At last,  Billy Fury will soon be represented in a major feature films - but the film, Telstar, will centre on the career of Joe Meek.  It will be in the cinemas in 2008.

Billy will be played by Jon Lee, a former member of S Club 7, who later starred in Les Miserables.

He is pictured above (left) during filming.

And Jess Conrad is playing Larry Parnes!

Jon Lee was born on April 26 1982, and is 5ft 7in tall.

These are Jon's replies to questions from Harry: 

You made it clear in an interview that this was a small part, but one you were glad to take.  How long do you expect to appear on screen?

I'm very excited to be taking part in the film, especially playing someone as iconic as Billy Fury. How long I'm on screen for is all down to the director and editor, although I shouldn't think it will be more than a few minutes.

Is it a singing role?  If so, which song(s)?

I get to perform Billy's version of Play It Cool, which I love! Rockin' on stage with the Tornados behind me! It was such an amazing buzz!

Billy Fury died nine months after you were born, and his heyday was in the 1960s.  Were you conscious of Billy's music before you became involved with the film?

I didn't realise how many songs of his I knew until I played them. Halfway To Paradise was the one I was most familiar with.

Have you read up on Billy?

There was so much research available for the cast. The director had done an amazing job of putting together information packs and references for each character for all the cast to look up.

What sort of character do you want to project in the film?

As my main screen time is the performance, I just want to put across how cool the man was. He was our English Elvis. I hope I have done him justice.

How did it happen that you were approached to take the part?

I auditioned for the role. I met the director and the casting director and they thought I was the guy for the part.

What appealed to you about the part?

I think the film is going to be amazing, so i was just chuffed to be a part of it. Billy is definitely one of the coolest characters. I'm thrilled to be playing him.

Have you developed an interest in the 60s scene?  What sort of insight has the part given to you?

I have really really got into the music. There are some amazing songs written in the 60s and they still sound great today.

There have been several on-off attempts to produce a film about Billy's life.  Johnny Depp, Danny McCall, Ewan McGregor and Luke Goss have all been involved in talks to play Billy.  Would you like to think that Jon Lee will now also be in the frame? 

I would love that, but considering the competition I think that's a bit hopeful. It would be a great movie though and should definitely get made.  I'd go and see it for sure. - 20 August 07.

This is how Jon  sounds.

He writes about himself on his MySpace site:

Jon Lee began his journey to fame at the age of 12, playing the leading role in one of the West Ends greatest all time musicals - Oliver! at London's Palladium Theatre alongside Jonathan Pryce as Fagin.

From there he rightfully earned a scholarship at Londons leading theatre school, Sylvia Young's, where he trained and studied performing arts, music and drama.

Jons theatre credits include playing the part of Julian in a national tour of The Famous Five, headlining a gala performance of the Broadway review show Notes From New York at The Trafalgar Studios and most famously playing the challenging role of Marius in Cameron Mackintosh's production of Les Miserables at The Palace Theatre, for which he won great critical acclaim. 2005 saw Jon take the leading role of Sam in new musical Love Shack with Faye Tozer and Noel Sullivan.

Jon made his first TV appearance in George Eliot's BBC period drama Mill On The Floss where he played the young Tom Tulliver. Jon went on to play the regular character of Josh Saunders in top soap Eastenders. Jon has also been a guest perfomer on various TV shows including Celebrate The Sound Of Music hosted by Graham Norton.

In 1999, Jon became a member of pop sensation S Club 7, where he enjoyed four years of hit singles, arena tours and awards including two Brit Awards and Record Of The Year. Jon gained a generation of loyal fans and sold over 13 million records.

S Club 7 also starred in four award-winning TV series which were shown in over 120 countries earning Jon a nomination for a Young Hollywood Reporter award. They also starred in their own box office movie Seeing Double plus a performance for Her Majesty The Queen at The Golden Jubilee.

Jon's first appearance of 2006 was alongside Ruthie Henshall and John Barrowman in the BBCs Saturday night series The Sound Of Musicals.

