Talented schoolboy Daniel Kerr is fast becoming Scotland’s youngest showbiz sensation. The 12-year-old, from Bearsden, Glasgow, is currently starring as a young Paul Ferris in the ex-hood’s movie biopic The Wee Man.
Last Friday, nearly four million telly viewers saw him appear alongside Royle Family actor Ricky Tomlinson in new comedy-drama Great Night Out.
And the icing on the cake for the youngster is a dream role in Disney’s animated blockbuster Maleficent, which is out next year and stars Angelina Jolie and Peter Capaldi.
Daniel has had a part in Waterloo Road too but the biggest role of his career is undoubtedly playing former gangster Ferris in the controversial film about his life.
It’s become a box-office smash in Scotland and has taken more cash per screenings across the UK than Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained and Disney hit Monsters Inc 3D. Daniel — accompanied by contracts manager Iain and hairdresser Annemarie — met with the 49-year-old convicted gun runner at a Glasgow hotel to discuss the role before filming started.
He says: “I was really quite thrilled talking to a former Glasgow gangster just drinking a wee bottle of Coke!
“But I was quite nervous and quite excited too. I kept thinking about what I was going to say. I just wanted to be polite and friendly.”
Iain, 36, adds: “Daniel knows about Paul, his past and where he came from — the good bits and the bad bits.
“He’s aware that he’s gone to jail and done a lot of things but to be honest, when Paul met with us he was brilliant. He insisted on speaking to Daniel and he was straight with him and told him he’d done some bad things in his day.
“Paul warned Daniel that people might speak about them and challenge him about them.
“My impression of him? I wouldn’t want to cross him.
“But he’s been brilliant with Daniel and a gentleman to me and my wife.
“He’s taken time out with Daniel to make sure he’s OK.
“He’ll still contact us every now and again, and he says to Daniel, ‘listen to your mum and dad’.”
Iain initially feared the part could make his son a hate figure.
He says: “We had concerns about how the film would be perceived and how Daniel would be perceived in the film because if you’re a baddie in EastEnders, you’re a baddie in real life.
“Some folk don’t like you. And I didn’t want anything like that for Daniel.”
The Wee Man — which also stars Martin Compston and John Hannah — follows Ferris’s life from a youngster in Glasgow’s tough Blackhill area to feared enforcer working with ‘The Godfather’ Arthur Thompson.
It features graphic scalping, shooting and stabbing scenes. Daniel revealed he is banned from watching the film because of his age and has had to settle for a montage of his scenes.
He says: “My dad’s explained why I can’t see the movie.
“I’ve thought about trying to sneak in and watch it somewhere but it’s probably better for me to play it safe!”
He’s well aware of the controversy surrounding The Wee Man and its subject, and adds: “I know some people aren’t really going to like it and I’ll just need to cope with that.
“Nobody from my school gives me any attention about what I do so it’s quite good. I don’t really tell anybody.
“I like to keep my acting life to myself when I’m at school.
“I don’t like to broadcast what I do and I never really talk to my friends about it either.
“When I go on set, that’s when I go into acting mode.
“But when that’s over I just do my homework, get told what to do and look after my wee brother Cameron, who’s seven.”
The movie sees a young Ferris being bullied by a group of older boys that include the cruel Banks brothers.
Daniel relates to his character’s ordeal, saying: “I’m one of the smallest boys in my school.
“And at my old primary school I used to get a lot of hassle about that. I didn’t react with violence though, I just ignored them.”
In one scene the thugs kick his dog like a football, and Daniel adds: “The emotion of the dog scene I quite liked.
“I loved the dog too. I was always playing with it off set.
“I’d get my make-up done and then go and roll about on the grass with it and the make-up girls would shout on me to stop!”
The most nerve-wracking moment during filming for Daniel was rehearsing confrontational scenes with his character’s tormentors.
He says: “I was terrified even though I knew it wasn’t real.
“They were bigger boys and were up in my face. That was scary.”
Daniel’s already had his first experience of being recognised by fans.
He says: “I was in B&Q with my mum after Waterloo Road had been on and all these people were looking at me. That was a wee bit strange but I liked it. I’m quite glad about the attention.”
