From drinking in Smackwater Jacks to playing Noel Gallagher in new film Creation Stories – actor James McClelland on the 'terrifying' role of a lifetime

"It's absolutely terrifying...to play your idol."

Thursday, 18th March 2021, 12:30 pm

When James McClelland was offered the role of Noel Gallagher in rock and rock biopic Creation Stories, he couldn't believe it. He still can't.

"I just had to keep pinching myself. Even after I'd finished filming, I still couldn't believe it."

Written by Trainspotting's Irvine Welsh, the film - airing on Sky Cinema this Saturday - charts the life and times of music-mogul Alan McGee, founder of Creation Records and the man who signed Oasis.

James McClelland as Noel Gallagher in Creation Stories

Nick Moran, of Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels fame, directs a who's who of British film and television with a star-studded cast featuring Ewen Bremner (Spud from Trainspotting), Suki Waterhouse, Jason Isaacs, Jason Flemyng, Thomas Turgoose....

And, 27-year-old James.

"Irvine Welsh, Ewen Bremner, Thomas [Turgoose] from This is England...put all that together, add in Oasis, and you've got the perfect film for me.

"Trainspotting is my number one favourite film. And when This is England, the TV series came out, that was what made me begin to take acting seriously.

Creation Stories airs on Sky Cinema this Saturday

"To work with this cast was an incredible experience. Ewen Bremner was everything and more. He's so humble and yet so fearless. And Jason Isaac, he's so much fun to be around, but as soon as the camera rolls, he's just inspirational.

"It was quite a quick turnaround from when I got offered the role; only a couple of weeks. We started filming in summer 2019 and finished that Christmas.

"The plan had been to show the film at Cannes. That didn't happen [because of the virus], then the cinema release kept getting put back; so eventually it was decided to just get it out there.

"It's a riot. The pace is relentless. It's very similar to 24 Hour Party People. You'll need to buckle down because you're thrown through it. It really encapsulates the chaos of the time."

James grew up idolising Oasis. He takes no time at all in revealing his favourite tracks - 'Talk Tonight', 'Slide Away', 'The Masterplan'.

To play the icon behind the songs was a dream, albeit a daunting one.

"The Gallaghers are so well-known, everybody knows in their own head how they expect them to talk and act. Really, I've been researching this role for 20 years.

"Nick Moran was brilliant. He told me he didn't want a plastic imitation of Noel, a Rory Bremner type impersonation. He wanted me to embody Noel, to tell his story. So that's what I've tried to do.

"It's absolutely terrifying though, to play your idol."

Has Noel been in touch?

"He doesn't return my calls. I had hoped, if we had been able to have a premiere, he would have been there. He's not one to shy away from a comment, so I'm sure we'll hear his thoughts."

Born down the road in Chorley, James has a close affinity with the Burnley borough. His dad Jim was born in Padiham, while granddad James was the minister at Nazareth Unitarian Chapel.

With his family no longer in the area, trips to Smacks have been his reason for visiting Burnley in recent years.

"I went to St Mary's College in Blackburn, so half my mates went out in Blackburn and half went out in Burnley.

"For three years straight I was going out in Burnley. We'd go to Hotshots, then Smacks until closing time, Pharaohs, and then cheesy chips from Sumbuls.

"It's a great night out. There's such a good vibe in Smacks. It's a good melting pot of people.

"It's a bit depressing now though. I used to stand in the middle floor, occasionally I'd go up to the top one to get served. We'd slate the ones in the basement, because they were the older ones. And now I'm the one in the basement."

James lives in London now. He went to study at RADA after leaving college, but still ventures out over this way when he's back home visiting family.

"It has been difficult these past few months. Things are starting to open again, and hopefully by the end of the summer there will be a lot of happy actors. I'm fortunate because I have a couple of projects coming out.

"I still go out in Burnley. Most of my mates live over that way, so when I'm back that's where we go. I do a bit of bar work in London as well, so if things don't go too well with the acting you might see me serving behind the bar in Smacks one day."