13 Mar 2010: The Scouting Book For Boys sees Shane Meadows’s young protege come of age. But can he mention politely that he never had Attention Deficit Disorder?

Thomas Turgoose is so ridiculously self-deprecating and low-key that it’s easy to see why he’s so spontaneous and unpretentious in front of the camera. Half the time, he has to remind himself that he’s an actor – and he certainly never thinks of himself as a movie star.

  • The Scouting Book for Boys
  • Production year: 2009
  • Country: UK
  • Cert (UK): 15
  • Runtime: 94 mins
  • Directors: Tom Harper
  • Cast: Holly Grainger, Rafe Spall, Steven Mackintosh, Susan Lynch, Thomas Turgoose, Tony Maudsley
  • More on this film

“No way! I just feel like a spotty chav living in Grimsby,” says Turgoose. “I walk around town on a Saturday morning same as anyone else. Chatting to my mates, checking out the women. I completely forget I’m in films till someone walks past me and says, ‘There’s that kid out of This Is England.'”

Turgoose was just 13 when he made his acting debut in Shane Meadows‘s mini-masterpiece, and 15 when they collaborated again on the low-budget film Somers Town. He had a supporting role in Eden Lake and now takes the lead in The Scouting Book For Boys, a disturbing coming-of-age film set in a caravan park on the Norfolk coast. And the best thing about his latest adventure? Not having a chaperone. “Soon as I had turned 16, I was allowed to turn up on set alone. I got a real buzz from it.”

Watch the trailer for The Scouting Book for Boys Link to this video

And now, unbelievably, he’s a month past his 18th birthday. How did he celebrate? “I went for a pint with my dad and then had a party at the local pub with all my mates,” he says. “It was a good, good laugh.” His friends are never jealous of his work, just bored when he disappears off for months on end to film. He says he’s lucky not to have many fangirls pursuing him; he’s had the same girlfriend for the past three years (she works in the local Greggs and gets him discounted food).

Even in his short career, Turgoose has occasionally found himself unfairly labelled. His parents separated when he was small and his mother died just before This Is England was released; he now lives with his father and stepmother in Grimsby – and pre-teen years were spent avoiding school, so it’s perhaps inevitable that much has been written about acting “saving” him. And he is nearly always described as having suffered from Attention Deficit Disorder. Being good natured, he laughs at this. “I never had ADD! I don’t know where that came from. I was a little shit. But a polite, well-mannered little shit.”

‘I’ve never really had to act yet … I just try to be natural in front of the camera’

He is keen to point out that, ever since his first day on the set of This is England, he’s been professional: “It was the only time I’d ever got out of bed before 4pm so everyone was impressed. Since then, I’ve never turned up late or been grouchy. I work dead hard, sometimes from 6am till 8pm. I suppose I might sometimes push my luck; I can’t resist cracking jokes on set and Shane gets really pissed off with me.” Turgoose is certainly cheeky; he asked Meadows for a fiver when asked to audition for This is England and doubled his rate for Somers Town.

In the next week or two, he will start filming a four-part sequel to This Is England for Channel 4 (he laughs at the suggestion of charging 20 quid for his third Meadows project, but doesn’t discount it). The four hour-long episodes, starring most of the original cast, will follow the gang as they head into the late-80s and the final years of Thatcher’s rule. Can Turgoose reveal anything of the new storylines? He chuckles: “I’m not supposed to. I’ll get into trouble if I do. I can maybe say a few things: my character, Shaun, grows up, loses his virginity and does his GCSEs.”

Given that Turgoose – or “Tomo” as his mates call him – is in the second year of a photography course (he favours black and white studio portraits), it doesn’t take much imagination to connect him back to Shaun. “My characters so far, from Shaun to David in The Scouting Book For Boys, have been similar because they are a version of me. I’ve never really had to act yet; I just try to be natural in front of the camera.”

What next for this precociously talented yet regular 18-year-old lad from the north-east? He shrugs – not because he doesn’t care, but he is happy having no plans beyond the start of the summer. He is sent plenty of scripts; something will turn up. “Loads of the scripts I see are crap, but sometimes the story will grip me from start to finish. Especially if there are car crashes. I love reading action scripts.”

So a script for Fast & Furious 5 would go down well? His eyes widen: “Yeah! I’d be soooo excited!”