Guy Ritchie - Director,

Jason Flemyng - 'Tom'

and Jason Statham - 'Bacon'

'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels'

In February 1999, these three lads sat down with me to discuss their film, 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels'. Newcomers to Hollywood, they were very candid and forthcoming with their answers. You could tell their egos were beginning to grow, but fortunately I met them before they got Burt Reynolds-sized.

JS: [Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels] is about four lads that get involved in a card game. They stake 25000 pounds each. And the card game is sorta rigged, by a very heavy East End criminal; and we lose due to this set-up. We lose a half million pounds, and we get a week to pay the debt. So we get threatened by this big heavy criminal who works…he's a debt collector. Well, he's not, in fact…there's another character who is a debt collector. But, there's a guy--
(Guy starts mock snoring; the trio starts laughing.)
JS: -- called Barry the Baptist. (referrring to Guy's mocking) I knew, I was waiting for this fucking--
JF: You did so well up to then.
JS: Well I'm gonna finish if you two sucking leave me alone.
GR: (with a laugh) You keep going, Jay.
JS: Right. (turning his back, trying to ignore Guy and JF) So what happens is, we get a week to find the money, otherwise we start losing fingers off each of our hands and then Eddie, who's the card player out of us four--
GR: Fingers off of your hands as opposed to your feet…?
JS: Well done, Guy! How he ever wrote a film, I do not know! (They laugh) But yeah, so we're given a week, and there's sort of a spiral of events of us trying to raise the money.
JF: Japes and capers that it is.
GR: Japes?
JS: It's much better than that, but it's the best I could do at the moment.
PS: Well, I can tell everyone for myself. I enjoyed it. Thank you.
JF: Thank you.
PS: It opened, let's see, August or September--
GR: August.
PS: --in the U.K.? And it's done phenomenal business.
GR: About 23 million now.
PS: Eight weeks number one?
JF: Eight weeks number one.
PS: Wow!
JF: Yeah, it's a good feeling.
PS: What does that do to you?
JF: It gives you a right popcorn. (laughs) It makes waking up in the morning a lot easier. It's a good feeling, a good feeling. We've gotten a lot of really good response. I've done stuff I'm not that proud of, and when you get recognized from that, you go "Eh eh eh"--
PS: What are you not proud of?
JF: Oh, eh…the feminine hygiene adverts, The Spice Girls the movie, dressing like cheese for Dutch television; loads of odd nonsense. But you do something that people recognize you and you're excited about, it's a really nice feeling.
PS: How does this differ from the 'better' films you've made, like Rob Roy?
GR: He played the kilt in Rob Roy.
JF: I did. I was Liam's sparring partner in Rob Roy. But all the other films I'm proud of, it's just that this is popular, and it's a weird thing.
PS: Well, it keeps getting "the next Trainspotting" and Guy's "the next Quentin Tarantino"--
JF: Jason [Statham]'s the next…Danny LaRue.
(They all laugh)
PS: How was the reaction at Sundance?
GR: Well, the great thing about an American audience is they're a lot more enthusiastic than a British one. Jason [Flemyng] will demonstrate what an American audience is like.
(JF proceeds to calmly clap his hands together in a dignified manner, nodding his head slowly in approval)
GR: And now he'll demonstrate what an American audience is like.
(JF screams and pounds his feet and makes very Arsenio-like arm motions)
GR: So, from our point of view, it's a lot better coming here, watching the enthusiasm from the Americans.
PS: This Vinnie Jones guy; he was a boxer, is it?
GR: Well, he wasn't supposed to be. He was, but…(laughs)…he's a soccer player, actually--
PS: Oh, okay. I'm sorry--
GR: No no no, he did a lot of boxing, under a soccer pitch. Jay [Statham] will tell you about Vinnie Jones.
JS: Yeah, he's known as the hard man of British football. They brought out a video; it's called "Vinnie's Video Nasties", and it's all about him hackin' down the opposition in a record amount of time. The video actually covers a lot of things, but one of the records that he holds is from hacking down one of the players in three seconds--
GR: That's from the beginning of the game.
JS: So the ref blows the whistle and he gets sent off immediately. So that's one of the records that he holds, and the video's all about how you smash up your other opponent without the ref seeing.
PS: Well, he's definitely like a…I wouldn't want to run into him in a dark alley…
JF: He does look the part, doesn't he?
