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Britflicks is delighted to speak with Terry Stone (TS), writer, producer and lead actor in Simon Rumley’s British gangster film epic, ONCE UPON A TIME IN LONDON.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN LONDON charts the rise and demise of two of the UK’s most dangerous gangsters, Billy Hill and Jack ‘Spot’ Comer.
Q) How did ONCE UPON A TIME IN LONDON come about?
TS: It came about due to a family connection with Jack Spot and having heard the many stories and myths growing up, I became very interested, or you could say obsessed, in pulling together a period crime film. I wondered why there had never been a film made about the birth of organised crime in the UK - along the lines of the epic ‘Once Upon a Time in America’ - and so, in the spring of 2011, I started working with William Gilbey on pulling all these stories and myths together and creating “the British Gangster Film of all British Gangster Films.” I developed ‘Rise of The Footsoldier’ in exactly the same way and that went on to become one of the best British Gangster films of all time.
Q) Tell us about the film?
TS: It’s a Shakespearean tragedy about two Jewish immigrants that shows the birth of proper organised crime in this country with the rise and fall of the undisputed King of the Underworld Jack “The Spot” Comer and how Billy Hill, once taken under his wing, ended up double-crossing him and taking over Jack’s throne.
Q) Simon Rumley is a fantastically talented director who we associate with the horror genre. So the fact that Simon’s directing a British gangster film is very exciting, how did he come on board?
TS: We met through Jezz Vernon, a mutual friend, and we just clicked. What Simon brings to the party is first class performances from the actors, a high level of tension, plenty of suspense and extreme, graphic violence which you really need for this film to elevate it from the usual low budget gangster films that are being made on an almost weekly basis at the moment.
Q) Tell us about your character Jack 'Spot' Comer?
TS: He grew up with the first world war going on in a life of poverty in East London. Being Jewish he was the butt of everyone’s jokes, bullied constantly and he ended up fighting continuously. Sticking with his Jewish brothers, they all ended up becoming products of their environment, falling into a life of crime and cutting or slashing people on a regular basis was no big deal. He soon worked out that there was money to be earned out of protecting businesses and people which grew into protection rackets and organised crime on a national scale.
Q) Has he always been a character you have wanted to play?
TS: Absolutely! As we were developing the screenplay I would look at the character saying ‘wow’ I would love to play that part’, but because of the responsibility of making an epic period crime film and the massive associated costs with making this type of film, I honestly thought it wasn’t meant to be and I was always going to play one of the supporting characters. In fact, we’d cast Eddie Marsan as Jack. Then due to a twist of fate or luck (depending on how you look at it) he ended up not being available until later this year. After speaking with my Producing Partner Richard Turner he pretty much said ‘Terry. Jack, that’s you!! Play the part as you may not ever get another opportunity like this to show people what you can do with such a great character’. My agent also begged me to do it and said if I didn’t do it I was an idiot and I would regret it for the rest of my life. When we cast Leo Gregory as Billy I had a conversation with Simon Rumley, the director, and we did some work together on the script and we read all the scenes with all the other actors and then we got to the point where Simon was like let’s go for it and the rest as they say is history.
Q) Does being in the starring role whilst also being a producer create any extra pressure?
TS: It does but I do have some outstanding Producing partners who I work with in Richard Turner, Tiernan Hanby and Chris Howard. Tiernan has pulled together an amazing crew of people for this film who have over the past three weeks delivered the goods in every department and this helps ease any pressures, it’s when people don’t deliver and don’t their jobs properly that I start turning green and ripping all my clothes.
Q) You’ve got a great cast with some great British gangster film pedigree: Leo Gregory, Geoff Bell, Jamie Foreman, Doug Allen, Roland Manookian, Josh Myers, Andy Beckwith…. How did you go about the casting process?
TS: When we started casting this film we wanted to cast the who’s who of every good British Crime/Hooligan/Gangster film over the past twenty years. There were a few faces who weren’t available or we couldn’t afford so that’s why a few of the names that you may expect to make an appearance in this film don’t.
Q) Making a period Gangster film is no easy task, what have been the biggest obstacles you have had to overcome?
TS: Finding the filming locations was a big challenge as nothing looks like it did in the 1930’s – 1940’s. Plus the costume department had to be able to dress 58 actors and hundreds of extras without having a huge budget to spend on costumes. There are a lot of stunts and fights in this film as well as other obstacles but the locations and the costumes for a period film to me would always be the biggest challenges and the biggest costs.
Q) When are you hoping to get the film released?
TS: It could be late this year or it could be early 2018. It will all depend on what date the UK distributor feels is the best for release.
Q) Are there any other British Gangsters you’d like to bring back to life on the Silver screen?
TS: Loads…watch this space! 😊
Q) Any more films in the pipeline?
TS: I have lots of film in development at the moment but production-wise I will be making (alongside my various partners) a 3D animation entitled “The Claus Supremacy”, a film about the Beatles entitled “The Longest Cocktail Party”, a film about The Shah of Iran entitled “King of King’s” and a documentary about my previous life as one of the world’s biggest club promoters entitled “King of Clubs”.
Thank you Terry Stone for taking time out to talk to Britflicks!
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Britflicks talks with prolific British independent film producer Jonathan Sothcott about his upcoming features WE STILL STEAL THE OLD WAY and BONDED BY BLOOD 2, his film production company Hereford Films and the British film industry.
Q) Its looking like an exciting year for you Jonathan! Starting off with WE STILL STEAL THE OLD WAY, which is out now on Digital and on DVD 17th April. Can you tell us about the film?
JS: Yes it’s a sequel to a film I made a few years ago called We Still Kill The Old Way which did very well on DVD and television here. The studio was after a sequel so the director and I cooked up a prison break story, scripted by Simon Cluett. Its another fun does-what-it-says-on-the-tin (Empire, I think, once described my output as ‘Ronseal cinema’) geezer movie that’s perfect viewing for Easter bank holiday Monday, when it hits DVD and Blu Ray.
Q) Are there any plans for a further addition to the franchise?
JS: Yes we’ll be making the third and (for now, anyway) final one, We Still Die The Old Way, this summer. There are loose ends I want to tie up and it will be darker in tone, more like the first film, with a refresh on the creative team. The second, by virtue of not having a revenge theme, is a little more capery and fun, which of course suits Ian Ogilvy well, but he can do the darker stuff too and the third film is very much focused on the relationship between him and Chris Ellison’s character.
Q) There’s some great seasoned actors in there, what’s it like working with these guys?
JS: Oh I love it. What’s not to love. Across these two films I’ve had a Bond villain, 2 Bond girls, a Saint, the 2 best actors from The Bill, the star of Sleeping With The Enemy… you can just sit and listen to them tell stories all day (well, you could if we didn’t have a film to make). I always say that working with all these wonderful actors is like getting out all your favourite childhood toys and playing with them again.
Q) How did you and director Sacha Bennett get together?
JS: Tinder. No, we met at a Film London party in 2009 when he was doing Bonded By Blood but never kept in touch. Then a mutual friend at Universal suggested we should work together and we bonded (not by blood) over a mutual appreciation of white wine. Sacha’s a very warm, pleasant guy to be around, he has a nice energy. I think the second film benefits from his naturally lighter touch – its very much his film, I left him to get on with it really beyond casting a few of the guest stars (Vas Blackwood, Deborah Moore, Patrick Bergin).
