Newport businessman has key role in Gareth 'Alfie' Thomas rugby film starring Mickey Rourke

STAR PALS: Daniel O’Connell, second left, on a night out in Newport earlier this year with from left, Alison Watkins, Nikki O’Connell, Joe Calzaghe, Mickey Rourke, Rossini restaurant owner Tony Castaldo, Gareth ‘Alfie’ Thomas and Cheryl Castaldo

STAR PALS: Daniel O’Connell, second left, on a night out in Newport earlier this year with from left, Alison Watkins, Nikki O’Connell, Joe Calzaghe, Mickey Rourke, Rossini restaurant owner Tony Castaldo, Gareth ‘Alfie’ Thomas and Cheryl Castaldo

First published in Gwent news

A NEWPORT businessman is working with Hollywood star Mickey Rourke, after becoming an executive producer on his film about Gareth Thomas’ life.

Daniel O’Connell has taken a sabbatical from his day job as a stockbroker with the franchise Redmayne-Bentley in Newport.

This is after he and others were invited by Rourke, a retired boxer and star of The Wrestler, to be executive producers on his next film project, which will tell the story of Mr Thomas’ life and has Rourke as its star.

Mr O’Connell met Rourke through Gareth Thomas after he lent his support to the Newport-based charity Life Music Foundation, which Mr O’Connell co-founded in 2010.

The charity aims to improve the lives of disadvantaged young people through music and has Mr Thomas as its president.

Rourke visited Newport in July for a star-studded charity dinner at the Celtic Manor.

Mr O’Connell said: “Mickey mentioned then that they were struggling to bridge the gap in funding for his film about Gareth’s life.

“He knewI was in the financial services industry and invited me to become one of the film’s executive producers.”

MrO’Connell said they have nearly funded the film, with a lot of the money coming from within Wales.

He said: “I’m in regular contact with Mickey and he probably rings about three or four times a week. We went to Los Angeles in August and spent loads of time with him, working on the script and getting to knowhim.”

Mr O’Connell said Rourke wants to move to Wales for four months for training and to work on his accent before filming even starts.

He said: “All he’s going to do in those four months is to get his body in shape.

“They’ve lined up one of the Wales rugby conditioning coaches to train him for four months and he wants to move to the Bridgend area as well to get the accent right.

“He’s fully aware that a lot of people think he can’t pull off playing someone 25 or 30 years his junior, but if he can pull if off, it could be huge.”

Mr O’Connell said he decided to take the sabbatical – to concentrate on the film and the recently launched The Real Celebrity Fitness DVD, where a royalty from each sale goes to the charity – because he couldn’t manage his day job at the same time.

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