US theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Stephen Daldry|
|Written by||Lee Hall|
|Music by||Stephen Warbeck|
|Edited by||John Wilson|
|Distributed by||United International Pictures (Universal Pictures)|
|Box office||$109.3 million|
Billy Elliot is a 2000 British dance drama film directed by Stephen Daldry and written by Lee Hall. Set in County Durham, England during the 1984–85 miners' strike, the film is about a working-class boy who discovers his passion for ballet, despite his father's objection and the negative stereotype associated with being a male ballet dancer. The film stars Jamie Bell as 11-year-old Billy, Gary Lewis as his father, Jamie Draven as Billy's older brother, and Julie Walters as his ballet teacher.
Adapted from a play called Dancer by Lee Hall, development on the film began in 1999. Around 2,000 boys were considered for the role of Billy before Bell was eventually chosen for the role. Filming began in the North of England in August 1999. Greg Brenman and Jon Finn served as producers, while Stephen Warbeck composed the film's score. Billy Elliot is a co-production between BBC Films, Tiger Aspect Pictures and Working Title Films.
The film premiered at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival, and then began a wider theatrical release on 29 September 2000 by Universal Pictures. Billy Elliot received positive critical response and commercial success, earning $109.3 million worldwide on a $5 million budget. At the 2001 British Academy Film Awards, the film won three of thirteen award nominations. The film also earned three Academy Award nominations, including for Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Actress in a Supporting Role. In 2001, the film was adapted into a novel by Melvin Burgess. The story was also adapted for the West End stage as Billy Elliot the Musical in 2005; it opened in Australia in 2007 and on Broadway in 2008.
In 1984, Billy Elliot, an 11-year-old from the fictional Everington in County Durham, England, loves to dance and has hopes of becoming a professional ballet dancer. Billy lives with his widowed father, Jackie, and older brother, Tony, both coal miners out on strike (the latter being the union delegate), and also his maternal grandmother, who has Alzheimer's disease and once aspired to be a professional dancer.
Billy's father sends him to the gym to learn boxing, but Billy dislikes the sport. He happens to see a ballet class that is using the gym while their usual basement studio is being used temporarily as a soup kitchen for the striking miners. Unbeknownst to Jackie, Billy joins the ballet class. When Jackie discovers this, he forbids Billy to take any more ballet classes. But, passionate about dancing, Billy secretly continues his lessons with the help of his dance teacher, Sandra Wilkinson.
Sandra believes that Billy is talented enough to study at the Royal Ballet School in London, but due to Tony's arrest during a clash between police and striking miners, Billy misses the audition. Sandra tells Jackie about the missed opportunity, but fearing that Billy will be considered to be gay, both Jackie and Tony are outraged at the prospect of him becoming a professional ballet dancer.
Over Christmas, Billy learns his best friend, Michael, is gay. Billy is supportive of his friend. Later, Jackie catches Billy dancing in the gym and realises his son is truly gifted; he resolves to do whatever it takes to help Billy attain his dream. Sandra tries to persuade Jackie to let her pay for the audition, but he replies that Billy is his son and he does not need charity. Jackie attempts to cross the picket line to pay for the trip to London, but Tony stops him. Instead, his fellow miners and the neighbourhood raise some money and Jackie pawns Billy's mother's jewellery to cover the cost, and Jackie takes him to London to audition.
Although very nervous, Billy performs well, but he punches another boy in frustration at the audition, and fears that he has ruined his chances of attaining his dream. He is rebuked by the review board and, when asked what it feels like when he is dancing, struggles for words, eventually describing it as being "like electricity". Seemingly rejected, Billy returns home with his father. Sometime later, the Royal Ballet School sends him a letter of acceptance, coinciding with the end of the miners' strike, and Billy leaves home for London.
