Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging oral history: The teen drama that made Aaron Johnson, Georgia Groome and Eleanor Tomlinson stars

Do the phrases “nunga-nungas” imply something to you? What about “snogging scale”? “Fabbity fab with knobs on”? For a technology coming of age within the mid-Noughties, this language crept its method into playground dialog and gossip classes. It was the product of Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, Gurinder Chadha’s clunkily titled but much-adored teen film that completely captured the mortification and mundanity of that awkward age. This was the movie we piled into cinemas to look at, then pored over at sleepovers and quoted advert nauseum. Fifteen years later, many nonetheless return to it, branding it their final consolation film.

Billed as a teenage reply to Bridget Jones’s Diary, Angus… was primarily based on a teen lit sequence by the late creator Louise Rennison, one that started with 1999’s Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging. Rennison’s books centred round Georgia Nicholson, a distinctly regular 14-year-old lady obsessive about boys, intervals and the scale of her nostril. To today, Rennison’s 10-book sequence, sharp and witty past their hero’s years, stay the one novels to ever make me snicker out loud.

After we meet Georgia within the 2008 movie primarily based on the primary three books, she is portrayed by actor Georgia Groome and is troubled by the sorts of issues that adults could discover innocuous. For teenagers, although, they’re life-or-death. Georgia needs to be fancied by the most popular boy in her secondary faculty (a flicky haired, pre-fame Aaron Taylor-Johnson), whereas her greatest mate Jas (Eleanor Tomlinson) is gunning for his brother Tom (Sean Bourke). Georgia needs a banging fifteenth birthday celebration “in a nightclub, with a DJ”. And Georgia needs her dad and mom (comedians Alan Davies and Karen Taylor) to cease being so embarrassing on a regular basis – or her mum to cease flirting with hunky builder Jem (Steve Jones), at the very least.

Standing in Georgia’s method are faculty bully “Slaggy Lindsay” (Kimberley Nixon), her feral pet cat – the titular Angus – and an incapability to go 5 minutes with out placing her foot in her mouth. Or, within the movie’s opening scene, turning as much as a celebration dressed as a stuffed olive, solely to be informed by her mates – dressed as an attractive angel, princess, and satan – that “boys don’t like women for funniness”. If the “points” right here sound like the whole reverse of the edgy, drug-infested teen dramas of the time – Channel 4’s salacious Skins was a yr outdated when Angus… hit cinemas – that’s as a result of they had been, and intentionally so.

Even in 2023, Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging’s allure stays. For one, there’s its killer soundtrack of mid-Noughties relics corresponding to The Pigeon Detectives, Scouting for Women, The Maccabees – a lot of which populated the iPods of the movie’s leads. It’s additionally the place to see a number of the earliest performances from future stars, corresponding to Poldark’s Tomlinson to rumoured future Bond Taylor-Johnson. In an age of ever-shortening nostalgia cycles (sure, Gen-Z have managed to be nostalgic about 2008), Angus… catapults you again to that very yr, as reflective of it as a waft of So…? physique spray or the stress to decide on your MySpace high eight.

To have a good time 15 years because the movie’s launch, I spoke to Gurinder Chadha and the movie’s stars (Georgia Groome, Eleanor Tomlinson, Kimberley Nixon, Georgia Henshaw) about making an underappreciated British basic…

“I informed her, ‘You’ll be able to retire! You’ve made me learn!’”

In 1999, comedian-turned-author Louise Rennison releases the primary novel in her Georgia Nicholson e-book sequence, which turns into a worldwide bestseller. Teen readers fell in love with Georgia and her ‘Ace Gang’ (Jas, Rosie and Ellen) and the weird but relatable situations Rennison put them in, from shaving off their eyebrows to sitting on their arms till they went numb earlier than grabbing their very own boobs. That? An try to expertise “what it’s wish to be felt up”, in case you had been questioning.

