‘Get Duked!’: inside Amazon Prime Video’s hip-hop version of ‘The Wicker Man’

Set in the Scottish Highlands and featuring a stellar soundtrack of rap bangers, writes Gary Ryan, this anarchic horror comedy plays like 'Attack The Block' in tweed

Get Duked! is an anarchic horror comedy where three Glasgow teenagers – Dean (played by Rian Gordon), Duncan (Lewis Gribben) and aspiring hip-hop artist DJ Beatroot (Viraj Juneja) are packed off to the Scottish Highlands on a mandatory Duke of Edinburgh trip to atone for burning down a school block (after attempting to flambé a turd). Joined by docile nerd Ian (Sam Bottomley), who’s volunteered for the jaunt because he thinks it will look good on his uni application, the unlikely foursome find themselves tracked by the mysterious The Duke (Eddie Izzard), who’s turned the award into his own personal hunting expedition.

With full-on rap music video sequences involving raving farmers and hallucinogenic rabbit faeces, Get Duked! has a freewheeling, manic energy and interviewing its cast, via Zoom in their respective homes, feels equally chaotic: they excitedly talk over – and rip the piss out of – each other, and display the same entertaining chemistry they have on screen. Halfway through, all hell breaks loose when they accidentally reveal they’ve just shot a music video for Run The Jewels – more on that later.

Get Duked
‘Get Duked!’ has been billed as a hip-hop version of ‘The Wicker Man’. Credit: Amazon Prime Video

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It’s been billed as Attack The Block in tweed, a hip-hop version of The Wicker Man, and drawn comparisons to the likes of The League Of Gentlemen with the confident bravado of Trainspotting.  Three years ago, when he first auditioned for the role of Ian (Sample line: “I’ve never seen a murder before – I’m homeschooled!”), Bottomley instantly fell in love with the script. “I was thinking: it’s like a cross between The Inbetweeners, Hot Fuzz and The Goonies,” he remembers. “It had a sense it was a bit of an underground cult coming-of-age film.”

Shooting in the Highlands, he says, “was almost as deadly as the actual film itself” – no mean feat for a movie that involves posh people in human skin masks trying to thin the working class-herd. They were besieged by midges. “Trying to keep focused while they were crawling in your eyes meant that doing a scene was like somebody with a cattle-prod electrocuting your full body,” says Gordon. “And you’ve got to stay composed and hold yourself until they yell ‘Cut!’ and you can” – he mimes swatting away insects away while yelling ‘fuck’. “It was mad going on set every day,” adds Juneja. You’d look outside and feel like you were in a Windows Explorer background.”

Eddie Izzard
Eddie Izzard makes an appearance as The Duke. Credit: Prime Video

While Bottomley recalls the surreal experience of producer Tobey Maguire turning up to watch him film a scene (“I couldn’t believe it – it was Spider-Man with an umbrella!”), it’s Juneja who gets arguably the breakout role. As DJ Beatroot – who makes out he’s from the “street” despite the fact his real name is the decidedly middle-class William DeBouvaior – he got to record a series of phallic raps, with outlandish lyrics like: ‘My dick is like the Loch Ness Monster because it’s a mystery’ with real-life Glasgow beat-maker S-Type. This is the debut full-length feature from music video director Ninian Doff, who brings his background making promos for the likes of Run The Jewels and Migos to bear in a trippy big-scale sequence that involves DJ Beatroot performing to a barn filled with unlikely farmer fans (including a dabbing James Cosmo from Game Of Thrones).

“I wasn’t nervous because I was just so excited to do it,” says Juneja, who got to live out every kid’s fantasy. “In my shower, in my own head, I’ve performed so many sold-out concerts – and headlined Glastonbury – so this just felt like my moment to shine, except I’m singing into a microphone instead of a Head & Shoulders bottle.”

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To channel DJ Beatroot, he immersed himself in American hip-hop. “I watched a 50 Cent documentary because DJ Beatroot wants to have that struggle and wants to put on this act that he’s from the ghetto whereas his upbringing is completely different to that.”

There was no method acting for the hallucinogenic rabbit dung scenes, which were mushed-up chocolate biscuits. “They kept them in sealed baggies so they did look like real drugs,” laughs Bottomley. “You don’t think when you become an actor that you’ll end up eating shit and getting high off it in a film.”

However, Eddie Izzard, as a homicidal gun-toting aristocrat, on the other hand, did go method according to the cast. “Every time he spoke to us, he’d point the rifle at us – and we didn’t know whether it was loaded or not,” says Juneja. “He inspired us because we were like: ‘This is just a bit of fun’, but he took it so seriously and that rubbed off on us,” adds Gordon.

Get Duked
‘Get Duked!’ is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video. Credit: Prime Video

Get Duked! is visually inventive and riotously  funny. Although wacky and off-the-wall, there’s a strong social commentary at work about the generational and class gap in the UK. At one point in the film, Dean goes full Greta Thunberg on the hunters, lecturing them about how they’ve destroyed the planet, meaning they’ll be living in their gold-plated oxygen tanks on Mars, while he’ll be stuck on Earth in a bunker with his mutant three-eyed kids.

“When we were filming, it wasn’t long after the EU referendum and the stats came out that showed the sharp contrast in voting between the youth versus the old [Across the UK, 75 per cent of 18-24 year olds voted to remain in the EU, whereas 66 per cent of those aged 65-74 voted to leave],” says Juneja. “People have felt for a long time that the older generations are taking our futures. And it’s a film that talks about the massive class divide in this country. You look at what happened recently with the free school meals, and it took a professional footballer, Marcus Rashford, to intervene and force the government not to take away food vouchers from the poorest families.”