- Jamie Bell as Billy Elliot
- Adam Cooper as Billy aged 25
- Julie Walters as Sandra Wilkinson
- Gary Lewis as Jackie Elliot
- Jamie Draven as Tony Elliot
- Jean Heywood as Grandma
- Stuart Wells as Michael Caffrey
- Merryn Owen as Michael aged 25
- Nicola Blackwell as Debbie Wilkinson
- Colin Maclachlan as Tom Wilkinson
- Mike Elliott as George Watson
- Billy Fane as Mr Braithwaite
- Janine Birkett as Jenny Elliot
- Charlie Hardwick as Sheila Briggs
- Matthew James Thomas as Simon
- Stephen Mangan as Dr. Crane
- Patrick Malahide as Royal Ballet School principal
- Barbara Leigh-Hunt as Royal Ballet School vice-principal
- Neil North as Royal Ballet School tutor
- Lee Williams as Royal Ballet School tutor
Lee Hall developed Billy Elliot from his play Dancer, which premiered as a rehearsed reading in 1998 at the Live Theatre in Newcastle upon Tyne. He was heavily influenced by photographer Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen's book Step by Step, about a dancing school in nearby North Shields. Writing in 2009, Hall said that "almost every frame of Billy Elliot was influenced by Step by Step [...] as every member of the design team carried around their own copy."
Hall met with director Stephen Daldry, who was working at the Royal Court Theatre at the time. At first, Daldry was not convinced with the script, but said, "I liked the emotional honesty of Billy Elliot. Also Lee writes brilliant kids. And there's a series of themes in it I rather enjoyed: Grief; finding means of self-identification through some sort of creative act, in this case dance; and the miner's strike itself." Working Title Films approached Daldry to become director and he accepted the offer. The BBC financed the project.
Thousands of boys were considered for the lead role. The producers were looking for a boy in a specific geographical area with a dance background. Jamie Bell had about seven auditions in total before eventually in mid-1999, it was announced that he would play the lead role in the film. Peter Darling, the film's choreographer, worked with Bell for "eight hours a day for three months, finding out what drove him as a dancer." Julie Walters accepted the role of Sandra Wilkinson. Walters called the script "moving", explaining, "It was a diamond in the sand [...] I loved the character, and the fact that she was disappointed on every level possible. She was so grim and jaded. Her relationship with the boy was so unusual".
In preparation for filming, Gary Lewis met with miners which he said was beneficial. Lewis stated that his own personal experience of the miners' strike made the role enjoyable. "My family and I were very active in supporting the miners: I stood in picket lines, I raised money for the miners and I was involved in the whole campaign to stop [...] closing the pits. Basically, it was the state that launched a complete attack on a section of the work force, a section of the working class. Lots of people responded with solidarity and that was a key element in the script: solidarity working at different levels, the collective solidarity, the economic solidarity."
Principal photography lasted seven weeks, beginning in August 1999. Most of the film, including the interior of the Elliot home at 5 Alnwick Street, was shot on location in the Easington Colliery area, with the producers using over 400 locals as extras. The mining scenes were filmed at the Ellington and Lynemouth Colliery in Northumberland, with some filming in Dawdon, Middlesbrough and Newcastle upon Tyne. Andrew Street and Alnwick Street, where the characters live, were two of several streets demolished in 2003 after becoming derelict. The cemetery scene was filmed at Lynemouth Cemetery. School scenes were filmed in Langley Park Primary School. Other filming locations include the Green Drive Railway Viaduct in Seaham, Tees Transporter Bridge, New Wardour Castle and Theatre Royal in Haymarket.
Daldry remarked in an interview, "The shooting schedule was a nightmare; we only had seven weeks. Kids can only work nine to five and you can’t work Saturdays. And the kid had to dance the whole time. So it was tight." Producer Jon Finn, spoke of the difficulties of seeking filming locations; "We didn't realise how hard it would be to find working pits."
|Soundtrack album by |
|Released||11 March 2002|
|Genre||Punk rock, Glam rock, Pop, New wave|
|Singles from Billy Elliot: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
Stephen Warbeck scored the incidental music for the film. Polydor Records released the soundtrack on 11 March 2002, which includes several well-known glam rock and punk songs from T. Rex and The Clash. The soundtrack also contains pieces of dialogue from the film.
