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The Cleveland Show
Nov 09 2010, 12:01 PM by Marty Flanagan
Beginning with the 1998 contemporary London crime caper Lock,
Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, it was clear there was a new
British director with a remarkably fresh and original vision was
emerging and he was breathing new life into the ailing English film
industry. The man and the artist? Guy Ritchie. And the
Hertforshire-born director was quickly becoming a household name,
not only in his native U.K. but across the globe as well.
Bypassing the Hollywood studio system to make hit movies like
Snatch - an indie that sported the talents of such
big-name stars as Brad Pitt, Benecio del Toro and Jasan Statham -
Ritchie appeared to have the box office Midas Touch.
Snatch, Lock, Stock..., Revolver and
RockNRolla not only filled theater seats, but they also
earned Ritchie a heap of critical-acclaim, proving he was more than
just Mr. Madonna - a term the London tabloids loved to taunt him
with. (Sadly, Ritchie was married to the pop culture icon for only
eight years, a union that produced a son, Rocco, and his only
cinematic failure, a remake of Swept Away starring the then Mrs.
Ritchie in 2002).
Of course, the rulers of Tinsel Town weren't about to let such a
talented filmmaker slip through their fingers. They wanted Ritchie.
But Hollywood history books are filled with stories of cinematic
visionaries from across the Atlantic who arrive in Hollywood to
repeat their overseas successes only to find themselves in never
ending fights with the studios, and leaving LA disillusioned and
disgusted after seeing their first American film flop. But, Guy
Ritchie was not about to become another Tinsel Town casualty.
Although he had been offered the chance to make a studio,
big-budget film since the 2002 release of Snatch, Ritchie
was in no rush to book his airline ticket into LAX. If he was going
to make any mistakes, he was going to make them on English soil,
not on the Entertainment Tonight-ruled world stage. When
uber-producer Joel Silver offered Guy the chance to direct Robert
Downey, Jr. and Jude Law in a updated (still set in 1800's London)
version of Sherlock Holmes, Ritchie instinctively knew
this was the project he had spent nearly a decade waiting to make
with "American money and muscle."
One of the biggest money-makers of last year, Sherlock
Holmes became an instant worldwide hit, and Ritchie has
already begun work on the sequel. After Sherlock Holmes 2,
Ritchie is anxious to utilize cutting-edge CGI technology on his
remake of Excalibur, director John Boorman's sweeping,
early-80's epic take on the King Arthur legend. But when does he
plan to get back to his Snatch era roots - if ever? Are
his days of making small, indie-styled films now a thing of the
past? In an exclusive chat, Ritchie offers up his thoughts on his
past, present and future.When you made a movie like Snatch, did you ever
solicit stories from some of London's real underground criminals
about any of their more secretive, law-breaking
Yes. (laughs) I got many of my ideas for the films just that way.
There's the pig feeding story, for example, in Snatch.
Now, it's perhaps become a cliché of how people dispose of bodies -
since I made the film, I've seen it pop-up in several movies - but
I didn't know anything about it until I met the guy who used to
remove the teeth before they chopped them up and gave the body
parts to the pigs.Weren't you nervous talking to him? He sounds like a rather
Not all all, he was really a pleasant guy. And there is no need to
worry about him these days, either. He's a grandfather, he's a
lovely chap, he gives to charity, he runs his local football team
and he looks like your average, normal, everyday individual. So,
sometimes there is nothing exotic about the exoticism of crime.
That's kind of interesting in its own way - how normal it can be to
many of these people. Sometimes, people can do these - what we see
as - heinous, nefarious acts, but to them it's just par for the
course. It's how they make their living.You became popular with North America moviegoers with your
earlier, smaller independent films like Snatch and
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Just this past year,
though, you directed the big-budget studio hit Sherlock
Holmes - and you are getting ready to make its upcoming
sequel. Why did you decide to "go Hollywood" after avoiding it for
all these years? Was it the script for Sherlock Holmes or
was it another reason completely?
I chose it really because I needed the job. (laughs) Aside from
that, I wanted to make the move from small independent films,
because I felt it was about time for me to make that step as a
filmmaker. I guess it was the challenge of going from doing an
indie like Snatch to something much bigger, and
Sherlock Holmes seemed to be the perfect segue from
something that was small. I can honestly say that with Sherlock
Holmes, I managed to hold onto an English identity but at the
same time we had American muscle and American pockets. So it was
kind of like the perfect segue for me to have something that's big
and broad, but is essentially English, but with only American
muscle.Does having so much more money to spend enable you to sort
of enhance your creativity?
Yes, I think so. I think having money to spend does mean that I'm
allowed to be more ambitious with both size and the color of my
palette. Money is a good thing when it comes to making movies, it's
not a hindrance, believe me. Of course, we had a great opening
weekend, so it was all kisses and hugs. If it would have not done
as well as it did, I still wonder what that American muscle would
have felt like. (laughs)After the Sherlock Holmes sequel, you are planning
an epic, CGI-dominated remake of director John Boorman's classic
Excalibur. Does this all mean we are going to lose you to Hollywood
or will you still make the small indie films that made you
I don't know what the answer to that is. I really sort of make the
films that I want to make. The interesting thing about the Holmes
experience was that it wasn't the cliché experience between the
filmmaker and monstrous, meddling big studio. You know, I argued
for the studio. I wanted to make an accessible, broad, what they
call a four quadrant movie. What they wanted was Guy Ritchie-isms,
so to speak. I argued for the studio and the studio argued for me.
It was like two people trying to get to the bar and the other one
was trying to insist they should pay. This studio (Warner Brothers)
seems like they wanted to support the filmmaker's vision. So I had
a tremendously positive experience from beginning to end. I had no
negative arguments. There was no us and them, which I had
anticipated and I'd heard was inevitable, when you make a Hollywood
film. That just didn't happen. So, we'll see how long the honeymoon
will last.As a filmmaker, you have always been - especially in the
early films like Snatch, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking
Barrels and even RockNRolla - drawn to the kind of
underbelly of contemporary London. Why are you interested in that
part of society?
I don't know, actually. I mean, partly, I suppose I got into it
because I'm interested in subcultures in general. I just think this
is a fertile place for entertainment. So, I think that's the most
delicate way I can answer that question.
By: Earl Dittman
You can watch Snatch in our Global Movies