The sad death last month of actor Gary Coleman gave producers of the long awaited Diff'rent Strokes movie a major cause for concern as the project was in danger of being mothballed indefinitely. However respected character actor Michael Sheen has agreed to step into the breach and play the character of Arnold Jackson, in a bid to save the production.
Sheen, who has been lauded for playing characters as diverse as Tony Blair, Kenneth Williams, Brian Clough and David Frost is delighted to have landed the part of Arnold and has set aside time from his current project, in which he plays the lead role in the life and times of Emmeline Pankhurst, to work on the movie.
Michael took time out from rehearsals to speak about his decision to take on the part. "I have a very busy schedule over the next few years. I have to get into the minds and characters of a number of great historical figures, including Marcus Tullius Cicero, a young Clement Attlee, Joseph Goebbels and a biopic of the late comic actress Irene Handl".
"With this part I have the opportunity to stretch myself, both as a physical actor as well as vocally to ensure I get the characterisation correct. It's no good coming out with 'What YOU talkin' about Willis?', when it should quite clearly be 'WHAT you talkin' about Willis?' I mean, the former would be quite ridiculous and frankly, totally unbelieveable".
Which explains why the film's producers have gone to such lengths to ensure they have the right actors for the main parts in order to give the project the credibility and respect it deserves.
In 1999, some 13 years after the show aired its final series, Dana Plato who played Kimberly Drummond sadly died of a drug overdose, following a series of bad career decisions which ended in several soft porn movie roles.
The producers of the new movie were at pains to select character actors of renown to recreate the parts sympathetically and in keeping with the original comic chemistry between the family members, and were delighted to secure the talents of Dame Judy Dench and Samuel L Jackson in the roles of Kimberly and Willis.