|1.||"Cosmic Dancer"||T. Rex||4:28|
|2.||"Boys Play Football"||Jamie Bell & Gary Lewis||4:24|
|3.||"Bang a Gong (Get It On)"||T. Rex||4:24|
|4.||"Mother's Letter"||Jamie Bell & Julie Walters||5:22|
|5.||"I Believe"||Stephen Gately||3:27|
|6.||"Town Called Malice"||The Jam||2:53|
|7.||"The Sun Will Come Out"||Jamie Bell, Nicole Blackwell & Julie Walters||0:50|
|8.||"I Love to Boogie"||T. Rex||2:11|
|9.||"Burning Up"||Eagle-Eye Cherry||4:14|
|10.||"Royal Ballet School"||Jamie Bell & Julie Walters||1:11|
|11.||"London Calling"||The Clash||3:20|
|12.||"Children of the Revolution"||T. Rex||4:44|
|13.||"Audition Panel"||Jamie Bell & Barbara Leigh Hunt||0:33|
|14.||"Shout to the Top!"||The Style Council||4:14|
|15.||"Walls Come Tumbling Down!"||The Style Council||3:21|
|16.||"Ride a White Swan"||T. Rex||2:14|
|17.||"Cosmic Dancer (Reprise)"||T. Rex||4:27|
Billy Elliot premiered on 19 May at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival under the title Dancer. It was later decided to re-title the film Billy Elliot to avoid confusion with Dancer in the Dark, another film at Cannes that year. Billy Elliot was theatrically released on 29 September 2000 in the United Kingdom by Universal Pictures and Focus Features. In the United States, the film was released on 13 October 2001. Against expectations, the film earned a worldwide $109,280,263. Universal Home Entertainment released Billy Elliot on VHS on 20 April 2001, and on Blu-ray on 10 January 2012. The Blu-ray includes a short documentary of the film's production.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 85% based on 118 reviews, with an average rating of 7.3/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Billy Elliot is a charming movie that can evoke both laughter and tears." At Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 74 out of 100, based on 34 critics, indicating "generally favourable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.
Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars, calling the film "much parable and fantasy as it is realistic". He said Bell's performance was "engaging", Lewis was "convincing" and Walters was "spirited and colourful". Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian praised the film saying, "This is a film with a lot of charm, a lot of humour and a lot of heart. Daldry's direction and the screenplay by Lee Hall distinguish themselves further in the discreet, intelligent way ... Billy Elliot has a freshness that makes it a pleasure to watch; it's a very emphatic success". David Rooney of Variety also praised the cast, writing, "Relationships between all the characters are well observed—the father and his sons, the two brothers, and Billy and his grandmother, his friend Michael and jaded Mrs. Wilkinson—all of them yielding sweet, unforced feel-good moments". Rooney also praised the cinematography, visuals and soundtrack in showing Billy's rebelliousness. Charlotte O'Sullivan of The Independent wrote the cast are "near perfect", adding the film is a "slice of escapism as you could wish for". William Gallagher from the BBC gave the film five out of five stars, writing, "It's a simple tale but one that is extremely well told and acted. Fittingly for a story about dance, it doesn't put a foot wrong and is engrossing, funny, very sad, very moving and very uplifting."
Some critics gave a mixed response. Timeout magazine believes that "Daldry overuses the dance as a metaphor for escape and frustration, and choreographer Peter Darling's grandstanding ballet numbers sit a little uneasily, given the realist comedy pitch". A. O. Scott of The New York Times notes that there were "patches of thinness and predictability", and that "the first half seems to acknowledge its own triteness". However, he compliments the pacing of the scenes and the actors who "inhabit their roles like second-hand suits". Mark Holcomb, writing for IndieWire, took issue with the "odd, unsuccessful mix of theatrical whimsy and social realism", and a dance scene which he describes as a "cringe-inducing '80s-style music video routine".
Poverty and social class have been seen as major themes of the film. Author Rebecca Mahon observed the film has a realistic setting; the early scenes emphasising the miners' strike, the death of Billy's mother and the family's financial situation. Daldry adds, "It doesn't matter where you are in the world, people understand the idea that you're part of an industrial, working class group that is being discarded. And its question—of what happens to communities devastated by de-industrialisation and privatisation". In addition to social class, Daldry states that the film is about finding a voice—"someone trying to express himself or herself". Koller-Alonso writes that gender differences are expressed by showing girls attending ballet classes, while their male counterparts are having boxing lessons. Homosexuality, a taboo subject in the 1980s, as well as police brutality are depicted and explored in the film.
After the film's release, English singer-songwriter Elton John collaborated with the film's screenwriter Lee Hall to produce a musical adaptation of the film, which premiered 31 March 2005 at the Victoria Palace Theatre on the West End. Many of the film's crew took part in the stage production, including director Stephen Daldry and choreographer Peter Darling. The musical received positive reviews and ran for over 4,000 performances before closing in April 2016.
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