because I get to play pretty much every aspect of George's character. It starts with him when he's at school, through to the forming of Culture Club, then early Culture Club – then it flashes forward to 1986 when he's 26, where he's suffering with a really bad heroin addiction, and his world is collapsing around him. I play his rise to fame as it were."
Central to George's life in the drama are his relationships. The key relationship explored is with Culture Club bandmate Jon Moss, which Douglas describes in the drama as "very passionate – it was beating each other up and then kissing and making up afterwards."
Another 'character' central to the drama is The Blitz Club, the London club run by Steve Strange (played by Marc Warren) which is widely considered to have spawned the New Romantic movement. Young people wearing outlandish home-made clothes and brightly-coloured make-up would queue expectantly to enter the club, and this was where George's road to stardom began. Douglas describes George in this era as "a sort of street celebrity before he became a pop star."
"There were about 260 kids who all started this movement, then all these magazines started up – i-D was created to document them – so George was in the papers and in magazines before he even had a pop career. Then Steve Strange got a hit with Visage and that spurred George on I think to have more ambition himself."
Boy George is renowned for his distinctive style and unique look, so Douglas spent a lot of time in wardrobe and in the make-up chair on set to get it right. His styling was lent authenticity with the hair and make-up designers – who had worked with George for years.
"We had an amazing make-up team and they got it down to a tee. My hair and make-up designer Donald [McInnes] has been friends with George for years, and Christine [Bateman], who was looking after most of my make-up, is George's make-up designer.
"Some days we'd have four or five major make-up changes, so I spent hours and hours a day in the chair. I'd never really worn make up before in my life, and then suddenly I'm having so much put on it just killed my skin, it dried it out. My skin's still recovering. It just got a battering!"
As well as authentic hair and make-up, Douglas also got to wear some vintage pieces of clothing – and he reveals that George was involved in creating some brand-new pieces for the drama, too.
"I got to wear so many of George's original clothes, which was fantastic, to actually be wearing what he was wearing.
"One of my favourites was a leather jacket that George used to wear when he was younger and you see it in loads of photos of the Blitz club. It's amazing, it's so heavy, you can hardly lift it – it's got loads of metal studs in, with loads of really cool designs. George made the whole thing himself – it's priceless. They had to lock it away pretty much in a safe when we weren't shooting with it.
"And then the things that weren't in existence any more or we couldn't get hold of, we had them specially made. George had the original prints for lots of them and actually did some of the printing that he used to do on them himself. So we were having George making clothes – he was really getting into it, and loving it!"
The drama begins and ends on the band's first Top Of The Pops performance in 1982. Whilst performing on stage in front of screaming fans has its appeal, Douglas describes the TOTP scenes as amongst the most stressful of the shoot.
"It was amazing – you look at rock bands and obviously as an actor you never really get that. So that was really exciting because I felt like I was on Top Of The Pops – it was incredible.
"But I think that was one of my most stressful days, not once I was doing it, but the lead up, the night before. In the script originally it only said the first four lines of the song were gonna be in there, but then the day before Matthew the producer said: 'Oh, you know I think we might just run the whole song tomorrow'. I was like: 'Cheers, Matt, for that'! Obviously, I wanted to get it right and George has got such a specific way of moving. I had to learn, consolidate, make sure I knew all the words for the song.
"But I think it turned out well, because Jon Moss was there that day, watching us do Top Of The Pops, which made it more nerve-wracking. I asked: 'Jon, is there anything you think we've done differently?', and he said: 'No, perfect,' which gave me a big boost."
Douglas fully immersed himself in the period during shooting to get into character, and found that the culture of the Eighties was rubbing off on him. As he explains: "On set we were all getting really into the Eighties music, we were all downloading it to our iPods.
"Donald, on make-up, which was where I spent most of my time, is into his Eighties music – that was his era – so that was playing constantly to get us into the mood. They'd ask me: 'What do you want to listen to while you're getting ready?' and I'd say: 'I'll listen to what George was listening to when he was getting ready to go out'.
"Since I've finished, actually, I've had to force myself not to listen to it – I have to wean myself off it!"
Towards the end of filming George visited the set, and Douglas, in his costume and make-up, got to meet the man he was playing, an experience he describes as "fantastic, although I was a little nervous."
