Filmmaker Jonathan Glazer has produced some of the most culturally significant images of our time: from his advertising work with Guinness and Sony BRAVIA  to his movies Sexy Beast and Birth.

So when fan Adam Pearson was offered the chance to meet the director, to a secure a part in his latest movie Under the Skin, he leapt at the chance.

Unfortunately their initial meeting didn’t entirely go to plan.

Hit by a car en route to their cafe date, Jonathan’s first glimpse of Adam was under a taxi, in his pants.

“He came to see me at the hospital the next day while I was waiting for an operation on my broken leg. I don’t remember what he said, why? Because I was as high as giraffe’s tail. I think I made a really offensive joke about not having a stunt double, for obvious reasons.

“But it did the trick and I got the job. So for any budding actors out there...that’s how you nail an audition. Morphine.”

 

Some will instantly recognise Adam Pearson. The 29-year-old suffers from neurofibromatosis (type one), a condition which affects one in 2,300 and causes non-cancerous tumours to grow on nerve tissue. Seventy per cent of cases are hereditary, whereas the other 30, which Adam falls into, are considered spontaneous mutations.

Diagnosed aged five after knocking his head on a windowsill and the resulting bump failing to go away, over the years Adam, who has a majority of his tumours on his face, has had to put up with name-calling, staring and bullying. But instead of letting his condition defeat him, he has used it to help define him.   

After graduating from Brighton University with a degree in business management, Adam has had a number of jobs in television production for the BBC and Channel 4, for the latter, a project he is still involved in – casting for The Undateables and Beauty and the Beast. Then there have been the television appearances which include shows such as Jeremy Kyle.

“My mum always raised me to live the life I have, rather than bitch about the one I don’t. So I’ve got on with things.

“I’ve always had an interest in television, ever since my dad took me to see Live and Kicking and I met Andi Peters - that was when I got the media bug. Everything else has just been a case of being in the right place at the right time.

“Take for example this movie Under the Skin. I’m part of Changing Faces, the leading charity for facial disfigurement, they sent out an email saying that a filmmaker was looking for a character with a disfigurement. That led me to Jonathan.”

Whether it was luck, morphine, or a combination of the two, the fact that Adam has made his movie debut in a film by Jonathan Glazer is no mean feat. Particularly as he shares the silver screen with none other than Hollywood siren Scarlett Johansson.

“It’s not bad is it? He laughs. “Although, I’m left wondering where do I go from here, it can only be downhill!

“They were great to work with. Everyone on the film was. Jonathan was particularly amazing, he’s great at getting a performance out of you. He doesn’t crack the whip, it’s all really organic.

“As for Scarlett she was lovely, really down to earth. I’m really into Marvel (comics), something of a fan-boy, so to be working with Black Widow...what can I say?

“We went through a period of telling each other really dirty jokes, to see who could tell the dirtiest. I can tell you, I won that contest hands down. I had to go to a dark place, but I won.”

A lot of the film’s dialogue is improvised, which Adam stresses wasn’t particularly taxing, given Jonathan’s expert direction. Rather, the challenging aspects of film came to some of his nude scenes: “Running through a field in Scotland in November at 3am, it was freezing, it had to be, I’m a lot more impressive in real life!”

 As for getting naked with Scarlett, which some seasoned stars would feel nervous about, Adam didn’t have an issue, although he’s quick to admit his mum is yet to see the movie because of said scenes: “I don’t think she can bring herself to do it,” and his friend Heidi “couldn’t make eye contact for a long time.”

But more than anything, Adam is hoping that his appearance in this film will change public perception.

“I’ve done a lot of campaigning work with Changing Faces about the portrayal of disfigurement in films. All I’ve ever wanted to do is raise the profile of disfigurement and disability. That’s why shows such as The Undateables and Beauty and the Beast are important.

“The fact that disfigurement is considered  shorthand for evil is not a good thing. Film baddies are often scarred and marked, but that’s not necessarily a fair portrayal of evil. If I’m going to be a villain I want it to be because of the way I act, not the way I look.

“Also if we’re going to have disfigured characters in films, they should be played by actors that are disfigured, instead of ‘making someone up’.  It makes it a lot more authentic and genuine.”

His decision to give people with disfigurement and disability a voice hasn’t been without controversy. When Beauty and Beast was initially broadcast it attracted criticism, with some national newspapers claimed the show was “trashy”, a “disgraceful insult to disabled people”, and “was taking advantage of those with disabilities”.

“Taking advantage?” scoffs Adam, “The odds of that happening and me not knowing about it are slim to none.  And in fact, the people who say ‘I’m being taken advantage of’ just come across as incredibly patronising.

 “I know what I’m doing, I’m old enough and savvy enough. Take a look at my bank balance.

“If someone like Jonathan Glazer wants to pay me £500 a day to run stark naked through a field and spend time with Scarlett Johansson – well, he can do whatever he wants with me.

Under The Skin will be shown at Stow Film Lounge, Orford House Social Club, 73 Orford Road, Walthamstow, E17 9QR, Friday, October 17, from 7.45pm. The screening will be followed with a Q & A with Adam Pearson. Details: stowfilmlounge.com