Director Garth Jennings tells Mike Davies why he looks back with affection at the blood and violence of his first 'adult' movie.
The film industry is constantly reminding the public about the damage piracy can do. Ironic then that one of this year's best films would never have existed had it not been for a bootleg video.
Son Of Rambow is the wonderful, funny but poignant story of how young chalk-and-cheese British schoolboys Lee Carter and Will Proudfoot, both outsiders, set out to make their version of the Stallone classic for the BBC's Screen Test Young Filmmakers Competition.
It may sound like a kids' variation of Be Kind Rewind, but not only is it a far superior film, it's also firmly rooted in the 80s childhood of writer-director Garth Jennings.
"My friend's older brother had got a pirate video of First Blood," he recalls. "It was the first time any of my school gang had seen a film with a rating higher than our age. The most shockingly risqué thing we'd seen up to that point was The Kenny Everett Video Show!
"Watching First Blood was an incredible experience. We spent most of our time mucking about in Epping Forest. And here was this misunderstood hero who could sew up wounds in his own arm, stalk armies of soldiers with sticks and bend the forest into traps.
"To our minds Sly Stallone was the coolest guy in the universe."
The 80s also saw the advent of the home video camera, allowing you to record weddings, family holidays or, if you were a youngster, your own back garden adventure movies.
"My dad inherited a video camera from a friend but he was useless with anything to do with technology," Jennings continues. "So I commandeered the thing and started making little films with my friends. A sequel to First Blood was obviously our first priority.
"It never occurred to us what a silly idea it was in reality, that my arthritic granddad playing a getaway tank driver was a daft bit of continuity. The main thing was we were all pulling together, coming up with all these weird and wonderful solutions for the story."
Seven years ago, Jennings, now part of the Hammer & Tongs production company and respected video director for the likes of Blur, REM and Supergrass, rediscovered the old tapes and was inspired to begin drafting a screenplay with a view to his debut feature film.
"I didn't want to do a sort of slice of life movie. I have a very rose-tinted spectacle view of that time with its smelly rubbers and space dust, so I felt this should be how you remember things rather than how they actually were."
Lee would be based on a childhood best friend while growing up next door to a Plymouth Brethren family provided the touchstone for the wide-eyed Will.
"They were very nice, but they did keep themselves to themselves," he explains. "They didn't watch television, listen to radio or read fiction books, anything that might prove corrupting influences.
"So when this 10 year-old boy sees Rambo you can understand why he would be so swept away and want to emulate its larger-than-life character."
However, just as he and producer partner Nick Goldsmith were developing the project, the script for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy popped through the letterbox with a note asking if they'd like to make it.
Two years later, Hitchhiker having topped the box office in several countries, Jennings went back to Son of Rambow, ready for the rush of people beating on the door to provide finance.
They did a massive mail-out detailing their ideas for the film.
Then, 18 months later, on the verge of giving it up as a bad job, along came French production company Celluloid Dreams. They loved the script, they wanted to make it, and they raised the £4 million budget.
Blessed with two outstanding, unaffected and irresistibly charming performances from first timers Bill Milner and Will Poulter as Will and Lee, the next step was to take the completed film to Sundance Festival.
"I'd never been to a film festival before and no one had seen the finished film. We didn't know if anyone was going to pick it up," Jennings says. "That night I'd never been more violently ill through nerves. It went well, but I didn't think it would get a big deal.
"Then it just went nuts and there was this crazy bidding war by some of the same people who had originally turned it down. It was so silly I just went to bed. When I woke up at five we'd got a £7.5m deal."
Of course, as the soft-spoken Jennings is quick to point out, you can't name your film after an iconic screen character and using clips from the movie without running into a few problems. Not even by adding a W to the name.
"Because using Rambo was always going to be an issue in the script it was always spelled with a 'w'; partly because I thought it was respectful towards the people that own the name and because I thought it would be fun if Lee spelled in phonetically because he's never seen it printed.
"I wanted to make it quite clear it wasn't any kind of Rambo sequel."
However, just to be doubly sure, Jennings wrote to Stallone.
"I asked for his blessing and permission to use his likeness in the key clips. I assured him my movie wasn't meant to be snide or a send-up. That it was about my affection for his character and how much it meant to me growing up.
"He signed all the approval forms and I couldn't have been more honoured or delighted. It was very exciting to see his signature even though it was very unimpressive, just a squiggle."
And what, you have to ask, did Sly make of the film?
"He loved it," beams Jennings. "And he wanted to know who the lookalike was we had playing him in the fantasy scenes. His comments were part of the loveliest moments in the entire amazing experience. And I really like the fact that in America they showed our trailer at the start of Rambo.
"These guys are going in to see Rambo and these two young boys suddenly appear. I think that's hysterical."