Review: Wit and warmth of the Fridge Man

23 Mar 2013 @ 8.14 pm
| Entertainment
Tony Hawks is a fridge magnet
Review: Tony Hawks: Round Ireland With A Fridge (Film and Q&A)
Venue: City Screen, Wednesday, March 20

York-Literature-Festival-logo-200“Let’s welcome Tony Hawks, the biggest eejit in Ireland!”

This is not the first time (and certainly not the last) that the famous “Fridge Man” will be introduced to an audience with this noble title. It is one he can wear with pride, ever since it was first coined by a nation that took him to their hearts for the silly bet he carried out on their shores way back in 1997.

Hawks’ subsequent book Round Ireland With A Fridge soon became an international best-seller and would go on to establish its writer as a cult figure. Few could have guessed, however, that one day this hilarious account of his Irish travels would be converted onto the big screen.

The tale of how the film came to be is as bizarre as the fridge-quest itself. An enthralled City Screen audience learned how, having bought the rights from the pleasantly-surprised Hawks, a team of Hollywood producers threw their weight around by changing the original storyline to ridiculous proportions. Brendan Fraser of The Mummy and George of the Jungle fame was even pencilled in to play Hawks, another move designed to appeal to an American audience who apparently “would never believe that someone actually hitch-hiked round Ireland with a fridge for bet.”

The fact that Hawks pulled the plug on the project and handed back a hefty sum of money to the Americans speaks volumes of the man. He explained with passion how his close connection with the book’s events and real-life characters inspired him to make the movie without the help of Hollywood, in order to preserve its “spirit”.

Readers of the book will agree that he has largely achieved this, and the bold decision to play himself adds a pleasing sense of authenticity to the film. Although some of the book’s most amusing moments have been altered or omitted, there is still plenty of guffaw-worthy material throughout. The glorious sight of the fridge surfing is one notable example, as is the messy aftermath of Hawks’ night of passion… in a dog house.

During the Q&A session following the screening it was heartening to learn that the fridge is still a part of Tony’s life, and is now sitting proudly atop his actual fridge at home in London. Unfortunately she (the fridge was christened with the Irish name Saiorse, Gaelic for “freedom” ) was not wheeled out once more for the filming and a younger, more pristine model was found instead, something that “really peed her off” apparently.

Hawks is wonderfully engaging, both as a comedian and as a person. His numerous escapades over the years have given him a wealth of amusing stories, which he regaled a delighted audience with following the screening of the film. Such an abundance of unusual anecdotes is not surprising for a man who, when not on official fridge business, has also found time to beat the entire Moldovan football team at tennis (the subject of another film, released in 2012) and have a hit single in the Albanian charts with Norman Wisdom and Sir Tim Rice.

The joy that he has gained from his various experiences is truly infectious, as is pointed out by a merry pub-goer in one of the film’s most poignant lines: “Look around you, Tony – you’re spreading joy.”

This sense of positivity is what makes Tony Hawks such a popular and unique figure. The sheer daftness of his adventures is genuinely inspiring, as is his refreshing attitude to life and fame. Maybe being an eejit isn’t such a bad thing after all.