Rupert gets to grips with Belfast accent

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HARRY Potter star Rupert Grint is coming to Belfast to launch his latest movie.

The UK premiere of Cherrybomb, which was shot last summer in Newtownabbey, is showing as part of the 2009 Belfast Film Festival.

The coming-of-age drama will get its red-carpet debut on March 30, followed by a second screening on April 1.

Both events are open to the general public.

And Rupert – who plays Harry Potter’s best friend, Ron Weasley, in the blockbuster film series – believes Cherrybomb will appeal to his more grown-up Ulster fans.

“It’s quite a dark piece,” he said, “but it’s a very interesting story and a great script.”

He added it was never “a conscious thing” to move away from family movies, and said: “I’m quite nervous about it, actually, because it’s so different from Potter.”

The 15-rated film will involve drinking, drug-taking, shoplifting and stealing cars.

And one scene shows Rupert bruised and bloodied in a swimming pool.

But the actor said his greatest challenge was learning the Belfast brogue: “It’s not an accent I’ve ever been that familiar with, and it’s such a mix of different sounds.

“I had to start from the beginning, but Brendan Gunn, the voice coach, made a CD with all my lines, which really helped.”

Cherrybomb was produced by Belfast-based Generator Entertainment, and directed by the husband-and-wife team Glenn Leyburn and Lisa Barros D’Sa.

The screenplay was written by Armagh man Daragh Carville.

Rupert revealed signing up for the project had been “a bit of a whirlwind”.

“In the space of a week I got the script, met the people and that was that,” he said.

The film tells the story of two Belfast teenagers – Malachy, played by Rupert, and Luke, portrayed by Co Laois actor Robert Sheehan.

Their friendship is fractured as they compete for the affections of Michelle, the captivating new girl in town.

Played by Welsh beauty Kimberley Nixon, she encourages the boys to carry out increasingly dangerous and illegal stunts.

Coleraine’s James Nesbitt appears as Michelle’s father, Crilly, who runs the sports centre where Malachy works, with Newtownabbey’s Valley Leisure Centre standing in for the fictional Titanic Leisureplex.

Cast members will attend the Belfast premiere, before Rupert jets off to resume work on the Harry Potter franchise.

The latest instalment, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, is due for release on July 17.

“Then there’s the big one, number seven,” added Rupert, “which is being split into two.

“It’s going to be a year-and-a-half shoot.”

The 20-year-old said the low-budget Cherrybomb was a world away from his regular job:

“It’s totally different. It doesn’t compare.

“Some days we were doing 12 scenes. On Potter we do one scene a day – one scene a week sometimes – and a huge percentage of it is greenscreen, but there was none of that on this.”

Still, the actor enjoyed his time in Northern Ireland.

“When I first arrived, it was quite a shock,” he said.

“I’d never been before so it was all quite new.

“But I tried to do something every day, and I saw the Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.”

Cherrybomb’s co-director, Belfast filmmaker Glenn Leyburn, was full of praise for the young star.

“It’s been brilliant,” he said. “Rupert is a gentleman.

“He’s incredibly talented and very easy to get on with.

“We couldn’t have wished for a more easygoing bloke.”

n Cherrybomb is showing at the Movie House, Dublin Road, Belfast, on Monday, March 30, and Wednesday, April 1. Screenings start at 7pm. Tickets cost 6.50/6 concessions. For more info, or to book, phone the Belfast Film Festival box office on 028 9024 6609 or go to www.belfastfilmfestival.org.