Jon went on to star in a new show written by the Heather Brothers. Teen Scream was played in Lincoln and in August will be taken to the Edinburgh Festival.

After a year and a half away from the show, Jon revived his role as Marius in Les Miserables on the West End stage and said goodbye to a character he grew to love.

Jon has several new projects lined up, the first being his role as Billy Fury in the new Nick Moran movie, Telstar. Telstar is known widely for its touring show across the UK starring Adam Rickitt, Pam Ferris and Con O'Neill. Staying true to its stage show, the movie will star both Pam and Con, as well as the fantastic Kevin Spacey. Jon will be playing a small role, but he is ecstatic about playing alongside such hugely recognised talents. Filming begins in London in August 2007.

Something close to Jon's heart...Famous Five! Jon has been snapped up to voice the fantastic new animated series which will premier on UK TV screens in 2008. He will lend his voice to the character, Max, and will be taking part in recording sessions over the next 6 months.

Other credits are: Con O'Neill ... Joe Meek, JJ Feild ... Heinz Burt, Tom Burke ... Geoff Goddard, Sid Mitchell ... Patrick Pink, James Corden ... Clem Cattini, Ralf Little ... Chas Hodges , Pam Ferris ... Mrs. Shenton, Des Hamilton ... Lionel, Tom Harper ... Alan Caddy, Callum Dixon ... John Leyton, Carl Barat ... Gene Vincent, Joan Hodges ... Biddy Meek, David Hayler ... John Peel, Chas Hodges ... Mr. Brolin, Rita Tushingham ... Essex Medium, Nigel Harman ... Jess Conrad.

Thanks to David Peters for drawing this to my attention.

- 23 April 07.



TV programme insight:  A television programme about the spending habits of Britain's super-rich featured Lisa Voice, Billy's long-term partner.

Lisa is planning a £50m film, called Paradise Bound, about her life, which will, naturally, include her association with Billy.  The Pendennis Observer report (below) suggests that she intended to cast Johnny Depp as Billy, but it seems confusion arose as follows:

The Channel 4 preview stated that she and Billy were married, and it then said that Depp was being cast to play her "husband".

However, it now transpires that she wants Depp to play her real ex-husband, Steven Voice.  

According to the Keira Knightley website, she wants Ewan McGregor to play Billy.  However, that site seems to be confusing Lisa's film with the original project (details of which appear  here).

The Daily Mail interview, which was referred to in the Channel 4 programme, is here.

Confusing?  Oh yes! 

The Observer, May 14 2006:

Pendennis writes: I can bring news of a new project in which eccentric former rock chick and music entrepreneur Lisa Voice will reunite Keira Knightley and Johnny Depp, co-stars of The Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

The new film could not, however, be further from the swashbuckling pirate stories that they are used to: they are about to put their signatures on contracts to play Voice and her sometime lover, Billy Fury.

The Fifties and Sixties rocker, often described as Britain's answer to Elvis Presley, had an exciting life: 30 hits, 15 years in the charts, friendship with the Who and the Beatles. He was once banned from an entire concert tour for being 'too sexy'.

All very suitable for Depp, who has been interested in the role for some time. Knightley, however, is a more recent arrival on the scene. According to sources close to the production, early plans would have seen an older Hollywood star playing the part.

'Johnny and Keira love working together and he was the driving force behind her involvement,' I am told.


Previous news:

Nick Mead, who directed Swing, starring Tom Bell, Alexei Sale, Lisa Stansfield and Rita Tushingham in 1999, is looking into developing the projected Sound Of Fury film about Billy's life.

He told me:  "I want to try to make it a real iconographic film of the era."

He has held discussions with the scriptwriters, Joe Boyle and Gary Waterman, about changes that he has in mind.

Nick used this site to brief himself on Billy's life, and I have supplied him with sound files of Billy's speech.

