WHEN the casting crew working on a low budget film first went into Dobcroft Junior School, in Millhouses, young pupil William Snape had no intention of getting involved.
“They said they wanted someone to play the boy in this film called The Full Monty,” he recalls. “About 20 lads put their hands up but I didn’t bother. I wasn’t interested in drama. Then they dropped the bomb: you got six weeks off school. My hand was straight up.”
That was some 17 years ago.
What happened next, you probably know.
William, then aged 10, won the role after eight auditions. His character, Nathan, became one of the best-loved in a film full of well-loved characters. And The Full Monty - about six Sheffield steelworkers-turned-strippers starring Robert Carlyle and Mark Addy - went on to become the then highest grossing film in British history.
Now, original writer Simon Beaufoy is to recreate the international smash on stage with a new generation of actors. The show will premiere at the Lyceum on February 2 before touring the UK. Just last month the four young lads who will play the new Nathan were revealed exclusively in The Star.
And young William Snape...well, whatever happened to him?
“A lot’s happened,” he laughs down the phone from his North London flat. “I’m still an actor but plenty has changed.”
In the intervening years, there’s been a role in Emmerdale, a job teaching Sheffield youngsters and a horrific car accident which left him unable to walk unaided for almost a year. We’ll get to all that shortly.
For now, William - known as Wim - has agreed to talk to The Star to mark the new production.
He’s not involved in any way. Indeed, he only found out about it after mum Jenny sent him a copy of this paper with the news. But the 27-year-old - who is currently studying for a masters degree at London’s Royal Central School Of Speech And Drama - hopes to see the show and meet the new Nathans.
“Would I have liked to have had a part?” he ponders. “No, I don’t think so. I would love to work in the theatre, and certainly at the Lyceum, but I think The Full Monty is a part of my life I’ve now left behind.”
That the role changed everything for him, however, there can be no doubt.
His world after the movie’s release became a whirlwind: parties in LA, people meeting in London, a premier at Crystal Peaks.
“My entire family - cousins and everyone - went to the premiere,” he recalls. “It wasn’t a glitzy affair because how glitzy can Crystal Peaks be? But it was a great party. It was one of the first times I’d seen the finished film. I remember thinking how big my ears looked.”
Waterthorpe was followed by Hollywood. As the film grew into a global smash, the entire cast were whisked to LA.
“We went to this party and it was incredible,” explains Wim, who remained living in Sheffield until last September.
“Each actor had his own table and there were queues of agents and casting directors lining up to speak to us. I had a few auditions there but nothing came of them. Maybe the Yorkshire accent didn’t help.”
Later, he recalled being at the BAFTA awards and needing the toilet. Standing at the urinals, he looked around in wonder. Next to him on his right was Chris Evans, on the left Ewan McGregor.
“Surreal,” he says.
When the fuss died down, he returned to Silverdale School and completed his GCSEs (A in drama) while doing the odd acting job here and there.
It was also while leaving the school one afternoon, he was hit by a car - an accident which left him unable to walk properly for seven months. At one point his family - mum Jenny and her husband Keith, dad Duncan and his wife May, sister Jessica and brother Joseph - feared he may not fully recover.
“I stepped out from behind a van and was suddenly flying through the air,” he says. “I was in agony. Doctors said if it had happened 10 years earlier I would have lost the leg. It still hurts now sometimes but I can play football, which is the main thing.”
He studied for a diploma in performing arts at Chesterfield College, and then spent six months in Emmerdale.
“That was a great time,” he says. “They were bringing in a lot of younger characters, and there was a real rat pack of us who became good friends.”
As a newly turned 18-year-old, he also remembers having his first legal pint in The Woolpack, the soap’s famous boozer.
“It was a coincidence that, on the day of my birthday, I was scheduled to shoot several scenes there,” he remembers. “They served real ale back then so the first drink I had when I was 18 was at 7.30am in The Woolpack.”
After six months, his character was written out of the soap; and Wim took several minor roles in corporate films, and bit parts in Doctors and Heartbeat. And, then, to keep him enthusiastic during periods without work, he started teaching youngsters at Act One Drama School in Ringinglow Road.
“Teaching gave me such a buzz,” says Wim who grew up in Millhouses Lane, Millhouses, but also lived in the city centre.
“It definitely kept my enthusiasm for the business. You can’t help but be inspired when you’re helping kids develop.”
Indeed, it was that which encouraged him to hone his own art and in 2012, after several years with the school, he applied for that place at the Royal Central School Of Speech And Drama. Both Dame Judi Dench and Laurence Olivier studied there so it has pedigree.
“I still have a lot to learn about acting,” he says. “And I’m enjoying this. I’ve been in touch with a director about a small role in an independent horror film so I’m looking forward to that, and I’m working hard on the course. It’s nine to six every day so it’s intensive.”
Afterwards his sole ambition is to carry on making a living doing what he loves: acting.
Whether that’s theatre, movies or TV, he’s not ruling anything out.
“This is all I’ve wanted to do since I got that part in The Full Monty,” he says. “It’s not easy but I love it.”
Whatever happened to William Snape?
He grew up, kept his feet on the ground, and remained determined to follow his dream.
The fabulous days before fame
SHOOTING The Full Monty was one of the happiest periods of William Snape’s life.
He recalls travelling to places in Sheffield he’d never been, learning lines with screen father Robert Carlyle, and playing football with his adult co-stars between takes.
“They treated me like one of the group, not at all like a child,” he says. “I’d sit and eat lunch with Bobby (Carlyle) every day. We got on really well. And I think that comes across on screen.
“The cast were based at the old Forte Posthouse hotel, in Broomhill. It was all so much fun. I knew then acting was the life for me.”