Former Emmerdale actor Michael Parr on why he would love to play Wakefield hardman Paul Sykes in new film

A former Emmerdale actor has said he would "love" to play infamous Wakefield hardman Paul Sykes in an upcoming film.

By Nick Frame
Monday, 16th May 2022, 11:47 am

Independent film makers Western Edge Pictures has hinted that work on the long-awaited feature about the life of the former Lupset boxer and long-serving prisoner could begin in the coming months.

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And Michael Parr, who spent five years in the ITV soap opera, has said that he wants the lead role.

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Paul Sykes and former Emmerdale star Michael Parr, who hopes to play the infamous Wakefield hardman in an upcoming film.

Like Sykes, he has an interest in boxing and although he comes from across the Pennines, he says he has already worked on the West Yorkshire twang.

The 35-year-old actor, who has returned from living in Los Angeles, said: “I’ve always had an obsession with Paul Sykes, and when I heard they were doing the film I just thought I’d love to play him.

“These little films can really put characters like Sykes on the map.

“He was a physical specimen and I’d have to put two stone of muscle on.

How Michael Parr looked after putting his picture through an ageing app, prompting comparisons to Paul Sykes.

“I’ve heard there’s a few people in the running, but I bet none of them can get Sykes’ mannerisms like me, I’ve studied them down to the bone.”

Sykes became a professional boxer in his younger years, competing for the British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles - both of which he failed to land.

But stints in prison for petty robberies as well as violent episodes while behind bars earned him a reputation as being one of Britain’s most difficult prisoners during the 1970s and 1980s.

He spent time in 18 prisons in total, locked up for 21 out of 26 years, and became good friends with notorious prisoner Charles Bronson.

Paul Sykes in his boxing days.

Sykes’ reputation for violence was well founded and he was later banned from Wakefield city centre for his unpredictable anti-social behaviour, aggravated by his heavy drinking.

He died in Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield in 2007 from pneumonia and liver cirrhosis. He was aged 60.

His reputation continues to divide folk, with some seeing him as a legendary figure, while others describe him simply as a violent bully.

Videos of Sykes remain popular on YouTube, including footage of him being interviewed in his back garden in Lupset, in which he obscurely boasts about the best way to tackle a shark.

True crime author Jamie Boyle has penned a series of books on Sykes in recent years, all of which have been read by Michael Parr, and which pricked the interest of Western Edge Pictures.

Award-winning director Vaughan Sivell is understood to be involved with the movie.

Western Edge is expected to spend around £2m on the production, which will be filmed around Wakefield, Leeds and Pontefract. It will focus on Sykes from 1989, when he was 43 years old.

Mr Boyle said: “I’m hoping filming is going to start in the summer, and an 80s band is going to do the soundtrack, and that’s going to be massive. It’s going to be (premiered) at Leicester Square.

“Sykes is someone that people are interested in, either way, regardless of opinion, he is a fascinating character that can’t be ignored. He is the most interesting person I’ve ever studied.”

Speculation has been mounting that Michael will be given the part after he placed a photo of himself through an ageing app on Instagram to his 248,000 followers.

Bearing a Sykes-like moustache, he added the caption ‘having Paul Sykes vibes’.

Michael said: “A newspaper picked it up and I’m not sure if they knew I’d put it through the app or I’d just been out in the sun too much!

“But people kept saying I looked like Paul Sykes, I’ve watched the monologue of him talking about punching sharks so many times, I even used to do it at auditions as a bit of a comical piece.”

This article was first published by the Wakefield Express.