shadows features Making it up as we go
Hanging with Guy Ritchie and the RocknRollas • Page 2 of 2
the world premiere in leicester square

mr and mrs ritchie

wilkinson and strong
downey and silver

elba and hardy

B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
rocknrolla "There was an issue, yes," she admits, sighing heavily. "We arrived at work that day, and Gerry was very, very unwell indeed. And I think a message was sent to the set saying, 'Thandie's not going to kiss Gerry today.' And so Guy had to work round it. I thought we could just transfer the day and come back and get undressed another day. But as a result, no, we've got this scene which is just genius. And I don't know whether Guy could have created it without those limitations."

"I'm sure I could," Guy says confidently.

"Well, I was delighted - no offence, Gerry! It was more challenging having to, as it were, climax to camera."

Now it's Idris Elba's turn, and he's on a stool in the back looking impossibly cool in jeans so low-slung they almost fell off when he walked in the room. Asked about the differences between being in British films like this and American films and TV shows, he says, "Actually, it's all one industry. I love making films here, because I was born here. And I love making films in America too. Film crews are film crews all around the world."

I have Guy to thank for doing a whole movie with dark glasses on - that’s really cool

"Yeah," says Mark Strong on the next stool, "film sets are pretty much the same, whether they're film or TV. What's interesting about film is that it's a lot more money for a shorter amount of time, so imaginations can be fulfilled much more easily I think. I'm just getting ready to do a gangster part in Kick-Ass, a New York head of a family - very smooth, not dissimilar to my part in this film. What's interesting is that he falls apart over the course of the movie and slightly loses it. So the journey's very interesting."

Random questions follow about filming in Wembley, growing up in Glasgow and the US release of RocknRolla, which Guy, Gerard and Joel all try to answer best as they can, even though there's nothing much to say.

Finally someone addresses Tom Wilkinson, who has been quietly sitting on his stool enjoying the proceedings. The question is whether he modelled his character, with his distinct bald head and sunglasses, after anyone in particular. "No, is the short answer," he says. "The long answer is that it was a complete accident. I'd just done another film where I had to have a bald head, so my hair hadn't grown back. And as far as the dark glasses are concerned, these are the very dark glasses - they're mine! I went down to the set for the first time wearing them - it was a sunny day - and Guy said, 'That looks great!' And I said, 'Yes, well, the bald head.' And he said, 'No, the sunglasses are cool!' So I said, 'No, they're mine. They're nothing to do with the character.' And he said, 'Well, you keep them on!' So I have him to thank for doing a whole movie with dark glasses on. That's really cool."

Speaking of dark, Toby's character is quite shady - neither a good guy nor a bad guy. And that's just the way he likes it. "The black and white is very dull," he says, "so it's nice to have something with a bit of meat. My character Johnny is a bit of a sociopath, and everybody I've ever met who's like that has a bit of charm about them. He's a bit of a miserable git as well, so I liked that."

"It's in the writing too," chimes in Idris. "You often get the option to explore your character more when the writing's good. So it's definitely more fun to play as an actor when you've got all this good stuff to sink your teeth into."

And Thandie joins in: "But also, the way it's written and the way Guy works is that you're given a framework and then the freedom to create, and given the sole responsibility for your character. At least that's how I felt." (Nods all around.) "And when you're given that kind of responsibility, and you're not feeling oppressed that you have to do exactly what the script says or what the director wants, it just makes you up your game. Because you take responsibility for what you're doing. And as a result I felt that I got to be more creative than I usually get to be in films."

hardy and elba
It’s definitely more fun to play when you’ve got all this good stuff to sink your teeth into

Which brings Mark out of his thoughtful silence - stirring his surprisingly long, slender body on his stool to say, "And also as individuals we're complicated, multi-layered, so that's what we want in the characters. If you can make the good guys murkier and if you can make bad guys understood it's way more interesting to play."

Next is a question for Guy about why he knows so much about the underworld. "Actually I don't really know much about the underworld," he says with a smile. "It's all made up! Well, you know, I suppose I read the Mail."

He goes on to say, "I just think the underworld is an efficient polarisation of humans. You can get to the good, the bad, the grey, the black and the white more efficiently. It's not that I'm obsessed with the underworld; I'm obsessed with humans and the way they interact with one another. I think we all are, which is why we go to the cinema. And this just happens to be the conduit I've gone down at present."

"These people are larger than life," says Tom Hardy, who looks like he may have had a bit of a late night. "Gangsters engage in criminal acts and violence, but these guys are always laughing and goofing off. Although it's not such a good idea to underestimate them."

Producer Susan Downey adds that this is what people love about Guy's movies. "There's the eclectic mix of characters, the interweaving storylines that dovetail in ways you don't see coming," she says. "And there's the energy, the distinct visual style, but also an unexpected emotional layer and depth that I think sets this film apart."

So who's the most rocknrolla person on stage? There's a pause as everyone looks around hoping someone else will answer first. Toby takes the bait: "It's got to be Joel. Look how he's dressed - that's rocknrolla. It's certainly not me."

Idris says, "It's the only one that shaved in the morning: Gerry Butler. He's a rocknrolla in my opinion. We had a lot of time together on the set, and he's a naughty boy."

hardy and elba
I’d always heard Guy was a w**ker, but he wasn’t at all

"Really, he's just speaking about himself there," Gerald replies. "And he's just kind of projecting. He does that a lot. He's a bastard!"

To which Idris replies, "I love you, man."

And things are brought shrieking to a halt again by another irrelevant question, this time about Madonna's brother's book (Guy: "I haven't read it"; Hack: "But it's selling very well"; Guy: "Apparently she's very popular. She's gonna be big!"). And back to the film, which in the closing credits is flagged as the first in a trilogy.

Guy perks back up: "Yeah, if people go and see this one, then I've already written the other two. I don't want to be so presumptuous as to make the other two before they see number one. So if things are looking good, then we'll make number two."

And would the actors be back for the next chapter? "Absolutely," says Gerald, breaking into a smile. "I have to say this was a really fun movie set - a great script and a great cast. I'd always heard Guy was a w**ker, but he wasn't at all. Actually, he's lovely and charming and very easy going. But yet he knows how to run a tight ship. You'd hear him shouting, 'Five, four, three' - and no matter what was happening, we'd have to be ready to film when he hit one. And it was actually a very effective way to cut down filming time. I don't want to speak for everybody, but I will: we had a great time."



© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall