Lex Shrapnel, John Tracy in Thunderbirds
Thunderbirds Are Go!
By Joel Mapp
"I wouldn't say I was a die-hard Thunderbirds fan," says Lex Shrapnel as he waits for his car to pass its MOT... "but I brushed up on it when I knew I was doing the film".
Lex in Thunderbirds
The 24-year-old Suffolk actor, who plays the part of John Tracy in the new Thunderbirds film, is waiting outside a garage near his family home in Wattisfield, near Diss.
"I was certainly aware of the show, like anyone who grew up with it on television. But as soon as I heard I was doing this new film I began watching lots of the old episodes. I think they made about 50... but I didn't watch them all."
Lex's father John Shrapnel as Nestor in Troy
Lex Shrapnel is the son of another Suffolk actor - John Shrapnel - who has appeared in a number of popular films like Notting Hill, Gladiator and most recently, alongside Brad Pitt in the epic Troy.
Like his father, Lex is a classically-trained actor, and Thunderbirds is only his second film.
"The filming was absolutely brilliant," he says. "It was great doing something of that scale. We were on life-size sets of Tracy Island and we would spend eight hours a day in a swimming pool with palm trees around... and then we would step outdoors and it would be grey and raining and we'd suddenly be in the middle of Pinewood studios."
Lex Shrapnel and Bill Paxton
The film cost around $70 million and stars Bill Paxton, who plays the part of Jeff Tracy. It retains the same colourful look and feel of the original television series, and the most famous characters like Lady Penelope and The Hood all make appearances.
But the string puppets have been replaced by human actors. "We tried not to be wooden!" laughs Lex, "and hopefully we succeeded!'.
Lex Shrapnel as John Tracy (far right)
"There are no strings... but there is a little nod to them. If you ever saw the old series there were close-ups of a hand pressing a button or picking up a cup which would be a real hand. So in the new film there's a shot to look out for when a puppet hand goes into shot and presses a button."
Not a copy
Lex Shrapnel is now based in London, but he regularly returns to his family home in Suffolk where his father, John, still lives. And although the pair are both actors and have both appeared on stage and screen, Lex is adamant he is not copying his father.
"It happened completely by accident," he says. "He was even in my first film with me. I remember getting my first job after drama school - which was K-19 The Widowmaker - and I was really excited about doing this big film with Harrison Ford and moving to Canada for six months and getting away from the family. But then I got a call an hour later from my Dad saying he was coming out to Canada with me because he was playing the part of the commander of the fleet, and I was like 'OK... great (laughs)... I guess there's no avoiding him then!'"
Lex is currently doing a lot of work to promote Thunderbirds. He has even taken his Mum to promotional events in Tokyo. But he doesn't yet know what his next project will be.
"You just have to wait and see. There are quiet periods and you just have to sit and tap your fingers waiting for something to come along."
last updated: 09/12/2008 at 12:38
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