I can't help feeling that there could be some significance in the fact that Danny McCall, who played Billy in the stage show Sound Of Fury, is well-known to Nick, as Danny had a part in Swing.

Nick also wrote and directed Bank Robber in 1993.

Previous coverage:  It's suggested that Ewan McGregor has been dropped from the lead role of the projected Sound Of Fury film, in favour of Luke Goss, the former Bros member.

I have traced back every report of this development to a single story in The Guardian. This appeared two days after the fascinating feature on the real love of Billy's life, Lisa Voice (née Rosen) was published in the Daily Mail's Weekend magazine in early 2001.

The Mail reported: Ewan McGregor has been approached to play the role, but Lisa would prefer Luke Goss of Bros fame to do it. "He looks so much like Billy - he even has the cheekbones."

The Guardian then reported: Ewan McGregor has allegedly been dumped from his role in a forthcoming film about rock legend Billy Fury in favour of ex-Bros twin Luke Goss. The Scottish actor had secured the part in a new biopic of the fifties singer's tragic life until Fury's ex-partner Linda Voice objected to the casting and asked for Goss to step in instead. Voice claimed the Star Wars star lacked the necessary charisma for the role. 'Ewan does not look a bit like Billy. The part should be played by a rock 'n' roller. They only want Ewan because he's a big star, but I think it would be very sad if the film did not do justice to Billy. Everything about Luke reminds me of him.' Fury, dubbed 'the British Elvis Presley,' had a string of hits in the 50s and early 60s, but died without a penny in 1983 at the age of 42.

Every subsequent report then draws on The Guardian piece without contributing anything new.

What is undeniable is that although filming of The Sound Of Fury was due to start in summer 2001, but nothing happened, and McGregor began making another film.

There is a silence from the Goss camp.

In early 2002, there were reports that the producers had difficulty raising money to make the film because of the attack on the World Trade Center in September 2001, although the logic of that is not apparent.

When, at the beginning of 2001, everything seemed set for McGregor's involvement, this site reported that the film would be loosely based on the stage show Sound Of Fury.

McGregor, a Scot (b 31 March 71), who found fame in Trainspotting, having starred as Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars film The Phantom Menace, said: "We should be shooting it next summer and Dennis and I will be acting together. It's something we have been trying to get together for a long time."

Lawson said the film would not dwell on the tragedies in Billy's life.

"It's a feelgood, rock and roll, romantic road movie and we all get to sing and play together," he said.

McGregor was planning to do his own singing in the film.

To form your own judgement about whether this would be appropriate, click here for a Real Audio file of McGregor singing TV Eye in the film Velvet Goldmine.

There is an excellent biography of McGregor at this site.

For a spooky comparison of McGregor and Billy, click here.

For details of Lawson, see this site.

Others previously linked with the role included Danny McCall, a Brookside regular who played Billy in the stage show.

For light relief, read Alta Vista's translation of French Yahoo's report of the story.

The following feature, by Joe Boyle, who co-wrote the stage show and the film screenplay, first appeared in the magazine of the fan club Sound Of Fury, from which it is reproduced with permission.

It was in August of 1993 that I saw the musical Be Bop A Lula at the Liverpool Playhouse Theatre.

It was the story of the 1960 tour which Billy Fury did with Eddie Cochrane and Gene Vincent. (The actual play never toured, in fact, for reasons unknown, because it was quite a good effort, so the only chance that anybody had to see it was at Liverpool.)

The actor Gary Mavers played Billy (Gary is better known now for his part as one of the doctors in the serial Peak Practice) I enjoyed the play, and I enjoyed his performance, though at the time, I wasn't a particular fan of Billy's music.

And neither was I when I left the theatre.

The thing that did impress me, was the reaction of the audience each time the Billy Fury character came on. OK, it was a Liverpool audience, but, even accounting for bias, to me, it was obvious that a musical play about Billy Fury's life was needed.