Q) Next up in May you have the release of BONDED BY BLOOD 2, directed by Greg Hall. Now having seen the film I must say that’s a master stroke, how did working with Greg come about?
JS: Thank you. Greg was recommended to me by our mutual friend Nick Nevern, who has been in many of my films. He came into the office one day and we had a chat. He’d made a rather good bank heist movie which was bizarrely (and thoroughly misleadingly) released here as Dangerous Mind of a Hooligan. I liked him, he had a real, gritty style. So when we decided to go that way with Bonded 2 he was a natural choice. He’s a very good director and he delivered exactly what I wanted on that film.
Q) Producing a film which is still very much current as BONDED BY BLOOD 2 is with boys still inside, families bereaved etc. did that effect how you approached the film?
JS: That’s why Simon Cluett, who wrote it and Greg the director, worked closely with Bernard O’Mahoney, who wrote the book on which it is based. Bernie is the only surviving member of the Essex Boys gang and he’s a really nice, funny guy. He believes that this is the best film in the cycle because it is gritty and realistic. The story line is more reflective of the actual crime scene in Essex than certain other films. The thing is, the good ones all bring something to it – Rise of the Footsoldier was so well directed and had that powerhouse performance by Craig Fairbrass. Bonded By Blood had Vincent Regan. This film sits up there with these two – it isn’t some daft cash in. They’re getting a bit silly now – Essex Boys The Musical will be next!
Incidentally, several people have asked why we call it Bonded By Blood 2 when most of the main characters died in the first film. Terry Stone and Rebecca Ferdinando reprise their roles in flashback scenes. But the reason I wanted to call it that is that Bonded By Blood is a powerful brand – the first one sold 45,000 DVDs in its first week alone. If we’d called it Essex Boys The New Generation it could have been misconstrued as one of those terrible £20,000 films. Bonded By Blood was a quality film and I think we’ve made a worthy sequel.
Q) As well as the usual faces, Terry Stone, Chris Ellison and Tony Denham who always produce the goods, I was impressed by Mark Harris playing Mr X, how did the casting of Mark come about?
JS: I’ve known Harris for years he has been in many of these films – Anuvahood first and then he did one for me called either Gbh or Riot – good little film that, it was sort of lost when Revolver collapsed. Its still on DVD from Lionsgate. Anyway, I like Mark, he’s a funny character. This part suited him – he’s a naturalistic South London actor. He’s in good shape. So it was a good fit. He’s in The Hatton Garden Job by my mate Ronnie Thompson at the minute too and Terry Stone’s upcoming Once Upon A Time In London.
Q) Being an Essex Boys: Next Generation film, BONDED BY BLOOD 2 features a host of young and up and coming actors; George Russo, Josh Myers, Sam Strike, Martin Delaney, Johnny Palmiero, Kirsty J. Curtis, Dani Dyer. There are some actors in there who are destined for the top! How did you go about casting?
JS: Well this was one of the joys of having a new generation – we could actually get in a load of new, younger, faces to balance out all the old favourites and give them bigger parts. We did some auditions with Greg and Lee the casting director but a lot of them I already had in my mind.
Johnny and George had both worked for me before on Top Dog (and Johnny again in We Still Kill The Old Way). Both leading men who should work more and both of them absolute gentlemen, really good guys. Josh’s father I have known for years and I liked him (Josh’s grandfather is Michael Myers who owned UK distributor Miracle Films. They released John Carpenter’s early films here and as an in-joke Carpenter named his Halloween villain after Michael!). Delaney and Kirsty Curtis I knew socially and wanted to work with. Dani Dyer had already done 3 films for me and it was nice giving her something meaty to play rather than her usual damsel in distress. Her father marked my card about Sam Strike as soon as he joined Eastenders. I met him properly at Dyer’s son’s christening and I remember Craig Fairbrass saying to me he thought Sam would be a movie star. As usual Craig was right. He’s great in the movie (they all are) and of course has gone on to play Leatherface in the new Texas Chainsaw massacre. I also think Casey Batchelor is great in the movie and will surprise people with how well she holds her own.
Q) What’s up next?
JS: Our first American film – a horror movie called Tormented, which is a supernatural spin on sleep paralysis. Its very The Conjuring/The Babadook in tone which I think will play really well internationally. Obviously we have We Still Die The Old Way this year. We also have a Shakespeare movie, a war hero biopic, 2 more horror movies, a reboot of an 80s American comedy franchise and a whole lot more.
Q) Tell us about Hereford Films?
JS: Hereford Films will, I hope, become an international business that started in London. Its named after Hereford Road in Notting Hill, where I spent a couple of very happy years living with an actress named Lisa McAllister. I started it initially with a strict idea of which kind of films I did and didn’t want to make but as the business model has evolved I have realised that to adapt is to survive, hence our slate being so diverse.
Last year I invited a long-time friend, Damien Morley to join the board and we are now partners. Damien is a successful businessman who owns the model agency Girl Management and, like me, loves movies. We had often talked about doing something together and Hereford, as a new venture, seemed like a good start. We’re very similar and very different at the same time & I am lucky to have him as a sounding board and a steadying influence on some of my wilder impulses. He’s a very, very smart guy.
We also work with a wonderfully eccentric young film-maker named Adam Kelly who does quite a bit of development for us and has written Tormented and We Still Die The Old Way. There’s also Paul doing nuts and bolts production - budgeting and cracking that whip and our lovely sidekick Lana who looks after us all (and is secretly in charge).
We’re based in Wood Green in North London which is great – I was in South Audley Street in Mayfair for years but there were so many distractions! As well as the film company we have launched a television division and are now actively developing formats for the small screen. We have a couple of other, non-film businesses too.
I hope that by the end of 2017 we’ll have an office opened in LA and operate between there and London. Damien and I are back and forth to the US pretty regularly and are building our stock over there.
Q) Do you think there’s a lot of snobbery in the British Film Industry?
JS: An insane amount. The prevailing attitude is one of failing upwards, these silly snotty people who sit and whinge over coffee mornings rather than getting on and making things. I think there’s no shame at all in making commercial films that people actually want to see. I realize that I’m the exception – someone once asked me if I thought about how I’d die and I said yes, I’d wake up, get my first good review in The Guardian and die of a bloody heart attack.
Q) With British independent films finding it almost impossible to get a Cinema release, what do you think should be done to address that?
JS: This is a difficult question. Any film can get a cinema release, you just have to pay for it. The question is do people want to see these kind of films on the big screen? A trip to the cinema is very expensive, especially with all the ancillary bolt ons – food, drink, travel etc. So people want bang for their buck with the movies they see there, they want Justice League and Rogue One.
The bigger problem is piracy – because cinema is expensive, people think that piracy is acceptable and that just isn’t the case. Just because a Mercedes is expensive, should you steal a Fiat? Nobody’s particularly interested in educating or enforcing the piracy problem and its slowly but surely killing the industry (much more than Netflix is, that’s just a sexy alarmist headline). People think it’s a victimless but ultimately the correlation between piracy and diminishing returns will spike and there’ll be no more indie films. Even the term piracy is frustrating as it has a sort of glamorous, Johnny Depp connotation. Its theft, simple as that.
Q) Being a producer prolific in the British Gangster Film genre, do you think the BFI (British Film Institute) give any backing?
