Interview: Director Guy Ritchie

Guy Ritchie

[This interview was first published in 1998 in Film Threat; this is the full, unedited version of the text, as it existed before it was cut down for original publication.]

I met Guy Ritchie in a small conference room at the Monaco Hotel in San Francisco, during the press tour for his first feature, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (1998). He looks like the kind of regular fellow you’d expect to see down in the local pub, drinking a pint and cursing heartily at a televised World Cup match. Ritchie was exhausted, still on the road for his long promotional tour for his first feature film, and was rumpled and unshaven. Yet as he answered my questions in a rolling London accent, he still managed to be lucid, sharply funny, and brightly incisive during our discussion of filmmaking, crime, and violence.

Allen White: Tell me about your first film, your 20-minute film, The Hard Case (1995).

Guy Ritchie: That was a film which I made because I wanted to go into…there isn’t really such a thing as film schools in the UK. I mean there is, but they’re not realistically going to get you into feature films. And they cost you money. And I didn’t have the money to pay for it, and neither did anyone else. And the next option is to work as a runner — gopher — for a year, find out about the infrastructure of the business, and indeed build up an infrastructure within that business. And then make videos for a year or so — music videos, which is, you know, if you all run on the same format, if you get on the right computers, you can learn about the whole fucking nine yards of filmmaking — apart from anything to do with audio. But it’s great. It’s a great look in, and it’s horrendously stressful, and you’re working for cunts, and you’re working with no money, but it’s the perfect thing you need if your want to learn about the film business. And then after that I did one commercial which gave me enough money — I got five thousand pounds to make the short film — but I wanted to shoot somebody else’s short film because I never fancied writing. But the thing is I couldn’t see anyone else giving me a script, so I sort of asked a couple of people, but I didn’t really know what you do about going around to finance your film, so I thought, “Well, fuck it, what I’ll do is I’ll sort of come up with a rough idea, and get someone else to fill in the gaps.” And what happened was, I sort of write a few ideas down, and before I knew it, I gave myself a date that I was going to shoot this thing, which was in about a month, about two months or six weeks or something, so I started writing it. And before I knew it, I was filming it. And so I didn’t get anyone to fill in the gaps, and at the end of it I was happy with what I’d got, and I thought, “Well, blimey, now what you’ve got to do is write a bit more and you have a feature film.” So I went along the lines of that principle.

AW: Where did you get the financing for A Hard Case?

GR: That was just me.

AW: And that was 16mm?

GR: Super 16. Yeah, 20 minutes long. And there’s a lot that I was very pleased with. I mean it’s riddled in sort of problems, but who cares? For that amount of money it really doesn’t matter. So that’s where that came from. And going by that, and that seemed to do me a lot of favors making the short film, and it was really a sort of short film about the feature film. I’m going to do same as soon as I get back — it was absolutely no purpose other than an exercise in confidence-building, and finding out whether your script is up to scratch to make another one. And just treat it like you’re making a feature but make a short one.

AW: Having really never been a writer, how do you approach screenwriting, especially for a feature?

GR: I think there are many advantages to having no formal education with this whatsoever. And indeed, the more I go on, I find I’m falling into the quagmire of becoming quite academic about it, and then you’re fucked — from a screenwriting point of view. So I’m trying as much as I can not to deconstruct what it is that makes it happen, I don’t know. I went with a very simple formula; just start fucking around, write something down, and make it. And once you demystify the whole business that’s all it’s all about.

AW: Considering your first draft was 250 pages, I assume you learned a lot in cutting it down to a manageable length. In a sense you learn to keep what is only absolutely necessary.

GR: Yes. In fact, I didn’t really learn that until…well, I did, you know, you think, “Oh, well I can get away with this, or get away with that, everyone’s going to find that interesting.” And then you think about it, and you think about it, and you think, “Well, God, no one’s going to find that interesting,” just in time. Because you’d be a cunt if you went out and shot it. And just in time you hack these things out. But even the night before my final lock-up, which was just a couple of months after editing, I suddenly panicked, and suddenly felt, “My film’s too long; it’s long-winded, and it’s going to bore people.” And I went in and I cut the fucking shit out of it. I took ten minutes out, which is a hell of a lot to take out in a night. And it is without a doubt the best decision I made.

AW: That’s great, because I just read a conversation between Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese. Both of them agreed that you can always cut material out of your film; always if anything the film needs to be faster, the pacing always needs to be faster.

