Øn an Uxbridge film set, the cast of 人们什么都不做 are clad from neck to ankle in DayGlo Lycra. Frankly, it is not flattering. They resemble giant jelly babies. Or human condoms. 或者, if you’re being fair, very clever writers with an eye for visual comedy.
“You look like a lemon!” yells Hugo Chegwin, in character as DJ Beats.
“You look like a Teletubby!” shouts back Allan “Seapa” Mustafa – playing bullish head honcho MC Grindah.
“Yeah?” pauses Chegwin. “Well you look like a fat Power Ranger!” And: scene!
We’re on set for People Just Do Nothing: Big in Japan. It’s the big screen follow-up to their BBC mockumentary sitcom centred on inept pirate radio station crew Kurupt FM – and their love of garage music. After series five saw the dimwitted Brentford broadcasters give up on their dream of fame and go their separate ways, the film gives them one last shot at the big time, ie the chance to make it big in Japan after a gameshow starts playing their absurd, 一种&E-themed track Heart Monitor Riddem.
It is a fittingly daft progression of a career that has seen them headline real-life Ibiza shows and do freestyles with the likes of Craig David. There is one thing about this scenario that feels different. For our interview, the show’s stars are out of character: a rare glimpse behind the mask for comics so committed to their roles that they even turn up to the Brits in persona.
“I’m probably the closest to my character in life,” laughs Seapa, proving his point with an unwittingly Grindah-ish boast. “But in fairness, Steve [Stamp, who plays drug-addled conspiracy theorist Steves] isn’t thick as pigshit and Asim [Chaudhry, who plays inept entrepreneur Chabuddy G] isn’t a 40-year-old!”
A People Just Do Nothing film has been a long time coming. The group shied away from the idea when it was first pitched to them at some point around series two or three. Back then, the silver screen didn’t feel like a natural fit for their shenanigans. But when they decided to end the TV show in 2018, the idea for the film cropped up again and seemed worth investigating. So they went away and started watching documentary after documentary to see how it might be done.
They became energised by Anvil! The Story of Anvil – “One of our biggest inspirations,” says Seapa – and its hilarious tale of the past-it Canadian heavy metal band’s rocky reformation. “And there’s this great documentary called The Show where the Wu-Tang Clan go out to Japan and Method Man thinks he’s ill because he couldn’t get any weed out there.”
After watching a documentary about UK drum’n’bass producer LTJ Bukem also making it big in Japan, they realised that Kurupt FM doing the same seemed both plausible and full of comic potential. A plot about unexpected Japanese stardom also had much broader appeal than a hyper-specific sitcom about Hounslow’s premier garage pirate radio crew. 和, best of all, it wasn’t a tired cover version of their previous work.
“We didn’t want to do something like Kurupt FM in Ibiza. That would’ve been the obvious thing – and we never want to do the obvious thing,” offers Stamp.
“Yeah,” smiles Chegwin. “So we thought about setting it in space.”
Cut to the gang filming at James Bond’s old set. Each day at Pinewood Studios they walk past photographs of luminaries who once worked here including Marilyn Monroe, Sean Connery and the car from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
“And one day they might say: ‘This is where the character who played Grindah showed off his pear-shaped figure in Spandex!’” laughs Seapa, as he resumes his position on a set decked out like a Japanese gameshow.
The intensely kawaii backdrop features giant sunflowers, pink candy wheels and massive fake toadstools sitting beneath a skyline of cotton wool clouds. Actors playing Japanese crew members wander past clutching massive plastic berries while unitard-clad extras loll on bleacher seating. In the background, people jig about dressed as giant raspberries, squid and a strange object that resembles a UFO dipped in yoghurt.
And Seapa’s role in it all? To swing across a series of wooden platforms that are suspended atop a gigantic, foaming swimming pool, in a Banzai-style gameshow challenge. “Turns out I do all my own stunts,“ 他说.
这是, frankly, a whole new level of comic ridiculousness compared to the TV show. It’s also part of a ploy to make People Just Do Nothing’s usual lo-fi mockumentary style feel big enough for the movies without betraying the characters whom fans have loved for a decade.
“If you want people to sit in a cinema for an hour and a half you do have to grip them visually,” says Seapa.