They do not. And that’s no bad thing – I’ve never applied for soft (eg public) money in my life because I don’t want a quango of Tarquinns sitting round giving me their script notes about how Danny Dyer’s character should be a troubled vegan coal miner with one leg.
Q) Have you any ambitions to work in the US or are your feet firmly set on Blighty?
JS: I will never, ever stop making British films but I do want to have a crack at Hollywood – who wouldn’t? If you want to build cars you go to Detroit, right? I love it out there. But I’d be sad if I wasn’t coming back to make films in London.
Q) Who in the industry either in front or behind the camera you would like to work with?
JS: Behind the camera – Guy Ritchie, Matthew Vaughn, Noel Clarke, Nick Moran (as a director), Ronnie Thompson and Brian Blum. Actors (limited to British so as not to send you to sleep) – Billie Piper, Sir Michael Caine, Pierce Brosnan, Ross Kemp, David Tennant, Danny Mays, John Simm, Colm Meaney, Kate Beckinsale, PH Moriarty, Michelle Ryan, Thandie Newton, Gemma Chan, Andrew Scott and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. And that’s literally off the top of my head.
Q) Now you’ve been given $50,000,000 to produce a film, what genre’s it going to be?
JS: Low budget with lots of long location recces to tropical holiday destinations.. haha. I mean with my producing hat on I’d make 50 x $1 million movies because that way you spread your risk and if one breaks out it allows you to be more bold with your choices on some of the others. Two for the money and one for me, as Michael Caine used to say. I would love to do a big period gothic horror movie one day – a new take on Dracula. I’d love to do a Marvel comics movie too but $50 million doesn’t get you very far on one of those!
Q) OK so we always hear of your ‘Death Row’ meal, what would be your ‘Death Meal’ film be?
JS: The Long Good Friday. There’s no other scene in cinema which shows a man being resolved to his fate as well as the late Bob Hoskins in the back of that car, which seems appropriate for the question.
Q) Anything you would like to add? …..
JS: Only to say thank you for Britflicks – it has been a unique resource for both film-makers and fans since I started I think – your support and encouragement for the, well, Brit flicks is very much appreciated and long may you continue.
Thank you Jonathan Sothcott for taking time out to talk to Britflicks!
WE STILL STEAL THE OLD WAY is out now on Digital and on DVD 17th April.
BONDED BY BLOOD 2 is released on DVD/Blu-Ray & Digital 22nd May, 2017.
With the release of WE STILL STEAL THE OLD WAY, BONDED BY BLOOD 2 and LONDON HEIST fast approaching, Britflicks sat down for a chat with a guy who's in all three movies, Britflicks favourite Mr TONY DENHAM.
Tony plays Butch in WE STILL STEAL THE OLD WAY, Tretton in BONDED BY BLOOD 2 and Frank in LONDON HEIST, and while he’s not always in the lead role his performances never go unnoticed. So now we're delighted to see Tony in a leading role in the WE STILL…..THE OLD WAY movies.
Having appeared in over 20 feature films dating back to 1992, Tony’s has rubbed shoulders with the best in the business. His debut was in John G. Avildsen’s THE POWER OF ONE, starring Morgan Freeman, Clive Russell, Sir John Gielgud and a then little known Daniel Craig.
Since then Tony’s worked with the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis, Drew Barrymore, Jacqueline Bisset, Malcolm McDowell, Michael Caine, Patrick Swayze, Rowan Atkinson, Sir John Hurt, Toni Collette and Dame Maggie Smith to mention a few. He even taught James Bond to fight.
WE STILL STEAL THE OLD WAY is released on Digital 10th April and on DVD / Blu-ray 17th April 2017.
BONDED BY BLOOD 2 is released on DVD 22 May 2017.
The Movies Of Tony Denham – The Godfather Of The British Gangster Film
THE POWER OF ONE (1992) Directed By John G. Avildsen
Tony Denham's debut feature, a drama set during the holocaust saw him rubbing shoulders with the likes of Morgan Freeman, Clive Russell, Sir John Gielgud and a little known Daniel Craig.
The Power Of One [DVD]
IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER (1993) Directed By Jim Sheridan
Pete Postlethwaite, Daniel Day-Lewis, Emma Thompson, Saffron Burrows, Tom Wilkinson, Phil Daviswhilst. Whilst also in the cast is Frank Harper from Nick Love’s The Football Factory.
A biographical drama about one of the 'Guilford Four' Gerry Conlon, an Innocent man sentenced to life imprisonment for a terrorist bombing.
In the Name of the Father [DVD] 
BRUTE (1997) Directed By Maciej Dejczer (AKA Bandyta, Bastard)
John Hurt, Polly Walker & Polly Walker.
Brute [DVD] 
GANGSTER NO. 1 (2000) Directed By Paul McGuigan
Andrew Lincoln, Paul Bettany, Saffron Burrows, Malcolm McDowell, Eddie Marsan, Johnny Harris, Doug Allen, Lennie Taylor, David Thewlis & Lorraine Stanley.
A young blood develops a vicious and backstabbing scheming to overthrow his crime boss and become Gangster No. 1.
Gangster No. 1 [DVD]
SHINER – Directed By John Irvin (2000)
Michael Caine, Andy Serkis, Gary Lewis, Matthew Marsden, Martin Landau, Danny Webb, Gary Lewis, Frances Barber, Kenneth Cranham & Frank Harper.
A boxing promoter seeks revenge East-end style after his fighter son is found murdered after a bout.
CLOSE YOUR EYES (2002) Directed By Nick Willing
Miranda Otto, Shirley Henderson, Paddy Considine & Colin Farrell.
A young girl holds the clues to revealing a killer's whereabouts and his knowledge of an ancient secret to immortality.
Doctor Sleep - Close your Eyes (uncut)
THE FOOTBALL FACTORY (2004) Directed By Nick Love
Kara Tointon, Danny Dyer, Tamer Hassan, Neil Maskell, Dudley Sutton, Frank Harper, Jamie Foreman & Roland Manookian.
Selling over a million copies on DVD, The Football Factory is the ultimate hooligan movie that gives a realistic account into what its like to be part of a football hooligan firm. From the birds, beers, mates and rucking, it's not just about being part of something; it's a way of life.
The Football Factory DVD
KEEPING MUM (2005) Directed By Niall Johnson
Patrick Swayze, Maggie Smith, Rowan Atkinson, Emilia Fox & Liz Smith.
Well-meaning Vicar Walter Goodfellow (Rowan Atkinson) is so wrapped up with writing the perfect sermon; he’s oblivious to wife Gloria’s (Kristin Scott Thomas) intimate desires and her affair with golf instructor Lance (Patrick Swayze).
Keeping Mum [DVD]
THE SHOUTING MEN (2010) Directed By Steve Kelly.
Craig Fairbrass & Neil Maskell.
A gang of Gillingham FC supporters head up to Newcastle United for an FA Cup tie with the aid of disabled fan Terry (Matt Daniel-Baker), who provides the van and fuel on the proviso that they take him with them.
The Shouting Men [DVD]
TURNOUT(2011) Directed By Lee Sales
Neil Maskell, Ricci Harnett, Plam B, Nick Nevern, Peter Ferdinando, George Russo.
George who is flat broke attempts to raise cash by using his unbeknown girlfriend’s holiday deposit on an easy-money drug deal.
