Rob Sprackling, Hollywood scriptwriter
Profile by Bridget Osborne
Images clockwise: Rob in his kitchen in Chiswick; Ricky Tomlinson as Mike Bassett, Gnomeo & Juliet; Rex, The Queen’s Corgi
I just had the pleasure of meeting Rob Sprackling, and my world has got a little bit brighter. Rob lives in a very happy place, in his imagination, where garden gnomes come to life and fall in love and flamingos do flamenco dancing. He develops these fantasies into fully fledged stories and by doing so has established a very successful career as a Hollywood script writer. It just so happens that he also lives in Chiswick with his wife Anna, two sons Jack and Bertie and adorable Cockapoo Ruby.
He’s worked on many films (Five Children and It, Shooting Fish, Polar Express) but to date he’s had two successful feature films which are entirely his own invention and creation. Mike Bassett England Manager (2001) he describes as “the Spinal Tap for football” with Ricky Tomlinson playing a “useless manager out of his depth” and Amanda Redman co-starring. Gnomeo and Juliet (2011) is a re-telling of Shakespeare’s tragedy as a digital animation set in English suburbia with next door neighbours and their garden gnomes cast as the Montagues and Capulets. When publicists say a film has an ‘all-star cast’ what they generally mean is that there are one or two names you might recognize. Gnomeo and Juliet boasts James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Ashley Jensen, Maggie Smith, Matt Lucas, Ozzy Osborne, Patrick Stewart, Julie Walters, Hulk Hogan, Michael Caine and Dolly Parton among the cast of voices. Made by Disney, it made nearly $200 million worldwide.
Rob’s next film looks set to be another blockbuster. Co-written with Johnny Smith, his writing partner on Gnomeo and Juliet, it’s also an animation. The Queen’s Corgi is the story of Rex, a spoilt, pampered pet, the Queen’s favourite, who by nefarious means is ousted from the palace and ends up in a street gang. There he quickly has to wise up if he is to survive, especially as he falls for Wanda, a stray dog whose boyfriend is a particularly mean pitbull.
His script was picked up by Ivan Reitman, best known for directing Ghostbusters, but the project didn’t develop satisfactorily, and was in the dormant state known in the business as ‘turnaround’ when Belgian director / producer Ben Stassen read it. He loved it. Ben’s first animated feature film Fly Me To The Moon (2008) was the first animated film to be designed, created, and released solely in 3-D. Since then his company n-Wave have produced a string of animated films: A Turtle’s Tale – Sammy’s Adventures (2010), A Turtle’s Tale 2 – Sammy’s Escape from Paradise (2012), The House of Magic (2013), The Wild Life 2016) and The Son of Bigfoot (2017). Ben wanted to start making The Queen’s Corgi immediately and Rob and Johnny had to scramble to buy back the rights so the team of 130 animators at his studios in Belgium could start work on it straight away. So far The Queen’s Corgi has been sold to 60 countries including China (a rare feat for Western film) and is already the best selling film n-Wave has produced.
Images left to right: Rex, The Queen’s Corgi, Rob as he is now, flamingos doing their mating dance, Rob as a baby faced TV reporter and graphic for Rise of the Appliances.
Talking to Rob in his kitchen in Chiswick I could see why he is so successful at pitching his scripts. He talked to me like he was addressing a large and crowded room even though I was sitting two feet away and the enthusiasm and energy of his story telling and the way he visualized it made me feel I was watching the actual movie. That’s helped no doubt by his background as a stand-up comic in the 1980s and then a spell as a TV presenter on ITV’s Friday Now. He was a fixture of the London comedy circuit for about four years and ran his own club, the Rodney Bewes Conspiracy in Brixton.
When I met him he was positively fizzing with creative energy as he was about to start writing his next script the following day. A beautiful story about flamingos who mate for life and choose their mate in a ritual dance, he’s using the Spanish Gitano culture to humanize the story. “It’s a very girl centric dance film” he says, with animated flamingos dancing flamenco; a story of love and loss, bravery and passion. His other big project currently is Rise of the Appliances, a comedy sci fi movie in which household appliances take over the world. The heroes of this live action movie are a family who survive the putsch because all their stuff has been repossessed by bailiffs the day before. Saved by his appliance free state, the anti-hero is given a second chance of success in life. This will be Rob’s directorial debut making a feature length film of his own creation. He has made a number of short films including Man’s Best Friend, shot in Chiswick and Green Monkey, which was the overall winner in the short films category at the New York film festival. He’s currently raising finance for Rise of the Appliances and “just” needs the last £200,000.
The Queen’s Corgi will be released in Britain on 15th February next year.
Watch Mike Bassett clips, Gnomeo & Juliet trailer, Rob’s short film Man’s Best Friend, shot entirely in Chiswick, and Rob doing stand-up in the ’80s.