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The Full Monty remains a beloved cult classic 20 years on

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This summer marks twenty year since the release of The Full Monty, the story of six unemployed men from Sheffield who decide to form a male striptease act in order to turn their lives around.

‘I thought it was a load of f***ing pish when I first heard of it,’ admitted Robert Carlyle, who plays Gaz, the film’s lead. The distributers at Fox Searchlight thought the same, telling Carlyle and the producer, Umberto Pasolini, that it would not find an audience and would have to go straight to video.

After a bit of persuasion, the distributers were convinced into changing their minds, and just as well. Upon its release, The Full Monty was nominated for several awards, and in the twenty years since it came out has taken more than 400 million at the box office, becoming a cult classic.

Gaz, along with his ex-colleagues from Sheffield’s closed Millthrope Steelworks, not only feel depressed at their lack of work, but emasculated in front of their wives and girlfriends, who either no longer seem to love them in the same way or have left them altogether.

Even Gaz’s son wants to have nothing to do with his disappointing father, until he stumbles upon a performance of the Chippendales dancers (women only) and decides to nick their act. Unlike those performers, however, his routine will go ‘the Full Monty’ and strip right down to the buff.

‘It was a tough old shoot,’ Carlyle recalled, something that is conveyed in the clear reluctance in many of the others Gaz dragoons into dancing with him, such as Dave Horsefall (Mark Addy) and even his old steelworks boss, Gerald Cooper (Tom Wilkinson).

The men overcome insecurity about their image by quite literally flaunting it around for all to see, although we don’t actually get to marvel at the routine until the final scene of the film, in which the cast really did strip in front of a massive audience. The stars only agreed to do it providing it was recorded in one take, meaning the film’s choreographer had to hide behind the curtain, screaming instructions at the performers just out of shot.

The Full Monty is one of those films which could be categorised as a 90-minute classic, much like Trainspotting, which came out around the same time and also starred Carlyle. It lacks a single poor or unnecessary scene, and as one critic remarked, seems remarkably innocent and sexless considering the many dark themes it covers, such as depression, suicide, and homosexuality.

Like all great films, it shows loveable characters overcome adversity in order to improve either themselves or, in this case, their relations with others. In taking up the dancing Dave falls back in love with his wife, Gerald can pay of his mounting debts, and Gaz can finally win the respect of his son.

In a great performance, Carlyle’s hero is fearless and motivated until the penultimate scene, when the men are about to go on and Gaz realises that his dancers are going one better than the Chippendale’s in yet another way.

Not only are they going naked, they have attracted an audience wider than some local women. The entire town has turned up to see them throw all their insecurities away with their shirts.

The Full Monty has not surprisingly remained a beloved cult classic event 20 years on.




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