The Full Monty turns 20: Famous brass band missed out on bumper pay day

Band members with the cast of The Full Monty during filming
Band members with the cast of The Full Monty during filming
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Had the band from The Full Monty realised back then how big the film would be they might have chosen differently when offered a flat fee or a percentage of the profits.

The Stocksbridge Engineering Steels Band, as it was then known, understandably opted for the former, never imagining the film would prove a global sensation, grossing over $258 million at the box office.

Unite the Union Brass Band today

Unite the Union Brass Band today

While band leaders from that time won't reveal the precise amount the group received for their integral role, it was nothing compared to the riches they might have earned had they opted instead for a slice of the takings.

But members of the prestigious group, now called Unite the Union Brass Band, following a change of sponsor, have no regrets.

John Lee, who was chairman of the band back then, says they had a fantastic time filming and it did wonders, naturally, for the group's profile.

But it wasn't all glamour. The funeral scene at Crookes Cemetery, in which his wife Chris was among the extras, was shot on a bitterly cold March day and the band were hanging around from 7am until late that afternoon.

Their fingers were so numb he says you can hear how shaky the performance is in places, but the producers felt that added an air of authenticity.

In a surreal twist, the only way to record live without spoiling the shot, was for a sound man to lie in an open grave where he was hidden from view.

As a flugel horn player, John spent around six weeks teaching Steve Huison the basics so he could give a realistic performance as Lomper in the funeral scene - and he was impressed with his student.

"He did a really good job. I think he has his fingers in the wrong place a couple of times, but unless you were a player you wouldn't notice," said John, a 57-year-old dad-of-two, from Wadsley.

John had probably the best view in the room for the closing scene, shot at Shiregreen Working Men's Club, and he was able to offer some encouragement to the petrified cast members.

"The actors needed a few drinks beforehand to calm their nerves. We were sat in the back room with some of them and they were getting through the whisky quite quickly," he said.

"At one point I think Robert Carlyle looks down at the band and I look up and give him the thumbs up. I think they'd asked us to do that to make sure he was OK because they were all quite nervous."

For Alan Brentnall, who plays tenor horn and was band secretary when the film was shot, the story resonates particularly strongly.

He worked for the Ecclesfield steel firm Samuel Osborn & Co before the recession struck, and experienced first-hand the impact on the industry.

"They were worrying times. The steel works were being decimated and lots of companies were closing," said Alan, who now lives in Barnsley and works as a sales manager for a Birmingham-based special steels company.

"I qualified as a metallurgist just in time to find out demand was dwindling and they were two a penny."

The Full Monty's great charm came from finding the humour in what were bleak times, and there were plenty of laughs to be had off camera too.

"We never knew during filming if we'd be needed that weekend and I remember talking to Steve (Huison) who said 'I hope not. I have to go and see my mother'," said Alan.

"A couple of weeks later I asked how his mother was and he said she's dead, before a big smile spread across his face and he said 'oh, you mean my real mother, not the one in the film'.

"It turned out we'd been talking at cross purposes and his actual mother was fine."

The band is still going strong today, having earlier this year performed at the Lesley Garrett concert at Sheffield City Hall.

It is now gearing up for next month's National Brass Band Championships and the prestigious Bolsover Entertainment Contest the following month.

To mark the anniversary of the Full Monty's release they have cut a new CD with the music they played in the film and fresh recordings of some of the other songs from the soundtrack.