Production of the film version of one of South Africa’s most beloved books, John van de Ruit’s Spud, gets underway at Michaelhouse in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands on Monday, 8 March. Featuring some of South Africa’s most talented actors and established stars, Spud: The Movie is one of the most anticipated movie releases of the year. The identities of the young actors cast to play the 'Crazy 8' gang has been the subject of much debate in the press and online – and here they are:
Spud – Troye Sivan
Fourteen-year-old Troye Sivan hails from South Africa but lives in Perth, Australia. His singing voice and acting talent made Troye the perfect actor to play John 'Spud' Milton. Troye’s burgeoning musical career has seen him perform at many of Perth's most important venues, as well as professional performances that span several continents. In 2009, Troye was invited to Los Angeles to perform at a Gala Banquet Dinner for the Jewish community at an event in honour of the tragic 2008 Mumbai Massacre victims.

In 2006, inaugural Australia’s Idol winner, Guy Sebastian, heard Troye perform Over The Rainbow as one of the opening acts on Perth's Annual Telethon. Thrilled at what he heard, he and Troye spent a few minutes backstage rehearsing Sebastian’s first Idol single, Angels Brought Me Here, which they performed together and received a standing ovation from the 2 500-strong audience.

As an actor, Troye played the lead in Oliver! at Perth's Regal Theatre, but his big break came in February 2008 when a successful audition landed him the role of 'Young Logan' (Hugh Jackman's character at 12-years-old) in the feature film, X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Wolverine, a 20th Century-Fox film, was released in May 2009. Troye is represented in all fields worldwide by The William Morris Agency; Active Artists Management (AU); and Group III Management, Inc.
Gecko – Jamie Royal
Grade 9 Glenwood High pupil, Jamie Royal, has extensive theatre experience, but Spud is his first feature film. A proficient actor, Jamie already has an impressive resume with roles in Winnie The Pooh; Aladdin; Wizard of Oz; and Peter Pan, amongst others, at the Elizabeth Sneddon and Playhouse theatres in Durban.

He also spent two seasons on SABC3’s Creature Club at the age of 12 – yet surprisingly, this Durban born-and-bred youngster has never appeared in a school play!

Jamie has always wanted to be an actor and hopes his role in Spud will be a fillip to his future career. A multi-talented cultural star, Jamie also sings and participates in modern and ballroom dancing while he also considers himself to be a bit of an adrenaline junkie with a passion for bungee jumping.
Rambo – Sven Ruygrok
Dynamic 18 year-old Sven Ruygrok graduated from Beaulieu College in 2009 with two distinctions – one of them in his favourite subject, Drama. A natural leader, Sven was Deputy Head Boy and was awarded Full Drama Colours.

Until recently, he was involved in Men’s Artistic Gymnastics and received his Junior Protea Colours in this sport. He is a wonderful all-round performer and this was recognised early on in his life as he successfully auditioned for Cirque du Soleil in 2005. His abilities were also more recently acknowledged by the judges in the ACT/ Dalro Performing Arts Scholarship last year, where he was one of the 6 national finalists.

2010 saw Sven enrol as a student at UCT where he had been accepted for a Degree in Theatre and Performance, but he deferred his studies when he won the role of Rambo in Spud: The Movie.
Mad Dog – Josh Goddard
All-action Josh Goddard is a Grade 11 student at Michaelhouse, where he is an active sportsman who plays rugby and water polo and participates in athletics. He auditioned for Spud for fun and acted as crazy as he possibly could – which clearly went down well as he won the role of madcap Mad Dog hands-down.

Originally from Zimbabwe, Josh currently calls Northern Johannesburg home. He is an avid Spud fan, having read all three books and thinks that being part of the Crazy 8 is a surreal experience. “It’s pretty sweet!” he says. “I can’t wait to have fun with the rest of the gang – we’re already mates and are going to really enjoy ourselves on set.”
ImageVern – Tom Burne
First-time actor Tom Burne is a 15 year-old student at Michaelhouse, where he has half colours for academics. Despite never having previously considered a career in acting, the bug has well and truly bitten. Tom only auditioned for the film at the prompting of his drama teacher and couldn’t be happier to have landed the role of misfit Vern.

Pietermaritzburg-born Tom is really looking forward to sharing the screen with veteran star John Cleese and can’t wait to see the Crazy 8 come to life on the screen.
Simon – Byron Langley
A student at Glenwood Boys’ High in Durban, Byron Langley is a newcomer to acting, having only previously performed in primary school plays. He auditioned for Spud on the advice of his school drama teacher and has subsequently fallen in love with acting, a career he can see himself pursuing in the future.

A talented all-rounder, Byron recently received Full Academic Colours, participated in Natal Cricket Trials and has previously been selected for PADSA Cricket and hockey and the South African Allstars team for Action Cricket.
Boggo – Travis Hornsby
Travis was born in Port Elizabeth but currently lives in Edenvale, Gauteng and attends St John’s College. He was top of his class academically from Grade one to seven and received the Dux Scholar Award in 2009. An Eisteddfod veteran, he received awards for poetry; poetry writing; mime; and dramatised prose.

He lists his hobbies as playing Playstation games; writing poetry; and girls. Travis had his heart set on being a plastic surgeon but his role in Spud may yet change his preference.

Fatty – Blessing Xaba
Blessing Xaba hails from Berea in Durban and is a Grade 11 student at DHS. He has already performed in a number of professional theatre productions including Annie; School of Rock; and Big River at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.

When he’s not on stage, Blessing enjoys community work and is the Deputy Mayor of the Durban Youth Council. He participates in every cultural activity available at school – apart from chess. He was recently awarded a Drama Scholarship and has a mature take on the entertainment industry, with the belief that blood; sweat; and tears are the key to success.

Producers Ross Garland and Brad Logan are happy to see filming finally get underway. “It’s great to see the years of planning finally being realized with a full cast and crew on set at Michaelhouse,” says Logan. “We’re delighted to see a South African film being produced in the country with a host of local actors, put together by a local crew and funded by South African investors.” Garland has a special word of praise for the cast. “We cast the net far and wide to find talented actors to bring John van de Ruit’s characters to light and are delighted with the superb cast we’ve put together - and we’re confident they’re going to do a fantastic job,” he says.

Spud is set in South Africa in 1990 and chronicles John 'Spud' Milton’s first year at an elite, boys-only private school. Cursed with parents from well beyond the lunatic fringe; a senile granny; and a dormitory full of strange characters, Spud has to forge a new life for himself in this foreign and sometimes hostile environment. Surrounded by names such as Gecko; Rambo; Rain Man; and Mad Dog, Spud takes his first tentative steps along the path towards manhood. (The path, it seems, could be a rather long road). Armed with only his wits and his diary, Spud takes us from illegal nightswimming to the cricket field, from ghostbusting to teacher baiting. He also invites us into the mind of a boy struggling to come to terms with a strange new world; a boy whose eyes are being opened to love, friendship and complete insanity.

Spud: The Movie is produced by Rogue Star Films and BLM Productions.