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Cardiff actor scoops gong at British Independent Film Awards

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Polly March Polly March | 14:31 UK time, Monday, 5 December 2011

The small independent film Weekend has triumphed at the British Independent Film Awards, with a special accolade for Cardiff actor Tom Cullen.

At the awards on Sunday night, Cullen, 26, scooped the Most Promising Newcomer award for his portrayal of Russell, a gay man embarking on a fleeting love affair with a man he picks up in a bar. Weekend chronicles their experiences getting to know one another amid the first flush of love.

Tom Cullen (right) with Chris New in Weekend. Photo: Quinnford & Scout

Tom Cullen (right) with Chris New in Weekend. Photo: Quinnford & Scout

The film, which was shot on a shoestring budget over 17 days in Nottingham, also picked up Best Achievement in Production, while Richard Ayoade's adaptation of Joe Dunthorne's novel Submarine, set in Swansea, won Best Screenplay. Cullen beat nominated Welsh actor Craig Roberts (Submarine) to the newcomer award.

Set over three days, Weekend echoes the themes of the cult hit Before Sunrise, which starred Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, as the two men experience all the excitement, fear, and intrigue of opening up to one another for the first time.

Both share different world views and seem unsure of themselves and where they fit in.

As director Andrew Haigh puts it: "I wanted to express that feeling of both fear and excitement that comes with the possibility of something new.

"I wanted to watch these two guys slowly fall for one another, fall for each other's differences almost as if they were uncovering missing pieces of themselves. I wanted to capture those moments that two people share when they truly start to engage with one another, gently focusing in on the struggles at the core of their characters.

"Russell and Glen are trying to work out who they are, what they want and how they should define themselves, in private as well as in public."

Cullen won the Most Promising Newcomer award for his portrayal of Russell. Photo: Quinnford & Scout

Cullen won the Most Promising Newcomer award for his portrayal of Russell. Photo: Quinnford & Scout

The film has built a groundswell of support ever since it premièred at the prestigious SXSW film and music festival in Austin, Texas, winning the Emerging Visions Audience Award, and also scooping the Grand Jury prize at Nashville Film Festival, where Cullen picked up the Best Actor award.

At SXSW the film proved so popular that extra screenings had to be arranged, and since then there has been a noticeable buzz about it, with people queuing round the block to see it when it opened in New York.

For former Llanishen High School pupil Cullen it is just one aspect of a busy and promising year, in which he was named as one of Screen International's Stars of Tomorrow.

He has spent the past six months filming HBO drama World Without End in Budapest, a big-budget, Canadian-British-German television co-production starring Miranda Richardson, Sex And The City's Cynthia Nixon and Peter Firth.

TV viewers can see him in December in Black Mirror, a three-part dark comedy devised by Charlie Brooker and co-written by Peep Show's Jesse Armstrong.

And he is due to start work on another film this month, moving to the bright lights of LA in January.

Cullen graduated from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in the summer of 2009 and before Weekend his film credits included Daddy's Girl (Best Film - Bafta Wales) and Panic Button.

Tom Cullen and Chris New. Photo: Quinnford & Scout

Tom Cullen and Chris New. Photo: Quinnford & Scout

In a recent interview with BBC Wales he said he knew Weekend was something special when he was offered the script.

"I had four offers at the time, some better paid, some I guess more high-profile than this but there was no other film I was going to do.

"From an egotistical point of view it was a massive challenge, because Russell is so far removed from who I am, and that's always exciting because it stretches you as an actor.

"He's so open, he's gay - I saw the outline of Russell and I wanted to get inside and fill it out."

Weekend is currently showing at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff and selected cinemas elsewhere.


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