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ONE CHANCE

Story, Cast & Characters
Around Corden, Frankel and the producers have cast a host of acclaimed British actors, each of whom bring their own strong comic and dramatic personas to their roles: Julie Walters and Colm Meaney as Potts' mother and father; Mackenzie Crook as Braddon Evans, his nutty best mate and boss at The Carphone Warehouse. As Julz, the internet blind date who wins Paul's heart and becomes his wife, the filmmakers settled on Alexandra Roach, the young actress who impressed so many with her sterling performance as the young Margaret Thatcher in THE IRON LADY.

"I had a Skype audition with David first," Roach recalls. "He was in Miami, I was in my dingy north London flat -- so glamorous! We really got on and I met up with Harvey Weinstein. He said he wanted me to fly to New York to meet James, which sounded ultra-glamorous to me but I thought it was never going to happen. But the next day I was on a flight to New York and meeting James for the first time. As soon as my plane landed back in England, I found out I'd gotten the job."

For Roach, Potts' 'Britain's Got Talent' appearance carries its own personal significance. The actress was ill in hospital for a few weeks and watched most of that first series with her fellow patients. "We were a ward of six women in a Welsh hospital and we'd all gather round the television and watch it together. It brought us together and that's what I hope this film does as well."

As Potts' best mate, Braddon, Mackenzie Crook brings his unique brand of "comic genius," as Roach refers to it. Braddon is Potts' boss at Carphone Warehouse as well as his drinking buddy and confidante; he's obsessed with Dungeons & Dragons-style fantasy role playing and his girlfriend Hydrangea, and fancies himself a stand-up comedian, although his gigs have a tendency to go disastrously wrong. "He's the comic relief; he's a bit of a ridiculous character but he has a positive outlook on life and is a genuine friend to Paul," says Crook, whose role has been created for the film. "He wants to see Paul succeed and encourages him. When Paul hits rock bottom, it's Braddon that buoys him back up again."

Although Crook and Corden knew each other, this is the first time they've worked together, and the former star of 'The Office' is delighted about it. "We've been friendly for a number of years, and have had good opportunity to do some nice comic set-pieces in this," says Crook. "James has always joked that one day we're going to do a Laurel & Hardy biopic. He has great timing, both comic and dramatic. It's great and easy to work with actors who know what they're doing. David's given us quite a bit of freedom to play around with our lines in the scenes. It's been a joy."

Crook admits to feeling a mite skeptical when he first heard about One Chance: "I've never been into reality TV shows, but that skepticism is completely gone now. It's a great script and people who haven't and don't follow those programs shouldn't stay away from this movie because it's not about them, it's a universal story."

Playing Potts' supportive mother Yvonne, Walters is also thrilled to be on board. "It's not a big part but she's got some of the best lines," she says. "When you also have David, who is such an easy, calm director, a great script, the wonderful James Corden and a story about someone everyone loves, it has everything going for it and has made for a great experience." Like her onscreen son, Walters is adopting a Bristol rather than Welsh accent for the film, to reflect the fact that Potts spent much of his youth in the Gloucestershire city before moving to Wales later in life. On the day he visited the set, Potts told Walters she reminded him of his own mother. "I said, 'Oh, you're just saying that,'" she says. "He said, 'No, you are, when I heard you were playing her, I knew you'd be perfect.' So sweet."

In the film, Potts' mother adores her son and colludes with him in his love of music and opera, against the wishes of his skeptical father Roland, a gruff Welsh steelworker who'd prefer that Paul follow a similar blue-collar path. "When my agent first phoned me about this, I made the mistake that everybody makes in the film," says Meaney, who plays Roland. "When he said 'Paul Potts', I said, 'The Cambodian dictator?' I live in LA and Spain so I'm not familiar with British television. When I read the script, I wasn't expecting it to have so much humor in it. It's also very moving."

Meaney feels that the relationship between Potts and his father is very clearly drawn, and gave him a strong motivation for why his tough working class Welshman would so fiercely question his son's singing ambitions. "I think there's a very common working class thing where, when it comes to your children, you want them to do well but you also want them to fit in," explains Meaney. "I know this from my own experience that wanting to do something 'strange,' like be an opera singer, can mark you as a bit of a freak in a working class environment. And fathers, in particular, are desperate to avoid that because it will make their kid's life more difficult. I saw their relationship more in that way than him feeling any kind of prejudice against what Paul was trying to do. It's based in concern and not wanting to see his son hurt in any way, although he doesn't deal with it very sensitively."

The Dublin-born actor, who wields a Welsh accent ("it's an accent I'm very fond of for its wonderful lyrical quality"), relished the family scenes with Corden and Walters. "It was instantly wonderful, as it usually is when you get terrific actors," he says. "I'd been a fan of Julie's for years and she's such a welcoming and jolly presence; she makes it very easy. We immediately fell into this familiar relationship. And James has a kind of guarded thing about him, which worked wonderfully for our father-son relationship. It's almost like he's ready to squirm before his dad opens his mouth. He gave me some wonderful looks."

Filling out the cast are Valeria Bilello as Alessandra, an Italian singer Potts trains with in Italy, and Jemima Rooper, who co-starred with Corden in 'One Man, Two Guvnors' and plays Braddon's eccentric girlfriend Hydrangea. Braddon is absolutely besotted with her; she's fairly withering about him. Normally dark-maned, Rooper's hair was dyed peroxide blonde for the role, with pink streaks added for a couple of scenes, and she calls Hydrangea's dress sense "outlandish... lots of tiny skirts and shorts and thigh-high boots. She's pretty rocking."

"She's really horrible to Braddon but in that way that I hope people imagine them being completely different at home when no one's watching, being very sweet and loving," she continues. "Most of our scenes were with James, and it was so much fun working with an old friend and a new one. I wish there could be a whole spin-off movie for Braddon and Hydrangea."

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