Former firefighter leads Ken Loach film tipped for Palme d'Or at Cannes Film Festival

Dave Turner worked as a firefighter for 30 years but is now starring as the lead in Ken Loach's latest film. Credit: Sixteen Films/ITV Tyne Tees

A former firefighter will walk the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival as the star of Ken Loach's latest film The Old Oak.

The feature, which was filmed in County Durham, is being predicted as the one to take home the ceremony's top award, the Palme d'Or.

Dave Turner, from Blaydon, plays the landlord and central character in The Old Oak which is all about the struggles faced by the last pub in a former mining village trying desperately to stay open.

Like in his previous films, Ken Loach picked Mr Turner and many of the other characters because of their lack of acting experience. This is his first major acting roll after working as a Tyne and Wear firefighter for 30 years.

"We finished filming in June last year. It was terrifying, exciting. Surreal is the word I keep using. I can't put into words the level of anxiety but it was fantastic," he said.

He added that he has "so much respect" for actors, saying: "It's not something I'll be in a hurry to do again."

A former pub in Murton in County Durham was used as The Old Oak and the film was shot entirely on location in Easington and Hordon. 

The feature was filmed in County Durham. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Mr Turner said: "I think it paints a genuine picture of the North East. You can see the way the villages have been run down, you just have to drive through them, you see the boarded up shops, the empty pubs. They've just been left to rot literally."

In Ken Loach style, the film tackles hard social issues, looking at the tensions which arise when Syrian refugees are placed in empty houses in the struggling community.

"There's genuine people in this film who've been involved in the Syrian conflict and they've suffered terribly. It's a story about humanity at the bottom and I'm proud of it. I think it's a really important film," he added.

Ken Loach has won the Palme d'Or twice before. Credit: Ian West/PA

This is the 57th film Ken Loach has directed. He will turn 87 next month and said The Old Oak is probably his last feature-length film.

The Palme d'Or is one of the industry's most prestigious prizes, with the director hoping to take it home for a third time.

He last scooped the prize for I, Daniel Blake in 2016 - a film about a man struggling with the welfare system which was shot in the North East.

When asked how it feels to be going to Cannes Film Festival, Mr Turner said: "Relief, relief because I knew if it was going to Cannes, it couldn't be that bad.

"If I was that bad it wouldn't have gone to Cannes, so when I got the phone call it was phew and relax."

The winner will be announced on the night of Saturday 27 May.

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