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One of television and film’s most familiar faces – and acclaimed actors – for his roles in This Is England, The Damned United, Boardwalk Empire, Pirates of the Caribbean and Gangs of New York, Stephen Graham’s latest role sees him playing a boxer in the upcoming film Orthodox.
Yahoo Sport caught up with Stephen to chat about his favourite fighters and whether or not Jurgen Klopp is the man to manage his beloved Liverpool.
1. We discovered in the last series of This Is England that your character Combo’s surname was Gascoigne – as a Liverpool fan, would you have preferred something else? Beardsley, perhaps?
Ha ha! Not necessarily. I think we came up with the name well back in the day – it’s always been Gascoigne - but no-one really made anything of it until we reached 1990.
It’s a great name, it really makes you think of that era, but I’d had my way I’d have chosen Dalglish, obviously.
2. As a Liverpool fan, are you excited by Jurgen Klopp?
Yeah, it’s a really good young team, which needs to find a way of playing together properly, and he’s the man to do it. They’ve spent a lot of money and hopefully he can bring it all together.
I felt sorry for Rodgers getting fired after drawing with Everton, which isn’t a bad result, but he got his tactics wrong and he hadn’t won the team over – that’s what it felt like to me, anyway.
3. Where do you think you’ll finish this season?
It won’t be bad if we use this season to set ourselves up, but who knows, maybe there’s a possibility of making the Champions League. It does look out of reach now though.
Maybe Klopp can make a phone call and bring in Lewandowski before the window shuts.
4. In your new film Orthodox you play a boxer – had you even done any boxing before?
Yeah, I used to box a little growing up in Kirby – I was pretty good, but my mother kept crying and telling me to give it up! Actually, in the film my character has to hide his boxing from his family, as being a boxer is not accepted in the Orthodox Jewish community.
5. Did it all come back to you or did you have to do any specialist training in order to look the part?
I did a few sessions in a little gym near me. It was good fun being back in the ring again. It was something I really enjoyed, and a great way to keep fit.
6. Did you model yourself on any fighter in particular?
My favourite boxer is Roberto Duran, he’s a great fighter – I’m a huge fan of his. I also really like watching the lad Anthony Joshua.
He’s a fantastic boxer and comes across as a solid, down-to-earth guy too. I think he’s a contender for the World Title one day.
7. How did you get involved in a film about boxing?
It started out as a short film a few years ago - and we’ve used the original footage in the final film. The director David Leon sent me the script and I really liked it, I liked the idea of someone being ostracised from their community and trying to find their way. It’s an independent film so it was a great experience with everyone mucking in on set, and it’s such a sense of achievement to make a film like this with the finances we had.
8. In The Damned United you played Billy Bremner: are there any other sports people you’d like to portray on film?
I’m doing a comedy about wrestlers actually – about a group of wrestlers from the 1980s trying to make it popular again. Everyone used to watch Wrestling on a Saturday afternoon.
I could give Kenny Dalglish a go, I’m quite good with accents!
9. Did you watch a lot of US sport when you were in the states filming Boardwalk Empire?
Yes, one of my mates is really into American football, so I watched a little bit of that for a bit.
Florida State was my team – it was the time when they had Tim Tebow as a bit of a superstar quarterback. It’s ridiculous how many people go to watch a college team play.
10. Is there any sporting era you’d wished you’d had the chance to revisit in the This is England TV series?
Maybe we could have gone back to when Liverpool were in their full glory – the wheels have come off a bit since 1990.