Georgia Groome (Georgia Nicholson): I used to be extra of an Adrian Mole than a Georgia Nicholson at that time, however I learn the primary [book] after I auditioned and beloved it. Plenty of the books geared toward women that age on the time had been perhaps about intercourse – even a number of the Jacqueline Wilson books that had been geared toward that barely older group had been a bit too grownup for the place I presumably was. We weren’t going to events and getting drunk at that age and it appeared a extra trustworthy tackle the early teen years.

Eleanor Tomlinson (Jas): I first learn the books after I discovered they had been going to make a movie – I picked up the primary and was obsessed. I’d learn almost all of them by my first audition.

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Georgia Henshaw (Rosie): They had been humorous, and so relatable, weren’t they? After I went to the primary audition, Louise was there, with Gurinder. She requested if I’d learn them and I mentioned, ‘I’ve learn them!’ I informed her, ‘You’ll be able to retire! You’ve made me learn!’

From L-R: Gurinder Chadha, Eleanor Tomlinson, Georgia Groome, Manjeeven Grewal, Georgia Henshaw

(Gurinder Chadha)

Gurinder Chadha (director): The method Louise captures being 12, 13, 14, is exceptional. You’re sort of self-obsessed and you suppose you’re rather more mature than you’re, however you’re actually only a child. I preferred the very fact that they didn’t have large, horrible issues, however their issues and conflicts had been large to them. It simply all felt very, very genuine.

“I understand how to do that and I can do that effectively”

Chadha was driving excessive, following the success of ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ (2002) and ‘Bride and Prejudice’ (2004). Then the function movie wing of US children’ TV channel Nickelodeon obtained in contact, asking if she can be up for adapting the primary three of Rennison’s books for the large display, 5 years after they’d bought the rights and did not efficiently adapt them.

Chadha: I’d already made Bend It Like Beckham, which in a method was my teen film. It captured that sense of ladies who had been good and actual, versus excessive school-y. Not imply women, because it had been, simply genuine women with a dream. That actually had a huge impact. However Angus… was totally different. It was Louise’s imaginative and prescient of youngsters, which was nice. After I learn it, I simply thought, “yeah, I understand how to do that and I can do that effectively”.

Groome: I used to be very conversant in a number of Gurinder’s work. It was actually thrilling for all of us as a result of [Bend It Like Beckham] was a movie all of us knew, and it was, once more, about women. That’s how she led the set as effectively. At that level, there weren’t that many feminine administrators working on the identical degree as Gurinder, so it was tremendous cool to see her answerable for a crew of tons of of males. She actually led the cost, in that method.

Chadha directing together with her twins in hand

(Gurinder Chadha)

Kimberley Nixon (Slaggy Lindsay): I bear in mind after we had been doing rehearsals and we actually went to Gurinder’s home as a result of she’d simply had twins. Now, having a child myself, I have no idea how she had twins, and was in prep for a film and directing, [then going] straight into taking pictures it. I bear in mind during, pondering, “oh my God, she’s actually doing all of it”.

“She regarded like any individual who would possibly lower her eyebrow off, ?”

Whereas US teen dramas of the time usually featured grownup casts and grownup issues, Chadha needed to seek out recent, younger expertise to play her movie’s youngsters. Casting Georgia Nicholson got here first, then the “Ace Gang” round her.

Groome: I met Gurinder proper in the beginning, I feel after they first began. I wasn’t that into the function, as I used to be a really severe little one and had completed some fairly severe work [but] they had been like, “No, you need to go. It’s Gurinder, she’s actually cool”.

Chadha: It began with Georgia as a result of I simply thought she was terrific. She was sort of a bit gorm-ly but in addition enticing, and very actual wanting. She regarded like any individual who would possibly lower her eyebrow off, ? However she’s a extremely good actress and she blew me away, so it began together with her.

Henshaw: I went for [the role of] Georgia and it was me and G [Georgia Groome]. However G is so good, isn’t she? You already know when it’s beautiful to simply see somebody smash it, and then you definitely go, “Yeah, that was for you.”

(Gurinder Chadha)

Chadha: Eleanor had some nice charisma. She’s very good and very heat, [a] lovely individual, however she’s additionally very, superb at taking part in the marginally ditzy one.

