It was one of the darkest days in Manchester’s history, when government troops armed with sabres and truncheons charged at a crowd of 60,000 peaceful protesters demanding reform of the parliamentary system.
Now modern-day Northerners are wanted as extras for a blockbuster movie by acclaimed British director Mike Leigh about the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, which left at least 15 dead and more than 600 injured.
But an appeal by a casting agency has raised a few eyebrows in the region – after a call has been made for people who look “miserable and down-trodden”.
A message on Surrey-based Piece of Cake Casting’s website says “authentic Northern faces” are needed for a “gritty English historic feature film” for extras “looking like you are tired, over-worked, had a hard life and, quite frankly, a bit hard done by.”
“For Peterloo, we want them to look pretty hard done by. Times were hard in 1819,” Alexandra Pickford, a director at Piece of Cake Casting said.
Filming for the movie, which will star Bolton actress Maxine Peake, is taking place in Lancashire, Essex and Lincoln, with thousands of people potentially needed to play the part of Peterloo protesters.
Men and women who think they have what it takes to be an extra in the film need to send a “gritty selfie” to the casting agency.
“We are looking for gentlemen with longer, collar-length hair. They should ruffle their hair and bring it forward for the photo, and look really miserable, pretty down-trodden,” Ms Pickford said.
She said potential extras should have natural-coloured hair with no highlights – and no visible tattoos or piercings.
“If you know the history of Peterloo and how things were in the area at the time, men had just come back from the Battle of Waterloo,” she said. “They were working round the clock to take care of their families and not earning an awful lot of money and not being fed particularly well.
”So, thin is good. We’re looking for characterful faces. It will be a rigorous process. Ultimately, the director will have the final say.“
It is not necessary for the extras to be Northern, she said, adding that the North is, of course, ”completely different“ today than it was in 1819.
”It’s about having the right look,“ she said. ”This is a film and if you look right, you are in.“
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