The acting prodigy, a first year pupil at Glasgow’s Bearsden Academy, joined a local theatre group aged five.
His supportive parents have guided his career ever since. He now combines school with regular auditions and his studies at the Glasgow-based UK Theatre School, where he’s been going for four years.
Daniel says: “Ever since I can remember, I was saying to my mum and dad that I wanted to be an actor when I grew up. It’s a really exciting time for me right now. I got into the local drama group and then they said I was good enough to go to a higher level so that’s how I ended up at the theatre school.
“I didn’t get in the first time I tried but I got a place after trying out the second time.
“When I first do an audition, I just feel like it’s a breeze.
“But then when it’s like a really important part, I have to get into the zone and I get quite nervous.”
His first appearance on screen was in a Scottish Government advert and he followed that up with a part in Waterloo Road last year, playing poverty-stricken youngster Ewan Murray.
Daniel — who was an extra in Peter Mullan’s gritty film Neds — will also pop up in BBC3 sci-fi series Being Human next month.
Iain adds: “Daniel might turn 16, get a girlfriend, do something else and walk away from acting.
“Whatever he does, we’ll support him.
“Just now, he’s a normal boy going to school, doing things right, doing things wrong and nagging his wee brother. I want him to grow up as a kid and not lose his childhood.”
Kid could be next Kevin Bridges
Daniel's scenes in Disney’s fantasy blockbuster Maleficent are expected to open the film.
The reworking of the fairytale Sleeping Beauty was shot in London last summer and is due out next year.
Incredibly it stars three of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s kids — Pax, eight, Zahara, seven and four-year-old Vivienne.
Daniel says: “Originally I went for quite a big part but I didn’t get it.
“I got a smaller part and that was amazing too.
“I’m the shepherd’s son at the beginning of the film and my face will probably be the first face that people see.
“Unfortunately I didn’t meet Angelina Jolie but I saw her and waved.
“It still seems weird that I’m going to be in the same film as her.”
Daniel still gets starstruck whenever he’s on set. He adds: “I feel really excited when I meet people I know from TV.
“The person I really want to meet is David Tennant.
“He’s the best Scottish actor I can think of, along with Martin Compston, and I’m a big Doctor Who fan.
“Martin was like a big brother to me on set.”
The young Scot dreams of becoming a comedian if acting doesn’t work out.
He says: “I like Kevin Bridges — he’s one of my favourites. My dad didn’t let me watch the DVD but keeps wondering how I know all the lines.”
Dad Iain adds: “He’s not allowed to watch Mrs Brown’s Boys either.
“But the last time we went to a family party he was giving it chapter and verse from both of those!”
The Wee Man
Whilst some of the critic response is not fantastic, Daniel Kerr is getting good press for his acting performance:
“it's a shame the film doesn't spend more time on Paul's life as a child, since Daniel Kerr delivers a likeable and engaging performance that pretty much deserves its own film”
Source: View London
“It starts well, with exceptional work from child actor Daniel Kerr as the young Ferris”
Source: The List
Another positive report for the film is noted from the Guardian:
The local hit
In England and Wales, not many people have heard of new release The Wee Man, or indeed of the real-life Scottish gangster-turned-author on which it's based, Paul Ferris. Consequently, the picture is playing on just one screen south of the border (London's Piccadilly Apollo). In Scotland, where it's showing in 15 cinemas, it's a different story. Thanks to stonking takings especially in Glasgow, Paisley, Falkirk, Hamilton and Clydebank, the crime tale achieved over £103,000 in Scotland, enough for fifth place in the local market and a Scottish site average of £6,897. While Scotland typically accounts for around 8% of the UK and Ireland box office, in The Wee Man's case the country is so far delivering more than 99%. A further expansion is planned from Friday. Concentrating media spend in Scottish national and local press, on Glasgow underground and outdoors, and on Scottish TV, distributor Carnaby followed the gameplan of earlier Scotland-skewing hits such as NEDS (79% of box-office from the region) and The Angels' Share (72%). The Wee Man stars locally popular Greenock-born actor Martin Compston, who got his acting break as a teenager with Ken Loach's Sweet Sixteen.