'We're back home again' - Northern premiere of Blackpool-filmed comedy Eaten By Lions graces The Winter Gardens

It was a case of returning to a place that feels like home when the stars of new comedy film Eaten By Lions walked through the doors of Blackpool's Winter Gardens on Wednesday evening.

Thursday, 28th March 2019, 11:34 am
Updated Thursday, 28th March 2019, 11:48 am
Darshan Jariwala, Shila Iqbal, Antonio Aakeel and Neelam Bakshi (Images: JPIMedia)
Darshan Jariwala, Shila Iqbal, Antonio Aakeel and Neelam Bakshi (Images: JPIMedia)

Members of the cast and production team returned to the town for the northern premiere of the feature film which was set and filmed in the seaside resort.

The red carpet was draped in the shadow of the towering statue of Morecambe and Wise for all the cast to grace after arriving in a yellow Rolls Royce - the same one used in the film itself.

The lobby was full of family, friends and members of the public to get an early look at the feature film before its general release.

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Crowds take their seats

Eaten By Lions tells the heart-warming story of half-brothers Omar (Antonio Aakeel) and Pete (Jack Carroll), who were raised by their grandma after their parents were killed by lions in a bizarre accident.

When their beloved grandma passes away, they embark on a life-changing journey to find Omar’s birth father in Blackpool.

It also stars Blackpool's own Hayley Tamaddon in her first big screen performance.

Among the crowds before everyone took their seats was comedian Tom Binns, who stars in the film as a fortune teller.

Antonio Aakeel

"I love Blackpool, I come here every year for the magic convention so I'm always here," he said.

"Blackpool's delightful - and of course Lytham too. We mainly go to Sandcastle [water park].

"We've three little ones, so we like going to the water park - which was actually the first place we went once it was a wrap on my scenes, straight to the water park.

"It's a great place and the Winter Gardens is an amazing building as well. We're dead excited.

"And of course being northern this is local. Really this is the premier. There was the London premiere and this is the actual one!"

Fellow star Darshan Jariwala, who plays Saftar, said: "It's a great journey coming back here. In the past two years we've been showing this film at festivals and earning a lot of critical acclaim - now it's time to earn some popular acclaim. It's always lovely to come back to Blackpool.

"I'm staying in the same hotel that I was staying in while I was filming and it was so nostalgic for me."

Darshan echoed Tom's comments on Blackpool being the 'real' premiere saying: "As soon as we stepped out the yellow Rolls Royce I felt like 'yes, this is the real one!'"

For leading star Antonio Aakeel, the experience of shooting Eaten by Lions has changed his connection with Blackpool after some less than ideal times in his youth.

"When I came off the train I had a big smile on my face because I've got such fond memories of being in Blackpool," he explained.

"I love Blackpool. I had a terrible experience in the resort as a child when the weather was horrible and I got a lolly pop stuck in mum's hair and she had to have it hair cut - and now here I am 10 years later and we're having an incredible time.

"This feels like home now. We spent so long here shooting and re-shoots that Blackpool is where it's at, so it's just great to be home."

The actor, from Wolverhampton, added: "I'm really positive about the response Blackpool will have to the film. I think the film has been presented in such a stunning visual and visceral way by our cinematographer and the whole team that I think people will be really proud of Blackpool when they see this film.

"I know there's a lot of stick that places like Blackpool get - this is the opposite of that."

Director Jason Wingard said the experience of returning to Blackpool "felt like we were back home again".

He said: "It's a love letter this film to seaside towns and Blackpool in particular because me and the other writer used to come here a lot when we were kids. We wanted to shoot it in that nostalgic way of how you see it through children's eyes.

"It's a very visually rich place to shoot and and we got really good weather last summer; this place really comes to life when the sun's out. It's a different place entirely.

"It's a very northern film with very northern humour but I think the story's easily relatable. People up and down the country will easily enjoy this - you don't have to be a northerner to get it. It's a fun romp with lots of laughs and an emotional heart. We hope it does really well."

Eaten by Lions is released nationwide on Friday, March 29.