Hence a trip to Tokyo to shoot a series of escapades, building on Kurupt FM’s inability to do even basic tasks and putting them in situations they know even less about than usual. Even being on a plane without getting arrested proves a complex concept. As does the idea that loudly freestyling a “ragga rap” at Japanese record execs might not be the best way to ingratiate yourself.
They met the Japanese pop megastar Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (who cameos in the film), her ginormous entourage leaving them feeling, in Seapa’s words, “a bit like you’re meeting the Queen”. They relished the fact that shooting on the street is blissfully free of interruptions compared to the UK (Seapa: “in Soho people are going: “Hello mum!” into the camera, but over there it’s like everyone’s an extra – they don’t even look at what you’re doing”). And they fell in love with the country to the extent that they now spend evenings enthralled by YouTube videos about its vending machines.
For all its international outlook, 人们什么都不做: Big in Japan still feels very true to the TV show. There are niche references to old-school garage acts such as Heartless Crew. It’s overlaid by classic two-step bangers such as Double 99’s Ripgroove, partly thanks to personal interventions by some of the artists who waived the kinds of fees normally involved with movie licensing (“Mike Skinner was a G – he really helped us,” says Stamp). 和, despite pressure to the contrary, it’s shot very much in the same style as the televisual version.
“It was suggested that we remove the talking heads, as they wouldn’t feel cinematic,” says Stamp. “We had to fight for our style.”
“We looked at Spinal Tap,” adds Chaudhry. “That’s a mockumentary with talking heads which has cinematic scale. It was a good reference for us.”
When Japan is portrayed onscreen, it’s often subject to lazy depictions as being extreme or comically bizarre – to laugh at gameshows like Banzai, as though Ant & Dec don’t annually force celebs to eat kangaroo bumholes. The People Just Do Nothing team took a research trip to Japan to ensure they, in Stamp’s words, “didn’t fall into the tropes that are too cliched”.
On the occasions that they did lapse into lazy stereotypes, they were quickly disabused. “I couldn’t find a sex robot out there for love nor money,” says Stamp of a plotline that would have seen Chabuddy G engaging in some hot automaton action. “In the end we wrote it out as it would have been fake.”
“But also we’re the weirdos in this film,” says Chaudhry. “Chabuddy is weirder than any of the people he meets. He’s a freak! The joke’s on us. We’re taking the piss out of ourselves and I think that comes across.” Given that Chaudhry’s character spends half the film sleeping in bushes and trying to impress people by pretending his Kindle is a personal organiser, it’s hard to disagree.
These unlikely film stars are also attempting to break the fourth wall. Hot on the movie’s heels, they’ll release Kurupt FM: The Greatest Hits (Part 1), an album that’s referred to within the world of the movie. It carries on a tradition started by their real-life festival shows, which they presented as a live replication of the Champagne Steam Rooms club night that Chabuddy G ran in the TV series.
“It’s all part of a Kurupt Cinematic Universe. We call it the KCU,” laughs Chaudhry. Presumably meaning we’ll get a series of Marvel-style sequels and movies focusing on each character in turn?
“Yeah, the film’s part of a trilogy. This is actually the third movie – the whole thing is coming out backwards,” says Chegwin.
“The first one will be Grindah’s life story, set in the future – in a council estate in Dubai. The second one will be Beats’ life story,” adds Seapa, then Chegwin jumps in: “Which will be set in Vietnam, but in the Hounslow of Vietnam.”
All of which is very funny. Until Chaudhry breaks the laughter and says: “Even if we weren’t to ever do anything together again, I personally am proud of what we’ve done as a group. I’m not saying this is the end, but in terms of the TV show and that world, it could be the end. I don’t know.”
And then the camera is rolling again. Japanese extras are walking past dressed like the contents of a fruit bowl. The neon-pink set is once more illuminating the cast. And as Beats and Grindah’s ludicrously childish scuffle builds to a scrappy climax, Chegwin, in character, turns and prepares to walk off camera. But before he goes, he prepares a final, emotional, parting line.
“Sayonara, you fat lemon!”
And with that, Brentford’s most brilliantly dodgy wordsmiths have wrapped.
人们什么都不做: Big in Japan is in cinemas 18 八月