Tomlinson: The function I initially auditioned for was for Georgia, however at 14 years outdated, let’s simply say I used to be undoubtedly extra of a Jas.

Chadha: Within the e-book, all the ladies are white, however as a result of I’d simply made Bend It Like Beckham, I used to be aware of not having a totally white solid. I imply, everybody’s doing it now, casting somebody of color in every little thing, however again then that wasn’t actually the norm. I did break with custom from the books by casting [Manjeeven Grewal as Ellen], but it surely represented Britain for me, so it felt genuine. That was forward of the curve, shall we embrace?

Groome: Manjeeven I’ve recognized since she was in all probability 5 – 6, as a result of we’re from the identical city and had actually grown up collectively. She simply is precisely that character. Georgia Henshaw was wiser, [and] had a bit extra life expertise than the remainder of us. And I feel I used to be in all probability [more] Georgia, and Eleanor was [more] Jas.

Henshaw: I used to be undoubtedly the Rosie of the group. I had the boyfriend, I wasn’t too simply embarrassed; I used to be up for simply doing it, proudly owning it. That’s what Rosie was like as effectively. She was giving the recommendation, she wasn’t shy about kissing. That was 100 per cent me.

Tomlinson: The solid turned extremely shut. I really feel like we had been all comparatively much like our characters, so we simply had a ball.

Groome: None of us needed to do something that was notably a stretch or out of our consolation zones. It was very a lot the life we had been dwelling.

“I had little doubt that Aaron was going to be large”

The women had been the guts of ‘Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging’, however discovering an actor to play “Intercourse God” Robbie – the charming boy-in-a-band and the thing of Georgia’s affections – was nearly as essential. Many boys auditioned for the half – together with an especially younger Will Poulter (then simply “a bit of nipper”, in Chadha’s phrases) however none had been fairly proper.

Chadha: There was an actor that the pinnacle of Paramount actually needed; he was good sufficient, good wanting, and he had a little bit of a reputation. However then Aaron auditioned and I couldn’t get him out of my thoughts. Aaron was 16. He wasn’t a cultured diamond, he didn’t do any sort of allure or sucking up or something like that. He got here in, he did his factor, he improvised a bit and then he left. He simply turned this individual and I believed, “This child is wonderful, he actually deserves it.” So I went into battle for him.

From L-R: Georgia Groome, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Gurinder Chadha, Benny the Cat

(Gurinder Chadha)

Nixon: I bear in mind I checked: Aaron was 17 and I used to be 21. Clearly, that’s not nice, is it? We had been all very younger and had been… not typecast a lot, however very a lot solid primarily based on how we regarded. Aaron was the heartthrob teen boy, however you could possibly see there was one thing else happening. Then he went on to Nowhere Boy [where he played a young John Lennon] and you could possibly inform he had much more to present. However, clearly, we had been making a teen film. It wasn’t going to be a darkish thriller, David Lynch sort of factor.

Chadha: I get tremendous excited after I see somebody with expertise, with one thing totally different. I’d seen the identical factor with Keira Knightley, when she got here in with 40 different women [for Bend It Like Beckham], and I noticed that with Aaron. I had little doubt that he was going to be large due to his sense of presence. I additionally thought that with Georgia Groome, so I used to be shocked that extra individuals haven’t solid Georgia. She’s a extremely attention-grabbing character actress, [and] has that Emma Thompson high quality, however I feel lots of people don’t have a look at actors in that method. Our trade is what it’s.

“Watching Gurinder lead as a lady was a pivotal second for all of us”

Manufacturing started in 2007, with scenes being shot on location within the British seaside cities of Eastbourne and Brighton, in addition to in Ealing Studios. For some, it was their first expertise of a movie set; Groome and Tomlinson had been 15 and learning for his or her GCSEs, whereas Henshaw and Grewal had been 13.

Groome: I feel the crew had no selection however to lean into the very fact we had been children. Having a load of youngsters asking to the touch your digital camera and say, “How does this work?” would in all probability be annoying, however they had been all so type and so beneficiant.