ST GEORGE'S DAY (2012) Directed By Frank Harper
Neil Maskell, Ricci Harnett, Plan B, Nick Nevern, Peter Ferdinando, George Russo.
After losing a drug shipment belonging to the Russian mafia, gangster cousins Micky Mannock and Ray Collishaw plan a heist during an England away game in Germany.
St George's Day [DVD]
WHITE COLLAR HOOLIGAN 2: ENGLAND AWAY (2013) Directed By Paul Tanter
Nick Nevern, Rita Ramnani & Vas Blackwood.
With a new identity under the witness protection scheme and living the good life in Spain, Mike Jacobs (Nick Nevern) travels to Barcelona for a football game. But things turn pear-shaped when he is spotted by mates of the London gangsters he helped send down.
The Rise And Fall Of A White Collar Hooligan 2: England Away [DVD]
THE FALL OF THE ESSEX BOYS (2013) Directed By Paul Tanter
Kate Magowan, Kierston Wareing, Lucinda Rhodes Thakrar, Nick Nevern & Dani Thompson.
Sex, drugs and gangsters roll in Paul Tanters take on the Essex Boys and the infamous Rettendon Range Rover murders.
Fall of the Essex Boys [DVD]
VENDETTA (2013) Directed By Stephen Reynolds
Danny Dyer, Vincent Regan, Roxanne McKee, Alistair Petrie, Ricci Harnett & Nick Nevern.
After being dishonourably discharged from the army after serving in Afghanistan, Jimmy (Danny Dyer) gets news that his mother and father have been brutally murdered by a gang of chavs. Jimmy then goes underground to deliver justice vigilante style.
The Hooligan Factory (2014) Directed By Nick Nevern
Starring Danny Dyer, Tom Burke, Jason Maza, Nick Nevern, Keith-Lee Castle & Ronnie Fox.
Football hooligan ‘Dexter’ (Nick Nevern) is released from prison and so begins his quest of revenge against rival football firm leader ‘The Baron’ (Keith-Lee Castle).
The Hooligan Factory [DVD]
MISS YOU ALREADY (2015) Directed By Catherine Hardwicke
Drew Barrymore, Toni Collette, Dominic Cooper, Jacqueline Bisset, Frances de la Tour, Charlotte Hope, Paddy Considine & Tyson Ritter.
The ups and downs of two female best-friends as they deal with what life throws at them.
Miss You Already [DVD] 
London Heist (2017) Directed By Mark McQueen
Starring James Cosmo, Steven Berkoff, Nick Moran, Nathalie Cox, Craig Fairbrass, Eileen Nicholas, Roland Manookian, Katie Clarkson-Hill, Mem Ferda, Daniel Eghan, Penny Judd, George Russo, Phelim Kelly
Jack Cregan, career criminal, family man and vicious armed robber, is on a mission for revenge. When Jack’s father Alfie Cregan is brutally murdered and their money from the Heathrow airport heist stolen, Jack, his cousin Sammy and other gang members Eddie and Frank, realize there is more to the stolen money and Alfie’s murder than meets the eye and once Jack begins to dig, he knows that his life will never be the same again.
We Still Steal the Old Way (2017) Sacha Bennett
Starring Julian Glover, Patrick Bergin, Lysette Anthony, Ian Ogilvy, Tanya Franks, Billy Murray, Vas Blackwood, Cristian Solimeno, Sean Cronin, Deborah Moore, Nicky Henson, Christopher Ellison, Anouska Mond & Brian Croucher.
Reuniting the original film's band of loveable rogues, the Archer Gang, an ageing criminal outfit carries out a daring robbery, only to be caught in the midst of their heist. Sentenced to hard time in Britain's toughest prison, they encounter a nemesis from their past intent on settling an old score.
We Still Steal The Old Way [DVD]
BONDED BY BLOOD 2: The New Generation (2017) Directed By Greg Hall
Starring Terry Stone, Sam Strike, Dani Dyer, Marin Delaney, Johnny Palmiero, Christopher Ellison, Josh Myers, Kirsty J. Curtis.
In the shadow of the Range Rover murders, drugs, violence and revenge continue to reign in a criminal underworld even darker and deadlier than before as a new generation of Essex Boys begin to carve their bloody mark.
Bonded By Blood 2: The New Generation [DVD]
Ahead of the UK premiere of his latest film FASHIONISTA at Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow, Simon Rumley reveals why he’s a fan of drugs in film and his planned foray into London gangster and…
Q: FASHIONISTA finds you back in Austin after RED WHITE AND BLUE. What excites you about Austin so much? Could FASHIONISTA have been set anywhere else?
SIMON: I had such a great experience on RED WHITE AND BLUE for so many different reasons that it was only natural that, at some point, I’d return to Austin. With Tim League (exec producer), Paul Knauss (co-producer) and Karen Hallford (casting director) I’ve got a great bunch of friends who also happen to be great collaborators and they form the core of both films’ Austin based crew and most probably without them neither films would have happened. Beyond that, I love the unique style of Austin, the food, the music, the cinema, the clothes, the neon lights, the bars and of course the people. And although it’s a place which is constantly growing, it still feels it has an intimacy which places like LA or New York or London lack.
FASHIONISTA’s evolution was very much a response to when I went back there in 2014 for a few days after spending a time there in 2009 and 2010 and noticing how much it had changed. Like most interesting places in the Western World over the last 5 years, it’s become gentrified; there’s more sky rise flats, more traffic, more upmarket restaurants and less locals. And, like most places which have been gentrified, there’s an erosion of some of the things that made it exciting in the first place.
The whole vintage shop phenomena was such a massive part of the Austin that I knew in 2009 and although there are still a lot of these shops, there’s definitely less - even the one we shot in had to relocate literally two weeks after we shot there…So the lead character’s obsession with clothes in the film and her transition from vintage mash-up to designer clothes is probably not something that could believably happen in many places; I’m not sure Fashionista could have been set anywhere else in that case…
Q: It’s a film about addiction, from sex and body image to clothes and identity, but not anything drug-related. You didn’t want to throw that into the mix?
SIMON: I’m a big fan of drugs in films but, to be honest, I think all that needs to have been said has been said so I’m not sure what I would have been able to add to the genre. I’ve always been interested in a period drug film - Alastair Crowley’s Diary of a Drug Fiend for example would offer a different perspective on the subject and I’m currently reading Johny Barleycorn by Jack London which is about his relationship with alcohol - not memoirs of an alcoholic as he’s keen to point out but alcoholic memoirs, set in 1913; fascinating to consider the power of alcohol through the ages.
I watched Christiane F again as research for this film and films like Requiem For A Dream and Trainspotting offer definitive investigations into contemporary drug addiction so I’m not sure what the point would have been but more importantly, the film is about consumerism and clothes are something that everyone can relate to. It’s so easy to buy anything these days and clothes seem to be the epitome of the consumer’s purchasing power. Given that it’s a phenomenon that hasn’t been explored in cinema it felt ripe for investigation.
Q: All your movies are so unique, your subject matters, locales and atmospheres feel so new and virtually unexplored. Is that the only way you can personally approach film as an artistic medium?
SIMON: Ah, thanks! From an early age, I’ve always thought that to make a mark, you should try to do something different, individual and unique. I think this belief is ultimately mis-founded; it might have worked at the beginning of the ‘Midnight’ phenomena for people like Lynch and Jodorowsky and Waters in the early/mid 70s but we’re living in such a culturally anodyne time that increasingly, people really just seem to want things that are similar to things they already know and understand and are thus non-challenging.
