Son of Rambow won massive acclaim at 2007’s Sundance film festival, where it was snapped up by Paramount for a record-breaking $8 million. Director Garth Jennings drew on his own childhood – endless summer holidays spent remaking 80s blockbusters on a giant VHS camera – for this wildly refreshing story of two misfit pre-teens inspired by a bootleg of Rambo: First Blood to make their own sequel in the badlands of Hertfordshire. Wonderland meets its schoolboy stars…

Son of Rambow

BILL MILNER, aged 12

Who do you play?

William Proudfoot, 11. He’s a member of the Plymouth Brethren so he isn’t allowed to listen to music or watch TV. When I accidentally watch a pirate video of First Blood, I can’t wait to become an action hero myself.

How did you get the part?

From a casting call at school.

Did you get to see Rambo: First Blood?

Garth told me I didn’t have to, but I thought I should try to understand why Will would be so amazed, intrigued and driven by it. When I did see it I thought it was just okay.

Favourite line in Son of Rambow?

“This has been my best day of all time…”

What movie would you remake in your back garden?

A fast-paced action film like Star Wars.

Favourite prop from the film?

A great big ghetto-blaster.

Was it better to be a teenager in the 80s or now?

In the 80s the music was good and the clothes were fun but technology has made listening to music, taking photos and making films easier and more portable now.

How did 80s kids survive without mobile phones?

They carried lots of 10ps and enjoyed the freedom of not having to be checked on by parents.

Best bit of filming?

Shooting the scene by a lake where Will and Lee bond for the first time.

Worst bit?

We were at a power station for a scene where I fall into an oil pit. The oil was toothpaste thickener dyed black. It was freezing, a very windy day and I just kept getting colder and more upset.

What do your friends think of it all?

It’s like I have a curious hobby that takes me away for a few weeks and when I come back everything is normal again.

What’s next?

I’ve done a film with Michael Caine called Is There Anybody There? but if other offers don’t happen maybe acting wasn’t for me anyway.

Will Poulter from Son of Rambow


Who do you play?

I’m school bad lad and amateur filmmaker Lee Carter, 13, who blackmails Will Proudfoot into being his stuntman. Underneath his tough exterior is a really nice person (the bit my mum hopes rubbed off on me!).

How did you get the part?

Garth says its because he thought I was Cockney until he heard my real posh-boy accent. I went from not believing I had the part to ecstatic in ten seconds.

Did you watch Rambo: First Blood?

Yes, but I’m more a Bourne Ultimatum fan myself.

Favourite line in Rambo?

“Don’t push it, don’t push it or I’ll give you a war you won’t believe”.

Favourite line in Son of Rambow?

When Bill comes out of the supermarket with his jumper stuffed with stolen food and says “I’ve got everything!”

What movie would you remake in your back garden?

Bourne Ultimatum of course.

Was it better to be a teenager now or then?

I don’t know completely, but I would say being a teenager in the 80s was better. I think they had more fun.

How did 80s kids survive without mobile phones?

They just had really massive mobile phones.

Best bit of filming?

All the weird products on the supermarket shelves that I’d never seen before.

Worst bit?

The confusion of Bill playing Will and Will being my real name. They’d ask for Will on set and I’d be halfway there. Nightmare.

Favourite prop?

Lawrence’s old video camera and the bike with the trailer.

What do your friends think of it all?

After seeing me do a really bad German accent in the trailer, most of them think I speak in a Chinese accent for the film!

What’s next?

I learnt what every department does on a film set because I’d like to pursue an acting career. Son of Rambow clinched it: I still have to pinch myself to believe I was a part of it.

Words: Louise Brealey and Alan Jones

A full version of this article first appeared in Wonderland

#13, April/May 2008