Tomlinson: I turned such good mates with the solid and crew; they taught me a lot and undoubtedly had a hand in shaping the way in which I strategy my work now. I learnt the best way to behave. I watched and listened, so I had a larger understanding of what everybody does and how exhausting they work. A TV, movie or stage manufacturing is nothing with out its crew.

Chadha instructing Groome to make use of a digital camera

(Gurinder Chadha)

Henshaw: I want I’d learnt extra from the expertise, however what I actually bear in mind is how nice the meals was. We filmed in Ealing Studios, and each lunchtime we had been allowed to simply order no matter we needed. I had a foot-long Subway with jalapenos and gherkins each single day.

Groome: Watching Gurinder lead as a lady was fairly a pivotal second for all of us as younger youngsters, to see that energy and tenacity that she had to have the ability to lead that cost. It’s not a straightforward job, and she simply did it so effectively, and with such enjoyable within her. It was an actual girl-power factor.

Tomlinson: Gurinder was the proper chief. I simply bear in mind my coronary heart breaking when filming got here to an finish.

“I feel it liberated a teenage facet of me”

Let free a gaggle of youngsters on to a movie set and chaos was sure to ensue. Nonetheless, the solid all needed to sustain their tutoring underneath the watchful eyes of their mums.

Tomlinson: By way of being a teen and making a movie in regards to the lifetime of youngsters, I simply truthfully beloved each second. We spent a lot time collectively; not solely on set, however in tutoring – sure, all of us nonetheless had faculty work to do! – and within the evenings with our mums who had been our chaperones. [It] actually was a household affair and when individuals say “it takes a village”, they’re not mendacity.

Henshaw: It’s a lot enjoyable once you’re a child, but it surely’s exhausting work. Academics, colleges suppose you’re off on a jolly, however you’re not. You’re working, and then you definitely’ve additionally obtained to get your tutoring in as effectively. Legally, it’s a must to do three hours of tutoring day-after-day, which sucked.

Groome: I lived with Eleanor in the identical condominium block and [Henshaw and Grewal] had been down the highway so we’d have dinner collectively. I imply, we had been collectively 90 per cent of the time. Every time we weren’t on set, we had been taking part in.

Kimberley Nixon (centre) as ‘Slaggy Lindsay’

(Paramount Footage)

Nixon: I used to be in fairly a distinct place in my life – I imply, 15 to 22 is a gulf in expertise. I obtained to have all these bizarre faculty experiences that I by no means really had. I might put my costume on within the morning and they’d be like, “No, no, you possibly can open a number of extra buttons, she’s Slaggy Lindsay.” And I used to be like, “Oh my god, I might by no means have considered doing this at school, having my boobs out like that.” It was actually enjoyable as a result of I used to be attending to be such a, effectively… a b****, actually; no different method of claiming it. I obtained to play all of the individuals who had bullied me.

Groome: All the adults nearly regressed right down to being youngsters once more. The make-up and the costume women beloved all the foolish gossip, and there’d be grownup gossip about Steve Jones.

Chadha: My teenage time was in all probability dormant, as a result of I used to be an grownup at that level. Going again, I feel it liberated a teenage facet of me.

“I bear in mind fancying the pants off my co-star”

Hormones, naturally, had been raging on set too, and teenage crushes shortly shaped.

Groome: We had been doing our GCSEs, so 15, turning 16. It was fairly a pivotal age to be let free on a set like that with so many different children and boys.

Nixon: Aaron and Sean [Bourke] had been heartthrobs on set. They had been simply dreamy to the youthful women; we had a number of teenage extras, and all of them had stars of their eyes. I used to be a bit older – I felt like I used to be the one one who knew that it obtained higher. That you simply gained’t at all times fear about boys and pores and skin and intervals and all these issues. You recover from that hump.

