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Ritchie Rich - Guy Ritchie Interview

Author: Gaynor Flynn
Monday, November 3, 2008

Rocknrolla is a brilliant return to form for Guy Ritchie. 3D’s Gaynor Flynn caught up with the British director at the recent Toronto International Film Festival.

You have to hand it to Guy Ritchie. His last two films were universally reviled (Swept Away, Revolver), but rather than become a stay-at-home dad and leave the breadwinning to his ex, Ritchie is back. His latest film RocknRolla is a return to his Lock, Stock and Snatch filmmaking days. That is it’s another bold, brash gangster film set in Lahndan. This time the narcotic of choice is property. That’s right, bricks and mortar. Basically the story revolves around a couple of petty crims (Gerard Butler, Idris Elba) who owe money to Lenny Cole (Tom Wilkinson) who in turn is doing business with a dodgy Russian billionaire. The Russian transfers several billion Euros to Cole and lends him his lucky painting as a sign of good faith. But when the money is stolen and the painting goes missing, the games begin.

What was the inspiration for this film-
I suppose the movie was inspired by the fact that London has become sort of a new Wild West to a degree. It has changed so much over the last ten years. I suppose where its really changed is the upper echelons of society. So I just wanted to make some kind of a humorous commentary on that. And the story comes from an amalgamation of narratives. I suppose the main character of this film is the environment itself – London. So it’s a kind of Western if you will. It’s about this new, rich London.

And the whole ‘RocknRolla’ term… what’s all that about-

I’ve been informed more or less by the tabloids about the rock n roll lifestyle, but it seems that it has been going on for a long time; ‘RocknRolla’ has really become a phrase in terms of if someone is a RocknRolla they’re a volatile live wire with a strong desire for life. Because of that it’s fertile ground for a great story. They’re interesting characters these live RocknRollas and it seemed pertinent to put it into a film with all the other strands of what I can gleam from the headlines in London at the moment. I’m trying to make an amalgamation of that and of all the characters that summarise our culture at present.

What’s the appeal of gangster films do you think-

I suppose as long as films and stories are being told, we like stories about bad guys. I don’t think I’m unique in that respect. So I’m drawn to the dark side because again it’s an interesting world for stories. I suppose in the Usual Suspects there was the story of Keyser Söze, and I remember that everyone I watched that movie with, the story of Keyser Söze was what we all found so beguiling. And I just think we’re interested in the dichotomy of the human condition in that respect.

At the end of this film it blatantly sets up for a sequel. Why do another one-
Number two was inspired because we had so many stories left over. Actually while I’m sitting here waffling on about this, I’ve suddenly realised how exciting that world is, how many characters are in that world and how exciting London at this moment in time is. So there was just so many stories that we put in number one that Joel [Silver, the producer] thought it would be better to put some of them in number two. And it was Joel’s idea to come up with the to-be-continued theme.

I heard it’s going to be a trilogy, is that true-
That’s the idea. We sketched out number three, but we don’t want to get too cocky.

Why did you chose Gerard Butler for this movie-

His abs.

And what about casting Toby Kebbell who plays Johnny Quid the rock star-
Toby was in a couple of movies I’d seen before, Dead Man’s Shoes and Control. I was a big fan of both his performances and I was pretty sure he was the guy I wanted to use. So he was the first guy I met and I knew he was going to be the guy to do it. He just went on a diet for two months and lost 30 pounds and there’s not much left of him actually when we came to film. But that’s how those guys look, they’re just skin and bone.

Can you talk about the sex scene between Gerard Butler and Thandie Newton- You shot it in a pretty inventive way.
It’s an interesting scene in this respect because one thing I find rather boring are sex scenes anyway. So I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to incorporate our original sex scene but what happened was, Gerry took care of this for me. He turned up with a throat infection that day. It was going to be an insurance job, which essentially means that we all went home and we all come back a couple of weeks later and start all over again. So Thandie couldn’t kiss this infectious throat of Gerry’s and as they were all wrapping up I thought bollocks, what we’ll try and do is try and salvage something out of this. So what was going to be an eight-hour sex scene got put down into a 15-minute sex scene – that’s exactly how long it took us to shoot it. And I’m not even sure if they were on the same bed at the same time together. So that was another happy accident of look at the elements conspiring against us, which transpired to be going for us.

You use a lot of local slang in the film, were you worried how that will work internationally-

I suppose it’s more attitudinal than anything else. I like the idea that street speak has an attitude and a poetry. Sometimes, in the middle classes our language comes rather prosaic, so it’s just another aspect, another element of entertainment. But I do believe that Americans speak English. So I just wanted to it at least make it colourful. I’m not sure you need to understand it specifically but rather in terms of its attitude.

Next up is Sherlock Holmes right-

Right. Joel and I are doing Sherlock Holmes. It worked out because of the harmonious relationship we had on the last one so it only seemed natural for us to continue. So again it’s a partnership. The next adventure, which we are greatly enthusiastic about doing.

You’re last two films have had their critics, were you worried about how this one would be received-
Obviously it makes life easier when there the reviews are on the positive side. I’ve been on the sharp end of the stick for some time, so it’s nice to feel a bit of love in the house, as they say.

RocknRolla is in cinemas now.