They swear they haven’t been changed by the success of The Inbetweeners. Sadly, the evidence against Joe Thomas (Simon) and Simon Bird (Will) is damning.
Firstly, there’s the fact that Bird is partaking in our logistically tricky conference call from glitzy LA. Then there are the deafening screams of a gaggle of girls as Thomas arrives outside a London studio to record a chat show. “I promise I didn’t organise that,” he says, sheepishly, as Bird cackles more than 5,000 miles away.
So life is good for the pair — especially as they’ve got the long-awaited film adaptation of their hit sitcom out this weekend.
There’s a strong tradition of good British sitcoms becoming terrible British films — so are you nervous or excited?
SB: I’m in LA now so I couldn’t give a sh*t. [Laughs]
JT: That part of Simon’s life is over. He’s drawn a line under it.
SB: No, I’d actually say that it’s both nerves and excitement in equal measure.
JT: Although the nerves are quite strong.
SB: No, it’ll be great.
Alan Partridge writer Armando Iannucci has been very critical about the tradition of sending TV characters abroad for their feature film debuts. Are you conscious of that?
SB: I totally understand where Iannucci’s coming from with the Alan Partridge thing, because I think Partridge going on holiday would be totally wrong. But teenagers do go on holiday after their A-levels.
JT: It wasn’t the case where there was money available to make a film so the writers had to contrive some situation for it. This is the thing these four characters would do next. It’s not like they’re suddenly foiling a bomb plot or saving the world. We’re sticking to the realities of teenage life.
Was filming like being on holiday?
JT: I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never really been on a lads’ holiday, so I was really keen to have that experience voyeuristically — while being protected by the crew.
SB: The camera team certainly viewed it as a bit of a holiday. They work so much harder than us so they were really going crazy on their days off. One of them was seen asleep at 4am at the computer in the hotel’s reception, then by 9am he had a broken leg and had to go home. Nobody knows how to join the dots. [Laughs]
There were reports that Simon was delaying the film with his wage demands — did that put a strain on your relationship when you were on set?
JT: I don’t think it really affected us. We just got on with it, which is generally the best thing to do anyway. It’s good that the show has achieved a high profile, although I suppose that created this sense that stories about The Inbetweeners were suddenly seen as newsworthy. It was a bit baffling. But we try to remember the way we went about things in the first series. We never have a sense of entitlement. We just try to carry on working hard and improving.
You were both members of Footlights Dramatic Club at Cambridge, as were the likes of Peter Cook, the Pythons and Hugh Laurie during their university days. Is it all Channel 4 contract meetings and lunches with Stephen Fry?
JT: [Laughs] It’s not, sadly.
SB: It’s like any other student club, really. We had no interaction with the former members. There’s the perception [of a guaranteed career in comedy] going into the first meeting, but it’s quickly dispelled. It’s just a group of 18-year-old kids. I honestly can’t stress enough how similar it is to any other student society.
Finally, do you think you’ll ever be able to escape The Inbetweeners?
JT: As soon as we were making the film, I started to think about life after it and what I might want to move on to afterwards. Having said that, because it’s still in everyone’s consciousness, you can’t really forget it. It won’t be possible to move on from it completely until people aren’t talking about it any more.
SB: We’ll have done our job well if people still love the show in 50 years’ time [laughs]. That sounds ridiculous when I say it out loud.
The Inbetweeners Movie is in cinemas now