The feminine solid and Chadha with Steve Jones

(Gurinder Chadha)

Tomlinson: I feel each teenager goes via a boy or girl-obsessed part. I bear in mind fancying the pants off Sean Bourke; he wasn’t fascinated about me in any respect! It was very candy actually, good for the film and I’m certain hilarious for all of the adults. I used to be undoubtedly a hormone-driven teenager – when your mum is your chaperone, although, it’s exhausting to be as cool as you so desperately need to be.

Henshaw: Me and Aaron… I don’t thoughts saying this, as a result of no matter… however after we had been filming, we had been staying in Brighton and me and him would secretly go throughout the highway from the lodge for a cigarette – naughty – not realising that it was a glass entrance to the lodge. So at some point, Georgia Groome’s mum comes over the highway. I dropped my fag shortly, she went, “Choose it up” “What?” “Choose it up.” She mentioned, “We’ve been watching you smoke each night time!”

“Going again to high school was humbling, which was good. It’s good to be humbled”

‘Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging’ arrived in cinemas at a pivotal time for British teenage women on the large display. In December 2007, we’d obtained the St Trinian’s remake, that includes early performances from Gemma Arterton, Juno Temple and Paloma Religion, alongside established stars Rupert Everett and Colin Firth. Weeks after Angus’s launch, alongside got here ‘Wild Youngster’, the place a badly behaved Malibu teen (Emma Roberts) is compelled to attend an English boarding faculty. Nixon starred in each ‘Wild Youngster’ and ‘Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging’ making her an immediately recognisable determine to a sure group of 13-year-olds. Regardless of Chadha’s movie dealing with stiff competitors within the field workplace from much-hyped concurrent releases ‘Mamma Mia!’ and ‘The Darkish Knight’, it was a shock success, grossing £6.6m within the UK and making its actors teen stars months after they’d returned to high school.

Groome: It was the summer time when Wild Youngster additionally got here out, and they gave the impression to be taking the danger on teen motion pictures for ladies. And I imply, it labored. That was an period the place we’d go to the cinema in teams and be actually enthusiastic about [a] movie popping out. It went mad. It went mad for a number of months and then it stayed at a gentle degree of individuals loving it.

Henshaw: We went to T4 on the Seashore with Steve Jones and it was the most effective days of my life, significantly. We had been on the, eugh, “movie star bus” from Paddington right down to Weston-Tremendous-Mare with individuals from Shipwrecked, Joe Swash from EastEnders, Nicholas Hoult and the solid of Skins. It was sponsored by Purple Bull, so I used to be simply ingesting Purple Bull all day, buzzing buzzing buzzing. We had been within the Golden Circle, I used to be on Aaron Johnson’s shoulders, psychological. We had been so comfortable.

Chadha: Curiously, in America, Nickelodeon didn’t know what to do with the movie. They didn’t suppose it might essentially be an enormous hit so that they by no means launched it theatrically and [aired it] on an enormous day on Nickelodeon and [the ratings] went via the roof. An govt did say to me after that they’d made an enormous mistake, and they need to have put it out theatrically, due to the quantity of occasions women have watched that movie over and over once more.

(Gurinder Chadha)

Tomlinson: The strangest and presumably hardest half was going again to high school [after the film was released]. I used to be all of a sudden being talked about and pointed at; once you’re a shy teenager, like I used to be, I discovered that fairly powerful. My household have at all times been so extremely supportive so I by no means felt like I used to be “within the highlight”. I used to be at all times conscious of how fortunate I used to be to be working and that’s nonetheless my mantra at the moment. I’m extremely fortunate to be working and to be the place I’m.

Groome: Going again to high school was factor. I used to be ripped fairly closely and the catchphrases from the movie adopted me, and have for many of my life after. I imply, they weren’t phrases we might have used, but it surely labored and Louise would nonetheless discuss in that method years later. That was her character, which is enjoyable, I suppose, however I used to be solely ever presumably barely bullied about them. It was humbling, which was good. It’s good to be humbled.

“Individuals don’t essentially suppose movies about younger girls are as intelligent as movies about adults, and notably about males”

When followers of the movie look again at ‘Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging’ as adults, it feels revolutionary – an genuine portrayal of teen life usually not seen on display.