In terms of my own creative evolution, I definitely have tried to make every film different from the previous one and much of this is done through structure, editing and the visual aesthetics of the film. The structure to THE LIVING AND THE DEAD, RED WHITE AND BLUE and FASHIONISTA are completely different from each other as is the editing and the visuals. It keeps it interesting for me as I continue to explore what cinema is and what can be done with it as a medium.
That said, I’ve been trying to do more straight forward, linear films for a while now but things just haven’t worked out that way…
Q: Once more you completely pull the rug out from the viewer’s feet with some major surprises. Do you think of them first and build your story around them, or do they evolve organically?
SIMON: Yes; interested to see how people react to these moments! They all evolve organically to be honest although there were a few deliberate decisions to make some reveals as late as possible in the film.
Q: This contains flashbacks, flash-forwards, in fact flashes everywhere! How did you cope continuity wise?
SIMON: Ha! Good question. The script was written exactly how it ended up on screen so I’m not really sure anyone really knew what was going on apart from me and so continuity was a big issue. Continuity is an incredibly tough job and I usually find continuity people incredibly annoying and often not very good at their jobs. The only great continuity person I worked with was a woman called Helene Oosthuizen who did CLUB LE MONDE and THE LIVING AND THE DEAD with me and I’d love to work with her again but generally I try not to have continuity people on my film since they slow the whole process down and often confuse it. On RED WHITE AND BLUE we didn’t have one, on CROWHURST we didn’t have one and perhaps somewhat recklessly we didn’t have one on FASHIONISTA.
This could have been a massive disaster since there are many scenes which chronologically flow on from each other but appear in the script in a non-linear fashion. The producer and I spent a lot of time making sure the shooting schedule accommodated this and we were also incredibly lucky to have an amazing Costume Designer, Olivia Mori, who not only sourced all these incredible and different clothes (I think Amanda Fuller’s character had over 100 changes) but also spent a lot of time working out the exact linear chronology of the piece. We met up two or three mornings and went through her interpretation of the script, just to make sure it was correct. By the time we finished this, it was watertight in her mind but even then things could have gone wrong but, thankfully they didn’t. But yep, this was an incredibly challenging film but everyone, Olivia, especially, came through with flying colours.
Q: How would you crystallise your own directing style?
SIMON: Every script is different so I try to direct the script in order to get the maximum drama/tension etc. from it, using editing, music, camera angles etc. as a means to do this. This is probably why every film looks and feels slightly different.
Q: You give director Nicolas Roeg a name check in the end credits. And you gave Amanda Fuller and Ethan Embry BAD TIMING to watch before shooting. Is he your main inspiration here?
SIMON: Yes - I watched a few films such as Safe by Todd Haynes, Christiane F by Uli Edel, A Woman Under The Influence by John Cassavetes and Lost Highway/Mullholland Drive by David Lynch. But yep, Bad Timing was the main one and I gave it to Amanda and Ethan to try to offer a rough idea as to how the film would end up visually. As far as I remember, that jumps pretty much back, forward and everywhere else. I’ve always been a massive fan and was incredibly fortunate to get the opportunity to work with him on my previous film , which he exec’d produced. I’d always wanted to try to make a film which has the kind of structure he’s best known for and having spent some time with him, I thought it was a now or never kind of situation.
Q: You’re working with Amanda Fuller again, why do you rate her as an actress, because she fits into your own weird universe the best?
SIMON: Not specifically that per se, but most actresses wouldn’t have had the courage to do what she did in RED WHITE AND BLUE or even FASHIONISTA so now you come to mention it, that must be something to do with it! She’s absolutely fearless which helps and she’s a complete natural, able to turn the emotions on and off like a tap which also helps. Added to this, she’s a lovely person and completely reliable so it’s always a pleasure to work with her and the results are always fantastic. I’m sure we’ll work together again sometime!
Q: Do you prefer being a resolutely cult director? JOHNNY FRANK GARRETT’S LAST WORD was a departure for you. How do you plan balancing artistry with future commercial opportunities?
SIMON: After ‘The Living and The Dead’, RED WHITE AND BLUE, LITTLE DEATHS and my ABCS OF DEATH, I made a decision to go more commercial, something I’m still working on but hope to crack with my forthcoming films. JOHNNY FRANK GARRETT’S LAST WORD was supposed to be the first film in this direction but for various reasons, that didn’t work out exactly how I’d hoped. That said, I’ve been very lucky to make 8 feature films and 2 anthologies and generally had the freedom to do what I wanted with them. If you keep the budgets low enough, these films are still ‘commercial’ in as much as they make their investors’ money back. That said, I’d like to work on a larger canvas, get paid more and get the films seen by more people so that’s definitely my intention henceforth.
Q: And finally, what’s next?
SIMON: I’ve got three projects which are shaping up well. The first which we’re planning on shooting towards end of March is a period based London gangster film about two guys called Jack The Spot Comer and Billy Hill. They’re the missing link between Peaky Blinders and The Krays and there’s a fantastic story to be told about the ups and downs of their relationship and who, ultimately, was the King of The London Underworld. Given how this country maintains a fascination with gangsters, it’s incredible this story has never been told before because it’s ripe for dramatisation. Of the two projects after that, one is a revenge thriller set in post Brexit England and the other is a thriller set in the Mojave desert about a couple who are being shot upon by a sniper, based on an excellent novel called Eyeshot by a very talented young writer called Taylor Adams.
FASHIONISTA is showing at the Glasgow Film Theatre on Sat 25 Feb, 11.45am as part of Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow 2017.
Britflicks Podcast: Simon Rumley talks JOHNNY FRANK GARRETT’S LAST WORD
ADULT BABIES gets an exclusive reveal at Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow 2017. The film’s creator, actress / producer Joanne Mitchell, star of BEFORE DAWN & BAIT answers 10 scary questions.
When did your fascination for horror films begin?
I’ve been interested in horror since being a young kid. I liked to be frightened, whether it be reading a scary book, or watching one of the Hammer House of Horrors. But it wasn’t until my 30’s that I really became fascinated with the whole genre after making ‘Before Dawn’ and watching back to back movies at FrightFest!! The fans are so loyal and open minded and really know their stuff.
What was the first horror film you saw?
I’m pretty sure it was ‘The Thing’. If I remember rightly my brother and his mates had managed to get a copy and I snuck in! I was terrified, but fascinated at the same time.
What are your favourite horror films?
There are so many! ‘The Exorcist’ (which I recently revisited) is just brilliant and so well constructed. Love ‘‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ and ‘The Shining’ and one that has really stuck with me is ‘The Orphanage’, directed by Juan Antonio Bayona. It made me go on such an emotional roller coaster of a journey and I still think about it now. I also loved The Babadouk, again the sensitivity, especially of the mother and son relationship, something I could really relate to. And another Spanish film, ‘Sleep Tight’, probably more of a thriller I guess, but a very clever tense film full of ingenious twists and turns. Then there’s the Soska’s “American Mary” which I loved too - such a strong female protagonist. I have to mention a movie that I have only just watched too – ‘The Autopsy of Jane Doe’ with Brian Cox…
Your favourite genre director(s)?
