'I don't mind embarrassing myself on screen and in life'
If you're a fan of the huge hit teenage comedy The Inbetweeners, you're bound to enjoy The Festival. The film's lead, Joe Thomas, and director Iain Morris tell Georgia Humphreys about the laughs in store - and whether an Inbetweeners reunion could ever be on the cards
Joe Thomas didn't have to dig too deep to find inspiration for his latest film role. In The Festival, The Inbetweeners star plays Nick, who is far from a hedonist but, after being unexpectedly dumped by his girlfriend at his graduation, he tries to embrace three days at - you've guessed it - a music festival.
It's fair to say the trip doesn't exactly go smoothly. Along with the usual mud and mayhem, Nick and his friend, Sean, meet a variety of oddball characters, and there's drunken mishaps and plenty of cringeworthy moments.
Essex-born Thomas (34) has had his own bad festival experiences.
"An early one was being at Reading Festival, and somebody pooing on my tent," he blurts out drily.
"It was there when we woke up in the morning. There's something about poo... just do it on the ground, at least."
"Actually, that was why I liked the idea of the film so much," he adds with a grin.
"I know the writers, it's a great territory for comedy, and I really thought they'd nail it."
This year marks the 10th anniversary of The Inbetweeners, the E4 sitcom about four hapless teenage friends - Simon (played by Thomas), Will, Jay and Neil - attempting to navigate school and the social scene that goes with it.
Two hugely successful big-screen outings followed three hit TV series, and, while Simon's trademark ultra-gelled, spiky hair is long gone, there's no doubt many fans will always associate Thomas with his awkward, unlucky-in-love character.
When it comes to The Festival (written by Keith Akushie and Joe Parham), director Iain Morris (44) readily admits the humour in it will remind people of The Inbetweeners, which he co-created with Damon Beesley.
"Yeah, I'd say it's very similar," he says nonchalantly, to which the friendly pair fall about laughing loudly.
"Very broadly, because I find the same things funny that I did when I was making The Inbetweeners, and Damon, the executive producer, he finds the same things funny - Joe Thomas is one of the things that we find funny.
"It's a very different group of people [in the film], and we've shot it in a slightly different way, but broadly, it's part of the Inbetweeners Cinematic Universe."
"[The Festival] is its own thing, but I guess having me on board..." Thomas begins, before Morris chimes in: "If you like The Inbetweeners, you'll probably like this film, to be fair."
Revealing his testicle to an unsuspecting audience for a storyline that saw Simon model in a school fashion show is just one humiliating scene Thomas embraced while making The Inbetweeners.
"I don't mind embarrassing myself on screen and also just in life," remarks the down-to-earth actor, also known for comedies Fresh Meat and White Gold.
But, perhaps surprisingly, the most nerve-wracking scene for him to film for The Festival didn't involve nakedness.
"We needed to film this crowd stuff, and the only way we were going to get this was I had to get on stage [at Leeds Festival]," recalls Thomas, who is engaged to his former Inbetweeners co-star Hannah Tointon (she also plays his girlfriend in The Festival).
"There is nothing more irritating at a festival than waiting to see the band you enjoy, and some chump waddles on, being like, 'Hello guys, having a good time?'"
But, in the end, he says, the crowd were "really lovely".
"My bar was set so low for what was going to happen. I was like, 'Anything that's not a bottle of p*** being thrown at me, that's a win'.
"Not only did that not happen, but they were really helpful. They were waving their arms around and doing all the stuff we needed them to do."
The film-makers built their own authentically mud-spattered set, with a huge main stage, in Somerset.
But as well as heading to Leeds, they filmed at Bestival in Dorset last summer too, in order to get a sense of the scale and huge atmosphere of a real festival.
Shooting on location was challenging at times, particularly because Thomas kept getting recognised by fans.
"It was quite funny, because actually it was often when the camera was literally rolling, and people would come and talk to you," he notes.
"Because I'm quite diffident, I'd try and work it into the conversation that we were filming."
The question of whether Thomas and his Inbetweeners co-stars - Simon Bird, James Buckley and Blake Harrison - would ever reunite for a remake may be getting a little tiresome.
However, with The Festival having an undeniable Inbetweeners vibe to it, I have to ask, has filming The Festival tempted them to bring it back?
"The thing is..." Thomas pauses. He chuckles and smiles, but is clearly unsure what to say.
"Basically, it's only Joe that says no," quips Morris. "It's been really difficult for all of us, because it's only Joe that's stopping it."
Thomas carries on with the joke: "They're just, 'If only Joe would buckle!' And I won't do it.
"They're all camped outside my house with a megaphone saying, 'Joe, please, see reason!' and I'm just going, 'No, I won't, I'm just a very dignified person'."
But then, in a slightly more serious tone, Morris concludes: "We would never say never, is what I would say," to which Thomas nods.
"We all get on brilliantly," the director continues.
"We're all really good friends, we all like working together - we hadn't worked together for ages. So, who knows?"
So there you have it, Inbetweeners fans - Simon and the rest of the lads could well return to our TV screens yet.
The Festival is in cinemas from Tuesday, August 14