Cast your mind back to 2015 in Torrevieja. Maybe you were down by the Marina and saw the Blues Brothers strutting their stuff, followed by Stevie Spit resplendent in a red chiffon gown. Or perhaps you were there when two guys on jet skis complete with guns and skeleton masks roared into the Marina demanding fuel. You probably thought you’d had too much sun, or were caught up in a nightmare robbery, but if you happened to be there on either of those two memorable occasions, you were actually watching history in the making, and the fulfillment of the 30 year dream of Billie Anthony Gaddess, who answers to Bill, Billie, or ‘What are you drinking?’
Writers On Spain don’t just write books, blog posts and articles for expat sites. Some of them – like Billie – write screenplays. And if they’re lucky enough to have a former soap star and experienced actor prepared to star for free, and a maverick director to bring the words and action to life, they just might end up with a movie hit on their hands. The Cucaracha Club premiered in Torrevieja in March 2016, and now it’s doing the rounds of the film festival circuit, as Billie and the production crew look for a suitable distributor Robert Redford wanted it for the Sundance Festival in January, but it wasn’t ready in time, and Antonio Banderas has seen the trailer and can’t wait to get the full picture, so to speak. So maybe that movie hit is just there waiting in the wings.
Billie’s back story is remarkable – in fact, it could even be the plot for a biopic, if it wasn’t so incredible. He hails from the North East, and during a varied career, he’s worked in acting and intelligence, so it wouldn’t be a great leap of imagination to call him the Geordie Ian Fleming – and with the right backing and distribution, The Cucaracha Club could be up there with the best spy thrillers. It’s certainly much more believable than Bond. If you doubt my word, just ask the traumatised fuel pump attendant who locked himself in the kiosk when the guys rocked up to refuel their jet skis! Being amateur actors and full of enthusiasm, they’d rode up from Cabo Roig in full costume – complete with replica guns – but were running on fresh air, and needed fuel for filming. If your jet ski splutters and dies during the pivotal ransom scene, it’s not great for the credibility ratings, and it might even have flapped the normally unflappable Director Rai Woods, without whom – according to Billie – The Cucaracha Club couldn’t have been made. Fortunately, a Spanish speaker was on hand to explain what was going on around the Nautical Club, and no actors were arrested during the making of the film.
The story line has been brewing in Billie’s brain for around 30 years. He’s 59 now, so for the benefit of the mathematically challenged, he’s lived with this dream for half his life. The Cucarachas were – and probably still are – a group of troubleshooters who worked in intelligence. Just like their namesakes, (cockroaches, for the linguistically challenged) they always seemed to survive, whatever was thrown at them. That was the germ of the plot, and when Billie was involved in a charity football match in Weymouth back in the late 1980s, he talked about it to Tom Watt and Nick Berry, aka Lofty and Wicksy from Eastenders. In a pastiche of the famous 1970s PG Tips advert, Tom Watt came out with the line, ‘You write it Billie, and I’ll act it.’
Fast forward to the turn of the Milennium, and Billie spotted a guy on the seafront in Torrevieja – where he spends about half of each year – with a broom. In Billie’s head, the industrious sweeper-upper became a Russian spy, and he began working on the story line with a friend – who promptly disappeared to Madrid with it, then tried to sell it back to him! Undaunted, he found another co-writer – Phillip Routledge – and put the script together. I asked Billie how many movie scripts he’d written before. He hadn’t written any – this was his first – but now he has the script for The Cucaracha Club 2:The Route of All Evil ready to go. Shooting is scheduled to start in October 2017.
The Cucaracha Club isn’t a low budget movie – it’s a no budget movie, and although Tom Watt gave his services for
free, and even paid for his own flights to Spain for filming, it took €23,000 – put up by Billie and Clive Gray, who also appears in the film – to get the story in the can. According to veteran Hollywood star Al Matthews, with a budget of $2,000,000, they might just manage to fit in submarines, big boats, small boats, a credible story line, original soundtrack and the obligatory sexy, foxy ladies, without which no spy flick worth its salt is complete. There’s all that – and lots more – in The Cucaracha Club. And Al should know about these things – he’s been in 64 big pictures, including Yanks, Tomorrow Never Dies and Aliens, as well as Desmond’s on UK television.
As Billie is keen to point out, this film isn’t an ego trip, and he didn’t make it to become famous – although he won’t say no if anyone offers to buy him a drink or asks for his autograph. It’s all about the realisation of a 30 year dream.Catch it if you can, and watch this space for more behind the scenes stories.