Loads - Stanley Kubrick, Kathryn Bigelow, Alfred Hitchcock, Guillermo Del Toro, David Lynch…the list goes on and on! They all have their own unique gift in telling a timeless story. There is something to learn from all of them. I also must mention George A Romero. Having not previously been a Zombie Horror fan (until we made ‘Before Dawn’) he has to be one of the greatest in that department…with ‘Night of the Living Dead’ being one of the best and most terrifying.
Who are your genre inspirations?
I would say at the moment it’s the women who have pushed the boundaries within the genre. There are many men who inspire me too of course and will continue to do so. but within this genre it has always been very male dominated, so it is great that
so many women are coming to the fore and expressing themselves creatively now. For example, The Soska Twins with ‘American Mary’ and Jennifer Lynch for ‘Boxing Helena’, and ‘Chained’. I’m also a fan of Alice Lowe and really respect her work and dedication especially within the genre, crossing again the boundaries of actress, director, writer.
What’s the worst thing you’ve done in a horror film?
Oh I think that has to be in ‘Before Dawn’. I was covered in cold sticky blood, I had prosthetic teeth in, contact lenses (which I could barely see through) and spent hours in a cold dark basement in my pyjamas, totally freezing. However, the shot looked great, so it was most definitely worth it
Horror on TV – are you a fan?
Yes, definitely. It’s gaining a massive following with the likes of ‘The Walking Dead,’ ‘Penny Dreadful and ‘American Horror Story’, which is definitely paving the way forward. I think there should be more UK-based horror on TV though…
You and Dominic Brunt, must be the only husband / wife team working in horror films in the UK at the moment. Scary or what?
Most of my friends think it must be a nightmare living and working so closely together but it’s the opposite. Each time we start on a project it’s the start of another exciting journey. We bounce a lot of ideas off each other (not always agreeing on them needless to say!) particularly with stories and characters. We watch a lot of movies together and try to go to as many film festivals as we can together. Dom really knows his horror, he’s like a walking encyclopedia on the genre and I have to say a lot of the more ‘gory’ ideas come from him. It’s a fun, sometimes crazy, scary journey!
Vampires or Zombies?
Zombies!!! However, ‘What We Do In The Shadows’ gave them a run for their money!
Finally, what really scares you…?
Apart from some of the saddening atrocities happening in the world, in a genre sense it has to be my imagination. It’s night and dark…I’m on my own…in my house...I live in a very old house!
Thank you Joanne Mitchell
An exclusive clip from Adult Babies, introduced by director Dominic Brunt, will be screened on Sat 25 Feb at 18.55, before the screening of Patient Zero.
FrightFest Passes are £70 and available from noon on Mon Jan 16, 2016. Passes cover all films on Fri 24 & Sat 25 Feb ONLY.
Tickets for ‘A Cure for Wellness’ and ‘Phantasm: Remastered’ ’ plus individual tickets for the Fri/Sat films are on sale Mon Jan 23 from 10am. Price: £10.00. £8 concession.
To book tickets: +44 (0)141 332 6535 - firstname.lastname@example.org / www.glasgowfilm.org/festival
Joanne Mitchell and Victoria Smurfit in Dominic Brunt's BAIT.
BFi London Film Festival
Opening Gala film - A UNITED KINGDOM - press conference
About the project?
David Oyelowo: It wasn’t an easy project to get off the ground. The images in Susan Williams’ book Colour Bar arrested me and it became an obsession.
Amma Asante: I believe I’ve created a balance between the personal and the political. The love story allows intimacy and the background should be political in some way, like Belle.
Rosamund Pike: I loved the sheer personality of Ruth, her spirit is so gorgeous. The faces in the photographs [Colour Bar] – I was moved to tears by them. I saw the love and underneath what it had cost them. She has tremendous pluck – it feels dated but it’s a word of the time for the quality she had. She went for it heartfelt with her commitment to her love and her marriage.
Jack Davenport: Playing Sir Alastair Canning – play people who embody images of empire who are like pantomime villains. Because the story is true, I had no qualms having a go at this character. What he did was not approximate, it was appalling.
Both our characters [his and the character played by Tom Felton] are a little unsure, they are working from a manual [on the status quo] that is increasingly out of date. If it was fictional this would look unbelievable. No one made this up, this actually happened.
Jessica Oyelowo: They fully believed in what they were doing but their world is crumbling. It’s a story close to David and my heart.
Tom Fenton: I don’t see them as villains. They are a by-product of the system of the times, working out of fear for the status quo.
Amma Asante: The shift in attitudes happened almost overnight. Seretse is one of the greatest events.
Laura Carmichael: Ruth reminds me of my grandmother – they were women who lived through the war and found a bravery that surprised their parents.
Reaction in Botswana?
Amma Asante: It was comforting for them that it was being told through a woman of colour, they knew that it was a great untold story. The DNA of Botswana runs through the film. We tried to earn the respect of the people throughout all the steps of making the film. We found a generational divide in knowledge of the story. It is a residue of colonial history that gets lost, which makes it doubly important to get it right.
Diversity a theme of this year’s London Film Festival?
David Oyelowo: All we see here on this film is a reflection of the country we live in. It should not be special that Amma is directing this film – though it is to me, of course. Women are 50% of the population and that is not a minority. I hope people can see themselves in Ruth and Seretse, see their country’s history, see us as people of African descent and how that intersects with British history. We are proud to call ourselves British and African. With time, black women directors will become less special.
Amma Asante: Pathe are promoting diversity with Selma and Mandela. There are those that do and those that talk about it. That goes for producers, financiers bringing their weight to this story, their profile, box office and importance.. It’s a multi-pronged solution that includes audiences, us….
Rosamund Pike: Also distributors. It’s not put in the love story bracket but in the same one as 12 Years a Slave, which bears no resemblance. The goal is for this to be seen in the cannon of love stories in terms of genre, it should be given parity with films more like it in subject matter.
Amma Asante: There are more women directors than previously but still not a lot. The proportion of black female directors has doubled, but only to 1.4% and black directors as a whole as around 7%. Women are not a minority, we play a part in getting men into cinemas. We won’t always direct female stories but seeing things through the female gaze should not be an odd thing.
The majority of stories are about men, white, of a certain age, and diversity is challenging that. There are other realities. My default experience is female. Diversity is not removing people but allowing space for others to join and have the same privileges.
David Oyelowo: With Rosamund’s reaction to the photos I knew we were both on the same page with a desire TO see the story well and truthfully told, a celebration of two people we admired. Being in love is an exhilarating feeling so it’s exhilarating to see love on screen, to celebrate unashamedly how powerful love is. There is laughter, chemistry, joy.
Rosamund Pike: In the scene in the hotel, which is whites only, Seretse makes a joke about his dispensation to be there, they hear music from the bar where they can’t go together and they dance – we just did that spontaneously – it converts it into something to laugh about.
Jack Davenport: We’re used to representations of lust on screen and we get tired of the trope that love conquers all, but, yeah, it does and they did, and this incredible against-all-the-odds, deep love helped topple an entire empire. Emotional things say a lot more.
Amma Asante: The script – I felt that nothing should come without it passing through the prism of the couple’s love. For example, the scene in the House of Commons wth Prime Minister Attlee ,where his objections are expressed by saying Seretse and Ruth should not be allowed to be in bed together. I tried to hold onto that, I tried to ensure that they were seen against a strong backdrop of politics.
