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In Conversation with Omar Khan, Writer and Star of 'The Plunge'

Omar Khan is an award-winning Actor, Presenter and Writer. His previous projects include starring in five Bollywood feature films, voicing CBeebies cartoons and producing and acting in his own sitcom pilot “Love, Sex and Side Effects” which was developed by the BBC.

Omar's most recent venture "The Plunge" premiered at Palm Springs 2019 and had its UK premier at Aesthetica. The film follows a couple as they experiment with intimate activities and sex toys. But all falls apart when the fun goes a bit too far, resulting in a trip to A&E for the protagonist. Unluckily for him, his mother happens to work there.

Strand caught up with Omar at the 2019 London Lift-Off Film Festival to talk about his experience writing and starring in the hilariously charming film, talking Back Street Boys, comedic inspirations and slutdrops.

What was your inspiration behind writing The Plunge?

That first scene where the girl asked to...sexually experiment almost happened in real life, I was a bit younger, a bit more naive about these things. It took me a while to work out what she was actually asking, because I was like, really confused, and then finally it clicked as to what was going on and I was a bit like 'ah no' and backed out of the situation. However, it got me thinking, I got talking to a few of my friends, I spoke to a GP friend of mine who said you'd be surprised by how many people end up in A&E because of things getting stuck in certain places. It's always bizarre things like shower gel bottles and 9 times out of 10 the excuse will be, "I fell on it" and you’re just like really...really?

When we were writing the screenplay we just kept raising the stakes, taking it to that next level. We kept thinking what is the worst thing that could happen to this guy in this situation, and I just thought actually running into his mum, whose a doctor on call that day, would probably be the worst thing that could happen to him, so I then put that in and developed the screenplay, and the director was really instrumental in helping me put it together, and six months later we were filming it.

How did you find the process of writing a more 'controversial' film like The Plunge?

I guess I never really thought of it as being controversial, but just this funny thing that happened and thought let's make a film about it. One thing I was worried about was when we were approaching actresses to play the other part, we had to say ‘oh, so there’s this film about a dildo, do you want to be in it?’ I mean which actor's gonna go ‘yeah, yeah that’s like literally the role I’ve been waiting for’.

I was really blessed because Lydia Wilson ('About Time', 'Star Trek Beyond', 'Never Let Me Go') who stars in The Plunge, read the script and saw the potential and humour in it. I think she also really wanted to work with our director [Simon Ryninks] as he’s super up-and-coming, so she came on board.

The Plunge actually sort of opens up in a sex scene, and it was quite weird because I literally met Lydia that morning and it was like ‘okay great if you just wanna take your clothes off and climb into bed that’d be great.’ You're just kinda there like 'oh no this is embarrassing'. However, she’s got loads of experience and she was really cool about it. You just gotta get into it with acting.

Do you have any comedic inspirations?

Growing up, Back To The Future was definitely my thing, so Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd. I mean, whether you call Back To The Future a comedy or not, I don't know, but I think it’s hilarious. It was a massive influence growing up, that’s why my next feature that I’m writing is a time travel movie...about nuns, so it’s kinda got that Monty Python-esque vibe. We’ve got the line ‘you’re not the messiah, you’re a very naughty nun', so it’s all very inspired.

I use to love Groundhog Day and romcoms too, like While You’re Sleeping and Serendipity and those kinda films, which makes me sound a bit random but that’s what I grew up with, so that’s why making a film like The Plunge which is like a romcom has been amazing, all my films have had a sorta rom-comy tone to them.

I can imagine it was quite a fun set, do you remember any particularly funny moments?

It was really fun actually, I was really blessed. There was a lot of singing, Lydia loves boy bands so we were just sitting there singing Back Street Boys and Take That. We worked out routines to Back Street...

I think we've all been there, going slightly crazy on set...

Oh yeah totally. I’ve got a really good slut drop going on now [laughter]. Really should have put it into The Plunge.

Haha, we would have loved to see that. What are you up to next, any more dance moves we can look forward to?

I’ve got three plays potentially coming up in 2020, which will go on tour, one is a musical romcom about an Asian family wedding, another is a play called Golden Child, which is a look at performance enhancing drugs in taekwondo. We’re so ready to villainize people, so I want to explore what pushes someone to that point, where you think, oh I know, 'I’ll take performance enhancing drugs'. There's so much emotional abuse that someone goes through, especially with this desire to win. That’s a more serious play, I tend to do more comedy stuff.

I’ve also got a few short films that are ready to go but just sorting out funding for them at the moment. One of them is another sex comedy like The Plunge, about them trying to have sex anywhere but the bed, so maybe we can incorporate some Back Street Boys dancing into that [laughing]. I've also got another sci-fi I’ve written, so quite different tones. It’s exciting when you can play with your genre and experiment and see what tone fits you.

Edited by Juliette Howard, Deputy Film Editor