Nelson’s own ‘rocket man’

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Former Nelson College head boy Eddie Mann has hit the big screen after landing a role as a band member in the blockbuster Elton John biopic Rocketman. Sara Hollyman caught up with the London-based performer as he heads out on tour.

So, what have you been up to since you left New Zealand?

I made the move to the UK in 2011 to give acting a proper shot. Since then I’ve toured plays, musicals and Shakespeare, around Europe. I’ve played in several bands, appeared in numerous short films and a few commercials. Rocketman is my first feature.

How did your path lead you to where you are now?

It all goes back to when I was at Nelson Intermediate and the great Jim Wiseman took me in and introduced me to Richard Carruthers and Nelson Youth Theatre Company. They took that spark in me, kindled it, gave it fuel and let it grow into what is now an unstoppable blaze. Then, of course, meeting Hugh Neil of Theatre Alive who gave me my first paid gigs as an actor. In my last year at school, I told him my careers advisor Pete Harris was going to apply for me to be an officer in the Navy. He was quick dismiss this as a silly idea and that I should continue to pursue the arts.

How did you land the role in Rocketman?

My agent got me the audition, which was repeating one line several different ways in front of the casting director, and that was it!

Did you enjoy the experience and is it something you’d like to do more of?

I would love to do more. I think, because it’s so different from theatre, that makes it exciting, you know, it’s something new to me. It really is a work of art, especially when you witness first-hand the sheer detail that goes into what turns out to be a fleeting moment on screen.

How did you get into character?

Even though it’s a small role that doesn’t even have a name aside from ‘Band Member’, I did a lot of preparation. I watched hours of footage of bands from the 60s and 70s, how they moved and spoke. I mean, it’s not exactly painstaking listening to the back catalogue of Elton John and watching documentaries on his life.

What are you up to at the moment?

I’m currently on a European tour of The Summer of Love, a show set during the 1967 summer of love protest movement to the Vietnam war in which I play bass and vocals.

What’s the feedback you’ve had on the movie so far?

People in general like the film, which makes me happy. It could’ve so easily been another censored biopic, but this is something in its own right and has garnered deserved credibility.

How does your family feel seeing you on the big screen?

They’re very proud, of course. It’s nice every now and then receiving recognition of this nature. It’s that loathed question of, “Are you in anything I’ve seen?” Now I finally have a strong answer to that question.

Any plans to head back home?

To be honest I would love to move back. I miss my family very much. But there’s so much work in London and it’s a breeding ground for creativity, I want to make sure I suck every bit of nectar I can out of it before I return.