It’s a balanced story and it stays true to the book and the belief that it is not just about romantic love, it’s also about paternal love, love of country, a woman falling in love with his country. Everything is seen through the prism of one of these types of love.
A UNITED KINGDOM is the Opening Gala of the BFI London Film Festival and screens on 5, 6 and 11 October.
It is released on 25 November 2016 in the UK to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Botswana’s independence.
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Britflicks' Stuart Wright hosted a recent screening of ID2: Shadwell Army down in Brighton with writer Vincent O'Connell and producer Sally Hibbin. Here they talk about the film, the state of modern football, and of course Gumbo.
ID2: SHADWELL ARMY is out on DVD 3 October 2016.
Synopsis: Young British Asian Mo is a fast-rising police officer who goes undercover infiltrating Shadwell's resurgent hooligan element, which is fired up by the club’s takeover by a Russian oligarch and their unlikely adventure into European competition. Mo quickly becomes embroiled in the local schism between the British National Party (BNP) and English Defence League (EDL), and plans to build a new mosque in the shadow of the Shadwell ground creates a toxic atmosphere in which football and political violence form a perfect storm of social unrest. In the midst of this, Mo is faced with the essential existential question of who he is and where he really belongs. It's 21 years on and clever Trevor is now chief super, but what happens to the rest of the gang?
I.D., released in 1995 and largely based on James Bannon’s real-life experience undercover infiltrating the ‘Millwall Bushwackers’, was widely acknowledged as one of the finest examples of its genre, spawning a series of follow up films hoping to emulate its success and becoming a cult classic. The film, which starred Reece Dinsdale, Philip Glenister, Warren Clarke, Sean Pertwee and Claire Skinner, scooped the Audience Award at the Valenciennes Film Festival and was shortlisted for Best Screenplay by the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain.
ID2: Shadwell Army is as brutal and hard-hitting as the original and charts the tension in the local community as far right organisations look to exploit the testosterone-fuelled Shadwell Army to prevent a new mosque being built in East London. Set amidst the backdrop of the lavish fortunes of the modern English game, ID2: Shadwell Army is a must-see thriller that looks at what happens when violent allegiances spill over into brute violence and enflamed racial tension.
Britflicks recently had the pleasure of visiting the set of MY NAME IS LENNY, the biopic about boxer, hard-man and east end legend Lenny McLean.
Before the 2017 release of MY NAME IS LENNY come’s THE GUV'NOR, an insightful documentary about Lenny, his bouts with Roy ‘Pretty Boy’ Shaw and what made Lenny McLean the man he became.
Here we speak with Lenny's son Jamie McLean who is also one of the film's producers and director Paul Van Carter about the documentary and Lenny McLean the man.
Pre-order The Guv'nor [DVD] £9.99
Synopsis: The life of famed East End luminary Lenny McLean gets a touching, personal treatment in The Guv’nor. Famous (and infamous) as a bareknuckle boxer, bouncer, enforcer, and doorman from the late ‘60s, McLean’s journey from unlicensed fighter to best-selling author and star of Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels is also the story of a working class man from Hoxton weathering the changing decades before his untimely death in 1998. Director Paul Van Carter follows Lenny's son Jamie as he explores his father’s story from his troubled upbringing, including the physical abuse he suffered via his stepfather, to his local fame and later stardom. On the way we meet a variety of characters from East London legends through to Hollywood figures like director Guy Ritchie and actor Jason Flemyng. What emerges is a picture of a complex, driven and principled family man. Lionsgate UK Releases
The Guv'nor in select Cinemas 7th October and on DVD, Blu-ray & Digital Download 10th October, 2016
Tom Kinninmont has a list of writing credits for TV and film as long as your arm. And he’s produced at least as many stage plays as movies, as well as occupying the director’s chair as well. Most recently, he co-wrote the screenplay for THE CARER (released in cinemas on Friday, 5 August, certificate 15), a project that was tinged with some personal sadness.
Long term friend and collaborator, Gilbert Adair, had been hired by the film’s Hungarian director, Janos Edeleny, to work alongside him on the screenplay. “He got Gilbert to do the first draft of the script, but unfortunately Gilbert had a stroke and was quite incapacitated. He then had a second stroke and died. At that point, Janos tried to complete the script himself but, although he’s an extraordinary speaker of English, he’s not a native speaker, so he felt he wasn’t quite able to write the script he wanted. He decided he needed another writer to finish the script and, realising that I’d worked with Gilbert quite extensively, he contacted me and we had a very long Skype call. He kept quoting Shakespeare at me and, fortunately, I’d done two degrees in English literature and know my Shakespeare quite well, so I think he felt he’d found a kindred spirit.”
That mutual love of Shakespeare found its way into the film, which sees retired actor Sir Michael (Brian Cox) surrounded by three women – his daughter (Emilia Fox), his housekeeper and former lover (Anna Chancellor) and his young carer (Coco Konig) – and frequently reminiscing about his most famous role, that of King Lear. It’s a theme that runs throughout the film, although it developed while the script was being written. “In the original version of the script, the young Hungarian carer, Dorottya, was much older and because of that her personality was very different. But the Lear theme was always there.
“Actors who are deeply involved in a play find that they end up quoting lines from it years later and I think that’s where part of the Lear theme came from, that this actor has been performing Shakespeare all his life and tends to fall back on it. And the idea of Lear is made explicit in that final speech, when he realises he’s misjudged his daughter.”
The film culminates with Sir Michael receiving a lifetime achievement award and giving a speech. And Kinninmont was given some additional, and rather unexpected help, in writing it. From Brian Cox himself. “He and a writer friend of his did a version of the speech, which was about three pages long, and clearly he didn’t expect us to use of all of it. But some of it found its way into the final version because it toughened up what I’d written: there’s an element of attacking the audience in the speech and that came across. It’s a better speech because of Brian’s contribution.”
There are also lines in the film that were inspired by some of the actors Kinninmont has worked with over the years – and the occasional direct quote, including one from no less than Stewart Granger. All of which makes THE CARER an actor’s film in its widest sense, and one that will appeal to anybody with a love of the theatre or acting – or both.
THE CARER is released in cinemas on Friday, 5 August. Read the Britflicks review here.
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Jon Ford, who alongside his brother Howard, took the zombie genre to new global heights with The Dead & The Dead 2, talks about his first solo feature, OFFENSIVE. OFFENSIVE is a dark, violent tale of rage and revenge set in rural France and wil have its World Premiere at Horror Channel FrightFest 2016.
Q: Firstly, congratulations Jon, on completing your first solo feature film. Has this been a long time in the making?
JON: Thank you, it has indeed been a long time in the making, in fact a lifetime nearly! This is a very personal film as it's based on true events that I've experienced. It's almost a compilation of scenarios that have made a lasting impression on me. The gang of kids are a mixture of who I once was or people I knew, though I coupled that with modern electronic devices. There have been studies that have shown these devices are retarding the development of empathy in young minds. I took that concept to the next level.
Q: How would you describe the film?
JON: Essentially as I did with The Dead, I just made a film that I wanted to see. I love revenge movies (or the concept of them) but pretty much all of them try to be clever and have it that revenge is not really completed or it's the wrong person, or it all ends so badly because revenge is wrong blah blah blah. Essentially by trying to be different...they end up the same.
