James McClelland on playing Noel Gallagher in ‘Creation Stories’: “It was fucking mad”

Chorley's rising star says he's spent 20 years preparing for the role

The cast list for the new Alan McGee biopic Creation Stories reads like a who’s who of British film, with established talents like Steven Berkoff, Paul Kaye, Suki Waterhouse and Jason Isaacs all turning in appearances alongside star Ewen Bremner. Yet when it came to the difficult task of casting Oasis’ Noel and Liam Gallagher, director Nick Moran – who himself starred in 1998’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – went in search of a pair of fresh-faced newcomers who could match up to the brothers’ swaggering energy and intensity. A nationwide open casting call for the part of Liam turned up 18 year-old Leo Harvey-Elledge, while the coveted role of elder brother Noel went to 27 year-old James McClelland.

With the film now available to stream online via Sky Cinema, McClelland chats to NME about the supersonic pace of production, the YouTube video that helped him nail Noel’s mannerisms and why we still need an Oasis origin movie.

How did you get cast as Noel Gallagher?

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“For Liam they did an open casting call and anybody could send in, but because Noel has more lines they went through my agent. I sent in a tape and then met Nick [Moran]. It was fucking mad. I met him on a Friday and I was filming on the Monday. It all happened so fast I just thought: ‘This is clearly a dream’.”

Not much time to prepare! Did you feel ready to play Noel?

“Yeah! I’m from Chorley, about half an hour away from Manchester, and I’m a lifelong Man City fan. It’s impossible to be a Man City fan and not be pretty mad fer Oasis. I’ve been Oasis-mad since I was maybe eight or nine, so I’d already had 20 years of research.”

What tricks did you use to get inside his head?

“One thing about Noel that I only realised when I started to properly hone in on the character is that he’s got quite an interesting pattern of speech. He likes short, punchy sentences. The hidden gem I found was the video of Noel narrating all the music videos they ever did. He absolutely hates music videos, so it’s hilarious. That really helped me understand the lightness of him. Obviously when they’re in the media now they’re often just seen as these angry brothers, but they’re funny boys. When they started out they were absolutely on cloud nine and on top of the world. They were like a double act.”

Did any sibling rivalry develop between you and Leo Harvey-Elledge?

“The day I got recalled to meet Nick was the same day Leo did, so we went through the slightly daunting audition process at the same time. That was quite unifying. Leo is a loudmouth, so he’s quite easy to have a pop at! I can easily be annoyed by anything so I just had to choose Leo to be annoyed by. He’s great fun and a lovely lad. We were pretty inseparable on set.”

What guidance did director Nick Moran give you about playing such an icon of British music?

“One of the first things he said when I went to audition was that he didn’t want plastic imitations. I think we’re all so aware of how the Gallagher brothers sound and look that if you tried to hone in on that everyone’s gonna have a problem with it. He was like: ‘Just embody the character. At the end of the day, it’s just about telling the story.’ Nick is hilarious and he’s absolutely mad fer it. He’s got stories going back 20 years because he was doing Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels around that time so he lived through some of that stuff with them. He was at the same parties. He’s a super-passionate guy who talks a 1000 words per minute, and you can see that stamped on the film. It goes 100 miles an hour because that’s how he thinks and that’s how he works.”

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Creation Stories sees screenwriter Irvine Welsh reunite with actor Ewen Bremner and producer Danny Boyle. Was Trainspotting a touchstone for the cast?

“Not to sound cliche, but Trainspotting is literally my favourite film. You can definitely see Irvine Welsh’s hand in Creation Stories because it’s got those kind of intense, hyper-real drug scenes. The story is all about escalation and people spiralling out of control, so it really lends itself to Irvine Welsh’s writing.”

Noel and Liam have just formed a production company together, Kosmic Kyte. What do you think they’re up to?

“I honestly don’t know! I mean, we’ve had the Liam documentary and we’ve had the Supersonic doc. It could be that Noel is doing his own documentary, but I don’t know if he would. When I saw that news I was just amazed that they were doing something together. It’ll be great to see what they pump out – if it’s more Oasis stuff then I’ll be there for it!”

‘Creation Stories’ is available now on Sky Cinema

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