I began to research his life and his music, and found great help from not only Albert and Jean [Billy's brother and mother] but from others in whose direction I was pointed, namely, Maureen Bowden and John Kingstree. Little did I know at the time that there were others to whom I might have turned and received the same, unselfish assistance, people like Chris Eley, Jean Presser, Frank Bull, in fact most of those who now make up the syndicate which runs the fan club.

By the time I had gathered enough information to begin the first draft, I found I was involved in a number of other projects, all of which threatened to supply me with money. The golden rule when writing for a living, is: "Always work on that which will put bread on the table", and "Fury" (original title) was speculative - ie not only did I still have to write it, I had to interest somebody enough in it for them to buy it, and make a living meanwhile.

However, I also felt that "Fury" was not a project I could put aside for long - it was a story crying out to be told, and somebody might get round to telling it before I did.

So, I contacted a young writer I had recently been introduced to, Gary Waterman. I asked him would he like to share the workload. He liked the idea, and we began to write it together late in 1993.

We had the first draft finished by, I think, June 1994, and we looked around for someone we might offer it to. The first (and obvious) choice was Bill Kenwright, a Liverpudlian through and through, whose history is firmly rooted in the sixties and the early pop culture.

We sent it to him, and a week later, he rang me from Euston station having just got off the train from Liverpool and having read the script on the journey.

He loved it.

He normally reads scripts only after they have been recommended to him by he people he employs to read them first. As it happened, he had stuffed this one into his bag just to have something to read on the train. I've often thought since, that had someone else been designated to read it, they might not have been as taken, and it might never have reached Bill.

A second draft was needed, of course, and at this stage, John Kingstree was called in to provide us with the lyrics of all the songs in the show. John actually wrote them all out, in longhand, in what he called a labour of love.

The show was set to open at the Liverpool Playhouse Theatre in June 1995, the title having been changed to The Sound Of Fury, but before then, there was casting to be done, and rehearsals.

Happily, Gary and I were allowed to be involved in all this (it doesn't always happen) though Gary was less able to attend auditions and rehearsals than I was since he is a long-term sufferer from chronic fatigue syndrome, and cannot travel far.

Gary Mavers almost got the lead role, but a cock-up with his agent allowed a young, talented actor/singer called Danny McCall to show what he could do. Danny accepted the part, and rehearsals went ahead in London, then in Liverpool.

I remember Gary and I in attendance at the final day of rehearsals in the Playhouse, sitting with notebooks and pencils, and having to write extra or substitute dialogue for the cast whenever what they were saying either didn't work, or when new lines were needed to link scenes etc. At these times, when the actors, crew, technicians, everybody were waiting for us to be "creative", we knew the pressure was on.

Opening night, 28th June 1995, was nerve-tingling. Happily, Gary was able to be there, and we shared a handshake as the curtain went up.

I'll never forget the sound of the cascading piano at the start of In Thoughts Of You. It was only then I realised that we had made a good choice of opening song.

That first show was magic, and drew a standing ovation from a packed house.

The Sound Of Fury ran for eleven weeks at the Liverpool Playhouse Theatre, each house a virtual sell-out, before transferring to the much larger Liverpool Empire Theatre (2,000 capacity) for a further two weeks prior to touring.

The 1995 tour took it to Manchester, Woking, Plymouth, back to Manchester, then back to the Liverpool Empire, and audiences were exceptional.

We caught it at the end of the tour, and agreed that the cast had honed it into a really slick, poignant, funny, show, and standing ovations had become the norm.

We expected that another tour would be mounted in 1996, but that never came to be. I believe that a lot of Fury fan club members petitioned for its return, as did a lot of fans that the show (and Danny McCall) had picked up on its travels.

However, in early 1997 we received the news that a further tour was being planned for the summer, and sure enough, this was the case, with the opening night being in Newcastle, followed by Birmingham, Manchester (the Opera House this time), then Liverpool Empire, Bradford, and ending in Billingham.

We caught it in Manchester, and its worth noting that Buddy was showing at the Palace Theatre at the same time - we sold them out.