The film is a violent clash of two generations. It's about morality and perspective. There are no good or bad people in this world, we all have different perspectives on right and wrong. Most films follow a morality dictated by religion, I wanted to explore other perspectives. For instance killing is not always wrong is it? A soldier is sent to war to kill people, that's considered right and lawful by most people. However if you kill someone who attacks you or just generally annoys you, that's considered wrong in the eyes of the law and most people. I wanted to explore what happens when ordinary people are driven to murder and are ok with it. They don't suffer any post trauma, they carry on with their lives. In real life people commit murder and get away with it some of the time. Go to any police station in any town in any part of the world, the walls are covered in missing persons pictures...most of who will never be found. I'll stop there as I could go on all day about this subject Lol.
Q: Lisa Eichhorn plays a lead role. How did you get her on board?
JON: Lisa is an incredible talent! She did a cameo on my brother's film Never Let Go, so he introduced us and I thought she would be perfect for the role of Helen Martin. She loved the script and (like a lot of people who read it) she felt it touched on an important subject about how young people are increasingly involved in violent or even sexual attacks and the erosion of empathy. She had been reading up on that very subject at the time so she was very much into it, much to my delight! I couldn't believe I was going to have a genuine Hollywood legend in my movie. She really elevates the intensity of the scenes as does Russell Floyd who plays Bernard Martin. They were both fantastic and I'm so greatful for bestowing the film with their talents.
Q: The locations are stunning. How did you choose them?
JON: Thanks, I now live in the south of France, not far from the Black mountains so I was able to find some incredible locations which were perfect for the film. Like The Dead films I wanted to set the horror in a beautiful place. It's the French idyll gone rotten. For once in my life I enjoyed the process of making a film. A lot of the cast are local theatre actors and they did an amazing job ! I wanted the film to have an authentic feel so we shot entirely on location. The thunder storms, the chirping of the cicadas at night, the lonely winding roads, all crank up the tension.
Q: The story will hit a lot of nerves, given current European topics and the underlying xenophobia at the heart of your film. What can you say about that?
JON: The signs of a crumbling global union are evident in the film. It's a very touchy subject and I can get myself into all sorts of trouble. I'm not making a political statement, I'm just a filmmaker who is making a piece of entertainment. At the end of the day I love France, I've lived there for 5 years now, but I did want to explore a dark undercurrent that exists... What do you expect from a film called Offensive? ha! It looks like there is a love hate relationship between the French and the Americans. There is this strange paradox, on one hand they are very greatful for the liberation in WW2 but to quote a line from Offensive, "we're getting a little sick and tired of the American liberator story...why don't you find somewhere else to go play hero". After all, xenophobia probably exists in every country in the world. Like all great horror movies it's all based on fear of the unknown.
Q: The theme of cultural alienation between generations is very strong. The young French gang in the film have been described as ‘a new breed of technological sociopaths’. An accurate observation?
JON: I guess there will always be a generation gap issue for young and old and "what one doesn't understand one fears"...I just take that to the extreme. There's nothing worse than moving to a place where you're not welcome.
Accurate?.There are "no go" zones in the outskirts of some of the main cities in France, which the media are "encouraged" not to report on. Even the police won't enter. They're basically gang controlled.
Also I particularly wanted my gang to be very young, as the level of cruelty at that age can be staggering sometimes! The Bulger case comes to mind... I wanted the threat to come from society's protection of the young rather than the more obvious physical threat of the gang themselves. Also having witnessed and been the victim of young kids who essentially, in the eyes of the law are almost untouchable, as minors. It can be an impossible situation if kids decide to target you. It's a frightening prospect as there's almost nothing you can do. I used to live in a rough area where a neighbour of mine was targeted by kids, they smashed his windows regularly, spray painted pedo on his walls just because he was old and alone. He finally had to sell what was left of his house and move away. You watch, afraid that if you help, they could target you too. Like the gang in the film..."they're just having fun..."
Q: What films were an influence? Straw Dogs comes to mind.
JON: I love Straw Dogs and you're not the first to make a link with Offensive but apart from it being a sort of revenge film in a rural setting and the main protagonists are foreigners, there are not too many similarities.
To be honest, for this film, as I mentioned, I drew on real life personal experience more than other films, (apart from the killing which is based on a real case that I can't mention for legal reasons) which I hope will give it something very different to all other movies.
I'm also breaking a few rules by having a retired couple as the main protagonists instead of some good looking overly muscular teenagers who happen to be martial arts and weapons trained and look more at home on a catwalk. I'll be interested to see how that goes down.
Q: What do you hope the FrightFest crowd, who are, of course, familiar with your work, get most from the film?
JON: Firstly it's not about muscly super heroes, standing in a manga pose, spouting gravely voiced one liners, before blowing someone's head off, one handed with a shot gun then winking into camera. I wanted to give it an old school film style with a modern intensity to the violence and reality. I wanted it to cut deeper. Most of us will have experienced some of the situations that happen in Offensive, from bullying to harassment. That's why I hope it will touch us all on a personal level. There seems to be an epidemic in modern filmmaking in that they desperately want to be "cool", maybe it's the desire of a nerdy film director who is anything but?
I hope that they are prepared for a very different film that seems simplistic on the surface but is layered with a serious subtext. I hope they feel the torment and anger that the characters do. I hope it makes them consider morality, technology and humanity. I hope it gives them a different perspective on how society is "progressing".
Q: You haven’t completely stopped working with your brother, he plays a cameo role in the film, doesn’t he? And Angela Dixon, star of Howard’s Never Let Go, also has a role. Seems you’re never too far away from each other!
JON: Howard plays Charles Martin who liberates the village during WW2. It's a cameo but it is still quite a pivotal character, he gets to brutally murder some Nazis which I think he enjoyed. As I played one of the kidnappers in Never Let Go who gets his arm snapped, nose broken then run over by a truck...again! Now you mention it... something's not right here! I'll have to have a word! Ha!
Yes we're always there for each other, essentially we share a lot of the same ideas and philosophy on life. I hope we'll always help each other out as brothers should.
For Angela Dixon...I had written this incredibly difficult emotionally charged role of Sarah, a tormented language tutor who has to deal with some of the psychological aftermath of the gang. I thought...who the hell could pull off a role of that intensity...Angela Dixon was the first person that sprang to mind. She was great and it's such a different character to the one in Never Let go, it really shows what a top class talent she is!
Q: As a fan of horror films, what are your personal Top 3?
JON: That's a tough one! I know it's a slightly cop out answer but it really does depend on what mood you're in. 1) I still have to stick with the original Dawn of the Dead, it just blew my socks off. 2) The Exorcist is a master class in filmmaking. 3) The original Evil Dead is hard to beat. But on another day I may feel differently. As you can see, I'm generally into older movies.
Q: Finally, are there any plans for you and Howard to join forces for The Dead 3?
JON: This one keeps coming up... After part 2, we always talked of it as a trilogy and I have to say we can't stop ourselves from firing off ideas for it. It would be one hell of a 3rd and final chapter! If anyone out there has the means then we're open to it.
OFFENSIVE Official Film Trailer
Offensive screens at Horror Channel FrightFest on Saturday 27th August, 6.05pm in Discovery Screen 3, Vue Cinema, Shepherd’s Bush, W12
Horror Channel Frightfest 25 - 29 AUGUST 2016 -VUE Cinema, London, W12 8PP
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