Douglas continues: "He was absolutely charming, lovely. He said they'd got the looks so right, which was amazing to hear, because I'm sure if George didn't think it was right he would say!
"He was great because he said our story is an interpretation, as there are so many different accounts of what went on. He wasn't being all 'I didn't sit down when I said that,' or 'I didn't do that when I said that', he was really saying: 'That's your interpretation'. And so it felt really authentic, but also I didn't feel tied into chains – I felt I could bring my own life to it as well. I feel I captured George, but I'm sure there's a tiny bit of me in there as well."
Matthew Horne as Jon Moss
His love of music and the calibre of the production drew Mathew Horne to the role of Jon Moss – Culture Club drummer and Boy George's one-time lover – in Worried About The Boy.
"I thought the script was really good and written by someone really good, and directed by someone excellent. I'm really into my music so it was perfect for me.
"The production company that made it [Red Production Company] in my opinion has also made some of the best stuff on telly ever, so there was every reason to do it and thankfully they wanted me to do it as well. It ticked all the boxes really."
Mathew knew "not a great deal" about Culture Club and Jon Moss specifically before taking the part, as he was only very young when Culture Club were at the height of their fame.
The Gavin And Stacey star decided the best way to get under the skin of the character was to meet Jon himself, which helped him understand the dynamic of the bandmates' relationship.
"I had a couple of lunches with him so that I could pick up a few of his characteristics here and there – but what I needed was to get to the nitty gritty about the relationship he had with George and his role in the band, which I think people know less about.
"It became clear through talking to him that it was the emotions of the character that was most important rather than actually becoming Jon."
Mathew took something equally as invaluable away from his meetings with Jon – some authentic items of clothing that were incorporated into the wardrobe for the drama. Mat explains: "After first meeting Jon he agreed to give us his clothes that he wore then. It really helped me get into character. You could feel they were old and worn and I also felt that I absolutely looked like he looked because I wore his clothes. You couldn't get more accurate than that!
"He had a box of stuff which was great. There wasn't a specific item that he had an anecdote about but it was amazing some of the clothes still have remnants of make up on them from photo shoots, which was amazing really."
Jon's relationship with George is depicted as fiery and tempestuous. Mathew describes their relationship as "up and down. Incredibly passionate to the point of volatile at times.
"The script really displays the love they had for each other. I think people viewed their relationship as a bit of a circus and this film does show true moments of tenderness. You get to see real tenderness and passion because you get to see the personal relationships as well as the working relationships."
Culture Club formed in the early-Eighties, with Mikey Craig (bass guitar) and Roy Hay (guitar and keyboards) completing the line-up of Boy George as lead vocalist and Jon Moss on drums – with Mathew describing Jon as "sort of the driving force in the band."
The band's third single, Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?, was released in late 1982 and become one of their biggest hits, scoring them their first UK No. 1 and their debut headline-grabbing Top Of The Pops performance – a performance that is recreated in Worried About The Boy.
Having some musical knowledge was an advantage to Mathew, and it meant that playing a drummer didn't daunt him. For the band scenes he reveals: "I just pretended to drum. I know how to drum a little bit so when we did scenes where the band was rehearsing I just sort of winged it.
"It wasn't too difficult but Jon told me that when he was on Top Of The Pops they were miming anyway so to just pretend like he did!"
Though there were some interesting Eighties-style costumes, Jon Moss was less outrageous on the make-up front than many in the New Romantic scene, meaning Mathew spent less time than some of his fellow actors in the make-up chair. As he explains: "Jon never really did that, he was more macho. I just had a bit of blow dried hair. They did have to fill in my eyebrows because Jon is more hairy than I am!"
As for any nostalgia for the decade, Mathew reveals he's a fan of "certain types of Eighties. My memories of the Eighties is very sparse. Yes, I am a fan of Eighties music but Culture Club is a little bit poppy for me if I'm honest – I'm more of a fan of The Cure and Joy Division."
Freddie Fox as Marilyn
Freddie Fox plays pop star Marilyn, and though he was not born until after the Eighties he soon became fascinated by the era and the characters.
"When I started to research Marilyn, which I did for the audition, I thought: 'I have to play this guy' – he's so bizarre, rude, cool, gutsy, funny, you sort of want to be around him. He's magnetic, but so different to me, so I was desperate to get it."