1998 saw the story being taken a stage further. Bill Kenwright commissioned us to write the screenplay.

Casting should be interesting.

One thing that might be worth remembering when you go to see the film, is that, of necessity, you will be watching a dramatised version of Billy's life.

Real life (even one such as Billy's) is boring to watch, and after all, we are not doing a documentary. Consequently, events which really happened, have to have an element of drama added in order to create the tension and conflict and suspense which is vital to a filmed story.

Of course, we'll tell the story as it happened, but not necessarily, letter for letter, in the way that it happened. So, if you spot a song being sung at a time when, in real life, it wasn't sung, just remember, there's a good reason why.

<<Back to Briefing


I've been a rock and roll fan since as a thirteen year old I'd paid my seven shillings to get me into the Rock 'n Trad Show. Billy Fury in gold lame all over the stage singing Sweet Little Sixteen was etched into my consciousness. From that time I'd been an avid collector of 45s and 78s up until the late sixties when I went off to the States where I was able to catch up with a live performance of Elvis.

Two years ago after twenty five years working in television I decided it was time to make films for myself, about my own heroes, and Billy was the first in line. I pulled out my boxes of 45s and found I had most his output already, not to mention scrapbooks and research was under way

It took me two years to sell the idea as a subject to the BBC. I could have made it earlier with a much smaller budget, but I knew the story couldn't be crammed into a twenty five minute slot, and the music was too important to throw it away. Finally Peter Salmon, controller of BBC1 and a rock fan, showed enough interest to take a chance on the script and recommend the project to Omnibus.

Two years, during which time I'd talked to as many people as possible, Marty, Joe, the Vernons, John Leyton had all been encouraging. Hal Carter, Jean, Billy's mum had told me stories with good grace, although I knew that they were thinking: "Oh no, not another one who says he's going to make a film!" At last I was able to start, but the BBC wanted the documentary delivered in four months. Without the work I had already put in it would have been impossible in the time.

First we had to contact all those I had talked with to see if they were still available for interviews, and together with my researcher, Tory, we had to find all the archive. The clips of interviews and performance, the radio shows, recordings that no one had heard for years, or if possible stuff that no one even knew about.

First stop was the BBC and they had very little. Top Of The Pops had all been junked, so had all the early Saturday Clubs. There was the obvious Nationwide and Russell Harty from Billy's final years when he looked sickly, to say the least . This meant that most of the archive if we could find it would be outside the BBC and therefore very costly (a thousand pounds a minute is not unusual), with performance and music rights on top of that. But where was it to be found, archive houses are notorious for not knowing what they have got.

The BBC had a very early film interview of Larry Parnes that we wanted, but the negative was missing. Tory kept on at them and we managed to get film of Lonnie Donegan in 1957 and some very early popsters. The librarian insisted that it didn't exist, we said it did, until finally a brand new copy came through and it turned out to have not only live performances of Duffy Power and Johnny Gentle....but glory be, a brief interview with Billy Fury himself filmed in early 1959, and with it came another Nationwide in black and white of Billy filmed in 1970 talking about his teddy boy experiences. Things were looking up. We knew this must have been in colour and after a few more calls we had our colour version.

We tried desperately to find his first ever television performance Strictly For Sparrows, but this time we had no luck at all, despite finding his contract. He was paid 15 guineas (£15.75). to perform Maybe Tomorrow, and that included his rehearsal time. Our research took us to Boston , Massachusetts, where we thought that a copy might still exist or even a photograph....but nothing.

I had seen the live performance of Billy singing Just Because on Parnes, Shillings and Pence, but where was it? Since that documentary had been made the archives had all been sold on, to mostly foreign companies. Archive libraries are peculiar places. Their attitude is to deny everything just to test the researchers' mettle or to make them think laterally, but with some persistence we had our copy of Just Because...only to find that it was a live version of I'll Never Find Another You, what a bonus . The library had no idea it was there, so we encouraged them to turn up our original request and another part of the picture fell into place along with a live version of The Saints which we never used.

