As The Boat sails towards its Malta red-carpet premiere and release on a wave of international critical acclaim, Laura Bonnici chats with actor Joe Azzopardi to find out more about the man behind the thrilling feature film’s sea-faring hero.

“Just do it. Don’t think about it and do it. If you really want it, don’t be afraid of failing because you don’t want to spend the rest of your life wondering ‘what if’.”

This is the sage advice offered by actor Joe Azzopardi, when asked what he would say to those in Malta considering an acting career – and he has certainly proved to have lived by his words.

Today hitting international headlines as the sole lead of the Malta-made full-length feature film The Boat, Azzopardi brings to the big screen a lifetime of performance experience, which he has crafted through ‘just doing it’ and, in his own words, by “letting life do its thing and being a bloody nuisance”.

It is this fun, determined yet open-minded attitude that has helped Azzopardi to become one of Malta’s most prominent actors. Born to British/Maltese parents, he performed from an early age in local drama groups. Overcoming dyslexia – which made reading ‘cold’ at auditions a challenge – he successfully embarked on his professional career in 2007 with a series of notable stage and screen roles, earning a BA Hons in Acting from the prestigious Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in London.

More recently, Azzopardi won the best actor award at the San Francisco Festival for his role in the short film Head – a movie that would go on to form the basis of Latina Pictures’ latest release, The Boat.

Written, produced and directed by his father Winston Azzopardi, and co-produced by and starring Joe Azzopardi himself, The Boat blends all the ingredients of a classic psychological thriller to create 90 minutes of pure nail-biting tension.

“The Boat is a suspense thriller about a lone fisherman who sets out for an idyllic day at sea, which turns into a terrifying ordeal when he bumps into, and boards, an abandoned sailboat,” explains Azzopardi. “The story then unfolds as he tries to take the seemingly empty vessel back to shore, but then suspects he is not alone on the boat.”

My father and I are humbled and honoured by the glowing reviews that came in from the US, and to receive a nomination at the UK National Film Awards

This simple idea of one man’s battle for survival against the backdrop of the Mediterranean Sea has already been winning critical acclaim overseas, following the film’s debut last summer in film festivals across the US.

Calling it “a must-see”, “a taut and thrilling adventure” and “a work of pure mastery”, reviewers raved about the film’s slick execution, clever screenplay, exquisite score and stunning cinematography, naming it “easily among the year’s best horror films, best adventure films, and best films period. Welcome aboard indeed.” (Rob Hunter, filmschoolrejects.com).

Azzopardi’s talented lead performance was also widely praised, which “commanded attention from the off” according to Nikki Baughan of screendaily.com, while The Boat has also earned Winston Azzopardi a nomination for the award for Best Director at the UK’s National Film Awards 2019.

 “My father and I are humbled and honoured by the glowing reviews that came in from the US, and to receive a nomination at the UK National Film Awards alongside the likes of acclaimed industry greats such as Steve McQueen, Alex Garfield and Idris Elba is incredible,” Azzopardi says.  “For us, The Boat is still a small independent Maltese film which seems to have travelled well abroad.”

This small independent Maltese film, as Azzopardi calls it – largely filmed in the world-famous water tanks on location at the Mediterranean Film Studios in Malta – is now set to continue making waves back home on the Maltese islands. Following a glamorous red-carpet premiere, The Boat will go on general release exclusively at Eden Cinemas.

But Azzopardi is adamant he is not going to let this new-found fame change his laid-back approach to life, on and off the big screen. “Life has taught me not to stress, to be grateful, and to never leave home without a smile. In fact, the best advice I’ve ever received is to know a little bit of everything, and a lot about one thing, and so I can’t wait to keep learning and see what’s around the corner next. If I wasn’t an actor, I would charter boats and sail around the world… how’s that for life imitating art?”

The Boat will be premiered in Malta in a red-carpet event at Eden Cinemas on Friday. The premiere is open to the public and will be immediately followed by a Q&A with Winston Azzopardi and Joe Azzopardi, moderated by Jo Caruana. Tickets to the premiere are priced at €10. Tickets and further information are available by visiting Eden Cinemas. The film will be on general release from February 27, exclusively at Eden Cinemas.

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