Becoming Marilyn involved a long transformation process, with the production's hair and make-up supervisor Donald – who has been a long-time friend of George's – creating the iconic look. Freddie wasn't the only one excited to see it take shape.
"It's a make-up test I will never ever forget, a screaming Donald, enormously excited, as piece by piece the puzzle – which was my face – became built. As the fake eyelashes go on and the lipstick, it's like you create the character. As the make-up and the wig go on, the character sort of comes with it.
"I felt probably like my sister [Silent Witness actress Emilia Fox] feels almost every day she's on location, which was nice so I could compare facts and figures with her about the difference in blusher and toner, which I might never be able to do again!"
Along with swapping make-up tips, Freddie has shared the journey of Marilyn with his older sister, who has been a sounding board for preparing for the role. "Mils and I have a very close relationship. After I read the script just before I did my recall I sat down with Mils and said, 'help!' And we just talked it through, and she just occasionally dropped me a hint – how to pout properly, certainly we did a bit of pouting lessons with each other!
"We talked a lot about it, and I would send her a new picture almost every day of me in a different costume, or a different wig, and she would send me texts back with plenty of laughs and 'omgs', and 'lols'!"
People have also commented on the physical resemblance between brother and sister, something which Freddie has ribbed his sister about. "I basically tease her permanently that I'm more beautiful than she is as a woman. Which I don't think is really true!"
Once the make-up, hair and clothes were in place, there was another aspect to Marilyn's appearance that Freddie had to master – the high heels. He describes it as "an arduous task, to say the very least!"
"The way Marilyn walked, the way he moved his shoulders, it was a parody of Marilyn Monroe. I watched the real Marilyn Monroe, you know in Some Like It Hot, watching how she walked. The mission statement of walking in heels was for me was that Jack Lemon quote 'Jello on springs'."
As well as looking at footage of Marilyn online, Freddie has been lucky enough to talk to some of Marilyn's friends from the era, who gave him an insight into his character. From his research and these insights Freddie sums Marilyn up succinctly as a "magnetic bitch".
"I have this image of him like a beautifully preening wasp sat on a throne. When I had lunch with [Culture Club drummer] Jon Moss he described Marilyn like that. He was incredibly beautiful. When all the boys would come up to him in the club thinking he was a woman they'd say 'what's your name', and he'd say 'Marilyn'. And they'd say, 'no, what's your real name' and he'd say 'Norma Jean'!
"And somehow he'd manage to get them home, get all their money out of them, get dinner, get everything paid for him, and then just when they were getting to what they wanted, he'd say 'all right, see you later', and walk out the door.
"So to me he was that kind of magnetic, beautiful, sensual, rude, brash, abrasive, and five-star bitch that everyone wanted to be around, because he was so cutting and wonderful and witty."
Marilyn and George were good friends in the era in the film, and were both part of the Blitz Club scene. Freddie says of their relationship: "There's enormous love between them, and enormous rivalry I think. Those are the two keystones.
"You see them both at the very bottom, being broken-hearted and let down, and you see the love comes from the other one where they try and pick the other back up – 'come on darling, let's go in and have a cup of tea', that kind of thing. But at the same time Marilyn still felt 100% entitled to be more famous and better and more loved than George because he was more beautiful."
Like many of the Worried About The Boy cast, Freddie listened to a lot of music from the decade to get himself into the Eighties mood. He was wary of being too sentimental about the Eighties, however, as he explains: "I think George said it to be honest, everybody now looks back at the Eighties and goes 'oh how wonderful it was', whereas at the time everyone was all, 'oh this is a crap old sack of shit, this era'! Now we look back on it through rose-tinted glasses.
"But I love a lot of the music of the Eighties. I mean, a lot of it is crap, but I listened to all that old Culture Club stuff, and even some of Marilyn's first songs, and the potential soundtrack of the film before we started shooting, and I loved it. You just can't resist really getting into it.
"I remember we did a Top Of The Pops scene to a big old Status Quo track and I cannot remember having enjoyed a dance song, a disco dance number, so much! I think when it all comes on my friends are gonna give me a hard time for getting myself off to Status Quo!"
Coming from an acting dynasty (his father is esteemed actor Edward Fox), Freddie is keen to create his own career path and to take on a variety roles that he can make his own.
As he explains "My family are so supportive of me and love the fact that I'm playing a drag queen! It's very early days but I love what I'm doing, and I think Marilyn's really confirmed that."