Sitting in a quiet cottage in the country I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Live soundtracks from Boy Meets Girl and Wham. We had had no luck finding the pictures although we are pretty certain that they exist, but Billy's version of Baby Let's Play House, My Babe with Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran, Colette in a duet with Marty was fresh and vibrant , far better than the records of the period.

Why on earth is this stuff not on record? Original recordings that no one has heard of for years and better than all the alternate takes and B sides that make up the countless compilations since Billy's death. I'd heard the twenty odd tracks in the BBC sound archives, and they had knocked me out for quality and the purity of his voice, but these were from that earlier period and showed Billy at his rockin' rollin' best. I was determined to use at least a little in the film.

Then out of the blue came another call. An old friend of Billy's, and he just happened to mention that he had some of the original live shows from Saturday Club recorded in 1961. They arrived and were fantastic. Live versions of Just Because and Don't Knock Upon My Door with the Blue Flames that had to be heard to be believed. Billy singing Have I Told You Lately That I Love You that is exquisite putting him right up there with Elvis.Versions of Hank Williams songs complete with yodels that show him in completely different light . Things were looking up.

For weeks we had been chasing up the long lost Shindig. We'd read reports that he had appeared on Jack Good's American show, but Hal Carter had no knowledge of it , nor had anybody seen it. We were getting very frustrated when we received a fax from the States. "Yes we have Billy Fury on Shindig." The only problem was the Americans wanted an arm and a leg to show it. To transmit the whole song would have blown most of our archive budget . Viewers don't realise how much it cost to show these old clips. We pay by the minute and second, and with rights on top of that it gets very expensive, which is the reason that very rarely do you get the chance to see a complete song in these documentaries. Also contractually we are only allowed so many minutes in a programme. As producer I have to count the seconds and work it in very carefully.

By this time word had got around and we were getting offers from various people who wanted to be in the show. Everything was scripted as tightly as possible. There were people we wanted who would complete the story. At the last moment Georgie Fame said he would be available on one day only between gigs. He lives in the middle of nowhere, but now the gods were on our side and it just so happened that we were to be filming in the next village on that day. Talk about a million to one chance. Then with only one day's shooting left, we received a call that Jack Good would be in the country and was willing to do an interview. He was coming over for a holiday from the States where he lives and he wasn't going to be available for any other programmes. That was the icing on the cake, a real coup. He rarely agrees to interviews and it was a measure of his esteem for Billy that he agreed to show.

That final day's filming fell into place. We were already into our second week's editing so we knew that the film was working, but we stopped and chatted with three of the music biz's true gentlemen and Fury fans all . Good, Dury, and Bob Stanley, it was lovely to talk with them about Billy and they came out with gems which we knew would lift the documentary and make it something a little bit special.

We were pleased, we knew that the film was working for us at least. The first viewing lasted well over an hour and left us bawling tears. It told the story too well, made the viewer too involved, so that the end came with considerable emotive clout. We just had to tone it down and leave the viewer wanting more. We had to lose sequences to get the film to length and it was difficult, great sequences and interviews hit the cutting room floor or at least got lost in the computer editing machine. Bit by bit it was cut down, some of our favourite pieces went missing but that's what making a documentary making is about.

The reviews generally have been good, the audience figure was high, the response has been brilliant. It is always difficult to try and please everybody, the fans, his peers, the family are still around and the film was important to them.

If I'm honest there is a little bit of my life in there as well. Billy touched us all, so that is the way it should be. I wanted to get across that feeling I had when I first saw him on that Larry Parnes Show, backed by the Blue Flames singing Sweet Little Sixteen....I hope we succeeded. - Paul Pierrot, 1998.


This feature, by Paul Pierrot, producer of the Omnibus programme Halfway To Paradise for the BBC, first appeared in the magazine of the Sound Of Fury fan club, from which it is reproduced with permission.

*Many thanks to Tony Philbin for drawing my attention to the Daily Express report so quickly.