Chadha: It’s very exhausting to do a coming-of-age movie and get it proper, as a result of as an grownup, you actually should drop every kind of boundaries about your self with the intention to relive your life at that age. My daughter eats up all these Netflix romcoms, however she’s taking a look at these individuals from the surface as a result of they’re not her. The experiences are so excessive, and it’s fantastic; it satisfies an viewers, however they don’t have the identical relatability. Angus… has a way of innocence, and clearly it’s exhausting to seize innocence and be genuine and it’s an artwork type – it’s simply not recognised as that. However perhaps 15 years later, it’s.

Henshaw: We had Intercourse and the Metropolis and Bridget Jones for ladies [and] adults. Angus… was massive for our technology. I feel it was the primary one that’d been completed for younger women, [and] about women having the ability to converse out and be themselves and make little errors, which all of us do, however everybody thinks they’ve obtained to be good.

(Gurinder Chadha)

Groome: That’s one thing we nonetheless miss in that style. We’re fast to leap to the extra thrilling issues and the issues that are extra surprising, however we frequently miss the silliness of it. I feel that’s what Gurinder captured, and I feel that’s why it’s in all probability stood a sure take a look at of time. If you’re 13, 14, 15, 16, and these issues are occurring to you, all you are feeling is that sort of red-hot embarrassment and the ache. However once you look again at it now, having handled the grownup stuff of life, all of it is simply so foolish.

Chadha: I feel the world could be very snobby, and individuals don’t essentially suppose movies about younger girls are as intelligent as movies about adults, and notably about males. As a result of so few movies get made that fulfill and satiate this essential demographic, those that do make it are held with such nice esteem. Individuals don’t suppose women going via adolescence are deemed a worthy viewers to make movies for, however individuals neglect that that scrumptious age of going from a baby to an grownup is common. It’s there for all of us.

“It doesn’t really feel actual generally, like I can’t fairly consider it was me”

Fifteen years later, the once-teenage followers of ‘Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging’ are of their twenties and thirties, and use Chadha’s movie to reminisce about their teenage years simply because the solid do.

Chadha: I’m so happy with the movie and I used to be tremendous unhappy when Louise died so unexpectedly [in 2016] as a result of I believed there was much more that we might have completed with these characters. And who is aware of – perhaps we are going to, in her reminiscence. However she was the fifth member of the Ace Gang, arms down, and at all times might be.

Nixon: Weirdly, the older I obtained, the extra I obtained recognised for it. If 14 yr olds had seen me in a store or one thing at that time, they’d simply be whispering. However now they’re of their mid twenties, they arrive over and go, “I simply needed to let , I really like that movie, it’s such an enormous a part of my childhood”. Typically individuals ask about it after I’m with my son – “I’m so sorry to ask you in entrance of your child, [but] are you Slaggy Lindsay?”

The solid and crew of ‘Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging’

(Gurinder Chadha)

Henshaw: I’m going to be 30. That’s mad. I imply, I used to be the youngest, however we had been youngsters. It’s mad to suppose that was half of my life in the past. It seems like yesterday.

Groome: I suppose I’ve probably not thought of it till the previous few weeks, with the fifteenth anniversary, but it surely’s half our lives as effectively. It’s fairly mad to know the way a lot has modified in that – turning 15 feels such a brief interval of your life, and we’ve had one other. A lot modifications and it’s a shot in time that really is actually fleeting however hilarious on the identical time.

Tomlinson: After I suppose again to [those] days, I bear in mind the enjoyable. The belly-aching laughter. The friendships. I really feel so fortunate to have had that expertise. It was a time in my life that I’ll at all times maintain very expensive. It doesn’t really feel actual generally, like I can’t fairly consider it was me and I used to be a part of a film that a complete technology grew up watching. It’s loopy and I nonetheless pinch myself, but it surely was me and all I can say is: “Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, you formed and remodeled my life.”

Quotes have been condensed for readability.

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