Originally Get Duked! was called Boyz in the Wood, but after the death of Boyz n the Hood director John Singleton last year, it reverted to its working title. Doff’s goal for the film was to mix the Scottish Highlands with American culture and, as such, it has a banging soundtrack including tracks from Run the Jewels and Danny Brown. “We got told that Danny Brown read the pitch for the film and loved it,” remembers Gordon. “Which is a good sign.”

At the Anglo-end of the cultural spectrum, there’s nothing more bafflingly British than the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. Around 112,000 16-24 year olds take part in it each year – both Gordon and Gribben were among them, who each achieved their bronze award. “My Duke of Edinburgh experience was similar to the film,” says Gordon. “I went with four mates, we got stoned the whole time, then didn’t do any of the proper things. It’s not a walk in the park though – we trekked 50k. It was a serious hike!”

James Cosmo
‘Game Of Thrones’ star James Cosmo plays a local farmer. Credit: Amazon Prime Video

There’s a sense that Bottomley’s early prediction that Get Duked! would become a cult hit might come true. Already there have been portents: the film won the Audience Award at last year’s South by Southwest Film Festival. They all gesture to the DJ Beatroot stickers plastered over parts of their bedroom – which they festooned across the festival in antics that seem as madcap as anything in their movie.

Gribben: “When the film was opening, we heard this ‘Whoo-hoo!’ wild clapping and I turned round and it was Elijah Wood!”

Gordon: “Viraj and Lewis had already met Elijah Wood in the bar, and I walked up to him with Sam and said: ‘Hi, I’m Rian and this is… Samwise’.” He cringes. “I don’t know how that Lord Of The Rings reference managed to come out! Sam still hasn’t forgiven me.”

Gribben: “We saw Shia LaBeouf on the street and covered him in DJ Beatroot stickers.”

Gordon: “We covered SXSW with them – on the plane, on people’s faces – and on Shia LaBeouf ‘s fucking head!”

Juneja: “Before the premiere at SXSW, I’d been doing personalised stickers and giving everyone stupid names. Tobey Maguire asked for one, and I was shitting it thinking: ‘What should I write?’ I was almost too scared to give it to him in case I never worked again. I’d written. Toby Shag-mire He looked at it and goes: ‘Pretty funny!’, and I was like ‘Phew!’”

But no moment is more WTF? than finding themselves reprising their characters a few weeks ago to film the video for the new Run the Jewels video ‘Out of Sight’ featuring 2 Chainz – which dropped on the same day as the film – in which our four protagonists stage a drunken and stoned art heist and end up on a psychedelic jewel-fuelled acid trip. It was done in such secret that, when they heavily imply what they’ve been doing, an entertaining argument breaks out among them as to what they can and can’t say (“I’M WARNING YOU DON’T SAY A WORD! NOOO! STOP SPEAKING!”) – as Juneja makes a frantic phone call to the director to check.

With the go-ahead to talk, Gordon enthuses: “[Run the Jewels’] new album has been the anthem of Black Lives Matter and the George Floyd protests. Just getting the opportunity to be part of something for such a special album was a complete gift. The music video blows my mind – it’s spectacular. We never thought in our wildest dreams that we’d be gearing back up in the old costumes to a film a music video.”

Sadly, they didn’t meet Killer Mike,  El-P and 2 Chainz who filmed their scenes separately in Los Angeles.

Juneja: There was a lot of green screen involved. Ninian was directing us going: ‘Right now, you’re sitting on 2 Chainz’s shoulders and eating jewels – and I was thinking: ‘What the hell?!’ We got to abseil, run on treadmills, and I got to mime along with verses which was a dream.”

Bottomley: “We only found out it was happening when we got a hint from Ninian in the group chat, just a ‘PS: This could be happening’ literally a month before it did.”

Gordon: “There’s a good contrast with the film in that we were filming in this big Tory-looking mansion with its weird old perverted 16th-century art and we’re like: ‘Let’s steal some shit – fuck the old people!’

Gribben: “We were filming in a mansion next to a tennis court and a golf course – the kind of place where people probably pay £10,000-a-month for membership.”

Gordon: “I was sitting having lunch outside and I unbuttoned my shirt and this old dick comes pulling up to me in a golf cart and said: ‘Excuse me! This isn’t Benidorm! Do you mind buttoning up your shirt?!’”

Run The Jewels
Run The Jewels and 2 Chainz in the ‘Out Of Sight’ video. Credit: YouTube.

Again, it’s a snapshot of how eerily similar the relationship between them is to that in Get Duked! To the point that at the end of our interview, they try to convince me they’ve made the whole Run the Jewels collaboration story up. “Viraj was just pretending to be on the phone,” insists Gordon. “We were actually all texting each other saying what we could make up and see what we could get into print.” This leads to chain of emails over whether NME has, in fact, been ‘Get Duped!’ and as funny and talented as they are, there’s a point where you start to sympathise with The Duke.

“I don’t want to speak for the others but I feel like I’ve made three brothers for life,” says Gordon, referring to his thick-as-thieves cast mates.

Quick as a flash, Juneja responds: “Yeah – Ninian, Tobey Maguire and Elijah Wood.”

‘Get Duked!’ is out now on Amazon Prime Video

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