PS: Yes, he's definitely Big Chris. Guy, it's your first feature film. What have you done before this?
GR: The best way to get into features in the U.K. is - we don't really have a film school like you've got here - so the most linear way is to start with music videos, after music videos then into commercials, after commercials do a short film then, in theory, go into making a feature.
PS: Did you ever do any commercials that were aired here in the States?
GR: No. I made probably the crappiest commercials ever made. Actually, second only to my crappy videos. So no, I certainly did nothing that was aired [in the States]. All my videos and commercials were narrative-based so, you know, they weren't about image or about story, and after a while the commissioners grew tired of the fact that they were just short stories. But it's the best way to move on, because you get paid to make short stories. And they're three minutes long and a lot of fun.
JF: You can flex your filmic muscle.
PS: Jason [Statham]. You used to do ads, as well. (a small laugh) Levi's?
(They all start to laugh)
JS: Jesus Christ! (laughing a bit) If I had a dollar for every time this has been asked, I wouldn't be doing too bad actually. (To JF) Can you answer this for me?
JF: Jason actually campaigned for French Connection, but the reason he was modeling at all was because he was one of the best divers in Europe, highboard diving.
JS: Yeah, not muff diving.
JF: There was an agent who represented sports people, and through that he got the campaign for French Connection. One of the investors for this film owns French Connection and showed him to Guy, who was very keen on him and that's how they met.
(JS puts Guy in a headlock, says sweet 'ohhs' and such to him)
JF: After about five minutes, Guy realized Jason would bring an authenticity to the part that he plays that no other actor could bring, therefore he's in the film. Thanks very much, good night! (laughing)
JS: (with a sigh of relief) Thanks for saying that.
JF: (with a big laugh) He hates that question so much, he's had it for a year and a half. (in a stuffy voice) "So, tell me about the Levi's commercial you were in. (everybody laughs) He's like, "Oh, God." (throws his hands to his head in disbelief)
PS: You have to ask. You've got no credits to talk about other than a modeling gig.
JS: Yeah, I'm not knocking the position I had at the moment. I mean, if it wasn't for that particular job, I would never be in Guy's film. So, it's just a boring question for me to answer because it's been asked so many times.
PS: Probably five times today.
JS: That's not your fault at all. (with a laugh) But you must bear with me with my lack of enthusiasm for that quesiton.
PS: Guy. For a first-time [feature] filmmaker to be given this amount of money, this amount of responsibility is a big deal. How did you go about pulling that off? Did you have to show your commercials around?
GR: The commercials, the short film, and the promos made absolutely no difference whatsoever. It was the script. And a production company initially wanted to pick up the script. They didn't. We went through more production companies than I care to remember. But in the end, what we did was, a load of individuals put up the money. They put up a hundred grand each or so. And it came to about one and a half million dollars or something. And that reduced the responsibility between ten, fifteen very rich people. So, they had faith in the thing anyway - that's the theory. But there was no establishment that we got money from, it was just a consortium of individuals that we got lots of money from. And then we slashed the budget, slashed the budget. Because originally we were going to make it for about seven, eight million dollars, somewhere like that. So we just kept on hackin' it down, hackin' it down until we didn't pay anyone. Basically, we all did it for free, which is a much better environment in which to work under, actually, because there's a great feeling of camaraderie and everyone supports one another and you get no prima donnas and no one gets snotty.
PS: Taking your script and the final finished product, you had to change things in there because you didn't have enough money to pay for it all, correct?
GR: Well, my theory is that you should put everything on screen. So if the actors are game, then they won't get paid, the director won't get paid, and the producer won't get paid, and then everything else has to fall into suit. And it does work like that. All the money went onto the screen, so we got the equivalent of $5 million on screen, because no one got paid. I mean, no one got paid. It was the film that came first, and everyone committed to that. And once they're in for a penny, they're in for a pound. And it went like that all the way through. Even if I had more money, it wouldn't have made any difference, it's just we would have put on a few more pounds.
