Seconds out and time, gentlemen, please, for a wrestling revival

A new film about the glory days of professional wrestling in the North of England is also a plea to keep traditional pubs alive, according to its Huddersfield-born director.

Dave Johns and Stephen Graham in Walk Like a Panther
Dave Johns and Stephen Graham in Walk Like a Panther

Dan Cadan, who is married to the actress Lena Headey, one of the stars of the TV series Game of Thrones, said he wanted to highlight pub closures across the country.

His film, Walk Like a Panther, is a comedy about a group of retired wrestlers who decide to mount one final bout to save a fictional Yorkshire pub called the Half-Nelson.

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Ms Headey appears in a small role opposite the Liverpudlian actor Stephen Graham, who made his name in the This Is England series of films.

Mr Cadan said he initially intended his wrestling comedy to be a TV series, but that Graham had convinced him it would work on the bigger screen.

“I didn’t think there was a movie because I didn’t know what the hook was,” he said.

“The hook ended up being pub closures and highlighting that plight.”

Mr Cadan, who cut his teeth as an assistant to director Guy Ritchie on the film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, used clips of real wrestlers like the oversized “Big Daddy” – otherwise Shirley Crabtree from Halifax – but for the main roles cast Northern actors and comics, each dressed in the unflattering ring costumes of the period.

He praised the ensemble cast’s work rate and joked that Tom Cruise should “watch out” for 62-year-old Newcastle actor Dave Johns, a former stand-up comedian.

“Those guys were unbelievable,” said Mr Cadan, who also wrote the film. “They gave everything but they wanted to as well. I know deep down that one of them didn’t want to look as bad as the other one which is why they gave their all.”

The film is released in cinemas tomorrow.