Gordon Warnecke reflects on his roles in My Beautiful Laundrette on stage and screen

Over 30 years after starring in the Oscar-nominated My Beautiful Laundrette, actor Gordon Warnecke revisited Hanif Kureishi’s groundbreaking story in a new stage adaptation performed at the Belgrade last year.

Famed as the film that launched Daniel Day Lewis’ career, My Beautiful Laundrette made waves in 1985 for its portrayal of a same-sex relationship between a young British Pakistani and his former schoolmate Johnny – an unlikely romance sparked when Omar recognises Johnny as the ringleader of a fascist gang that confronts him in the street.

In the recent stage version (co-produced by the Belgrade Theatre, Curve, Everyman Theatre Cheltenham and Leeds Playhouse), Warnecke moved up a generation, playing father to his original character, with Omar Malik taking up his former role. But what was it like returning to the story after so long?

With an archive recording of the show now available to watch for free online, we revisited this 2019 interview where he tells us more…

What was it like to be a part of Hanif Kureishi’s My Beautiful Laundrette in 1985?

My Beautiful Laundrette was my first film. Rita Wolf, who played Tania, knew Hanif Kureishi and suggested that he and the director, Stephen Frears, met me. I’d been doing lots of theatre since leaving drama school, but I was still very young and the film/TV business was totally new to me. At the time we thought we were making a ‘small’ film for Channel 4 to kick start their inaugural film season. It ended up being shown at the Edinburgh Film Festival and Jeremy Isaacs, who at the time was Head of Channel 4, pushed for a cinematic release – which of course it got!

The shoot was six weeks long and was a very enjoyable one. The cast and crew were all young guns with tremendous energy. Tim Bevan and Sarah Radclyffe had just started up Working Title, the company that produced the film, and Rebecca O’Brien was an assistant at the time – she’s now Ken Loach’s main producer for his film company Sixteen Films. It was like one big (young) happy family, as they say, and because Hanif’s script was so good, we kind of knew we were on to something special.