JF: Yeah, the catering would've been better.
PS: Jason [Flemyng], you've done a good bit of U.K. miniseries. Which ones did you do? And are they as bad as U.S. miniseries?
JF: Well, I've done Dr. Finney's Casebooks for two years, which they all come out here.
GR: You've done a lot of shit jobs, didn't ya?
JF: Witchcraft was a three-part that came out here. Loads and loads and loads. But the one you're thinking about, you evil man, is called Tess of the D'urbervilles.
PS: (laughing) Yeah, that's it. I forgot that one.
JF: (mocking me) "Yeah, that's it."
(Everyone laughs)
JF: I've got bills to pay, you know. Yeah, I know that was a mistake. The mistake actors make, which I've learned - it took me ten years to learn it, and I might unlearn it next year - is that when you start getting offered stuff, it's really flattering. And if you're meek, and you don't have a big ego, you think, "Oh God, that's amazing they want me to do it," and you respond positively and say "I'd love to do it. It's so nice of you to ask me," but you have to be a bit more sort of distant and look at your career as a whole. Otherwise, you'll end up ruined in pieces like me with no respect from anyone. But I don't mind that, I think it's good to take it with a pinch of salt and have a sense of humor about what you do.
PS: Guy, your next film. Diamonds, is it?
GR: Yeah, tentatively it's called Diamonds.
PS: Did this come as a direct result of people looking at Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels? Because I read that Tom Cruise, when he first saw it, stood up and was just raving during the end credits. Does the reaction make it that much easier to keep going?
GR: Well, the good thing about the Cruise event is that we were having a screening, we were trying to sell it in the States, and Tom happened to be there. And yeah, he jumped up and down and put on sort of an American enthusiastic stuff. And we had all the film execs in there, and they swiftly got on their mobile phones and said, "Oh, we should buy this one. Tom likes it." And so they picked it up, and after they picked it up, it went around the studios, and the studios all loved it. And then I made a deal with Sony for my next film before they'd even read the script. They just went, "Alright, lads."
PS: They were one of the studios that loved it.
GR: Yeah, there's a chap called John Calley who runs Sony. John Calley is a serious geezer. A geezer in England means good fella.
(He starts laughing, thinking of it's American meaning)
JF: You just called him a serious old bastard.
(everyone laughs)
GR and JF: (pleading) "That's not what we meant."
GR: Just blew ourself out of a film there. (calming down) Um, so what was the question? Did I answer it?
PS: You answered it. Is [Diamonds] still in the script stage or have you started production on it?
GR: It's still in the script stage. But we'll do the same thing as we did with Lock, Stock… We'll make a short film about it first, and then we'll go on and make the feature.
PS: You're gonna still do that now that you have the money?
GR: Well, you can't sell a short film, they're absolutely useless. But it's just good for everyone that's gonna be involved in the feature to do it. And also it gets everyone's creative juices flowing. I mean, if you're all sitting around for a month working out shots, talking about it, you'll find that you get so many spinoffs from that, just being around that environment and talking about nothing else other than that project, that it will tool you up for a bigger project. That's my theory, anyway, I'm sticking to it.
PS: Is it gonna be the same, gangsters and guns?
GR: Yeah, it'll be in the same genre. I didn't really want to make two gangster films, but the thing was, is that there was so many stories I heard while I was making this, and so many characters that I got involved with. I mean, there's so many suncultures in England. There's gypsies, and bareknuckle fights and dogfights and all these things which haven't been seen before. And whether they're good ot whether they're bad, I find them so very interesting. So it'd be silly not to make a film about them. Because if I don't, I know some clever bastard will.
PS: If you guys had more time, I'd want to hear more about the bareknuckle fights, but I guess I gotta wait for the movie.
JF: (in a pretty decent John Wayne voice) Ya'll go and see the film now, ya hear.