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Walsall boy defies odds to star in The Girl With All The Gifts

Entertainment | Published:

A youngster from the Black Country has shot to stardom after appearing as a zombie in the latest film to hit the big screen.

Joel Sheldon, aged 11, of Sutton Road, Walsall, attends the Pauline Quirke Academy of performing arts on Saturdays. Whilst there, he was invited to attend an open-casting session for the film The Girl with All the Gifts, in Birmingham.

Joel was one of 500 children that got through the initial round in the casting, that was then whittled down to 42.

Sennia Nenua shares a scene with actress Glenn Close

Out of that 42, Joel was then one of three to be selected for a character role. He plays T-shirt Boy in the film, performing alongside stars Glenn Close, Gemma Arterton, Sennia Nenua and Paddy Considine. The film is a zombie horror drama set in a post-apocalyptic world. Joel's role is to hunt out one of the main characters and lead him to his doom. But the film means a lot more to Joel that just brushing shoulders with celebrities. His father Jason explains: "When Joel was around seven years old in 2011 he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Our world fell completely apart, it was awful and such a hard time for him. He had to go through radiotherapy, chemotherapy and a raft of other serious procedures.

Joel Sheldon as T-Shirt Boy in The Girl With All The Gifts

"At one point, after he'd had the tumour removed, the stitches came loose on his skull and he was rushed to hospital and for speed the doctors had to re-stitch his head without aesthetic. Joel didn't cry once. So for him to come through the other side and achieve this and be on the big screen, it's amazing. We're immensely proud of him, but he just takes it with a pinch of salt." Joel said: "That time in my life made me sad, because I had to have some lines put in when I was having the operation on my brain and that meant I couldn't go swimming, which I loved."

Now Joel is already considering a career in acting after appearing in the film.

He said: "I would love to be an actor when I grow up. I've just auditioned for a part in Game of Thrones, season six. I didn't get the part, but I'll be doing more auditions when I'm called up for them."

Joel is also a pupil at Hydesville School, Broadway North, Walsall, where he has won a scholarship for his performing arts work. Head teacher Andrew McGuinness said: "Joel is one of our performing arts scholars here at the school.

As the film is certified 15, Joel will not be able to see it until it comes out on DVD.

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