GR: And they both said that?

AW: They both said that, they both agreed with that. So it sounds like you made a good decision.

GR: And the producer fought me on it. He said, “No, no, no, no — long’s good. You won’t get this.” And we reached a compromise. I wanted to take 12 minutes out. And it’d just mean one more scene would have gone. And I’m glad that he stopped me, because I had suddenly gone axe-happy.

AW: One thing I really liked watching the film was that the pacing is relentless, because literally — and this is a really good model for screenwriting, actually — in every scene there’s a new complication. Did you just arrive upon that through trial and error? What got you into that structure?

GR: Common sense. I’m a great believer in thinking that the whole business is based on common sense; and don’t let anyone make it more complicated. Because as soon as they do, it crushes your confidence, and somehow it stops things from materializing. So that was just common sense. And it was a process of chucking a lot of mud at a wall and seeing what stuck, and then being pretty rough on it.

AW: So then did you start with a rough idea? You said it grew out of Hard Case. Was Hard Case kind of the core idea?

GR: Yes. That was one concept I had; I thought, you know, “Fucking make it about a game of cards.” Literally because I was playing a game of cards one night. I thought while I was playing a game of cards, “I’ve got to make a short film; fuck it, I’ll make it about a game of cards.” It’s as simple as that. So I made it about the game of cards, and then I thought, “Right, now I’ve got a game of cards; what else am I interested in? I know, a year ago I did a short film about…did a little documentary on street-traders.” And I was fascinated by the way they talked, so I thought, “Well, fuck, I’ll write a scene with street traders in.” So I wrote a scene with street traders in, and I thought, “Oh, yeah, I once heard that story about these guys, these toffs being robbed in Putney, ’cause they had weed and they were robbed by these guys — oh shit, I’ll stick that down.” And I once heard this idea, the “faggots fan club” idea about putting the ad in the back of a gay mag. And, “Oh, I’ll put that in, and I’ll see whether that will pay off.” And all I did was throw as many ideas that I thought were funny and try and loop ’em up.

AW: In essence, try and point yourself in a corner and then see if you can get out.

GR: Yeah. One thing which I thought was…did you see Apollo 13 (1995)?

AW: No, I didn’t…but Ron Howard’s film.

GR: The good thing about it, is that there’s one point where they’re fucked. There about 10 million miles away from earth, and they’ve got a problem with the oxygen, or something. And then they need to make a condenser, or something to clear the oxygen. And how the fuck are they going to do it; they haven’t got a condenser? So they get on the phone to all the scientists back on earth: “Uh, we’ve got a few problems here. What are we going to do?” They get a load of lads into a room, and they say, “Right, what tools have you got there?” And they said, “Oh, we’ve got this, that, and the other.” And then they get the best brains in the country, and they stick ’em in the room, and they go, “They’ve got this tool, that tool, that tool.” And they give ’em all the tools that they’ve got, and they emulate exactly the same downstairs as they are upstairs. And they stick a load of scientists into a room, shut the door, four hours later they open the door, and it’s basically, “How are you going to make that, a square, into a triangle?” And they shut the door, and open it four hours later, and there it is — the fucking condenser. And if push comes to shove, how creative do you need to be in order to make that happen? You’re forced into it. I’ve written another script. I like this idea, and I like the two brothers fighting against each other, but they didn’t know they were fighting against each other. And then started the fucking painful route of trying to make a story. I thought it was easy, but then, oh, fuck me! But eventually, you know, if you keep hacking and hacking and hacking, you get there, and you think, “Fuck me, well.” And the good thing about it is, it’s completely unpredictable, because it’s so fucking hard to get yourself out of that corner. You’re making unpredictable moves.

AW: How long did it take you to write that 250-page draft?

GR: I don’t know. I really don’t know. If I sat down nine-to-five — writing doesn’t come like that — it would probably be four months. Could have been less, could have been more; could have been a lot more. I don’t really know. But I think that’s quite an accurate guesstimate; four months.

AW: There’s been a lot of comparisons made to different films —

GR: Does everyone else get this?!

AW: I don’t want to bring this up —

GR: I don’t mind if you do, but I’ll tell you what —

AW: Why don’t you tell me who your influences are, because everyone compares every edgy work from the British Isles to Trainspotting (1996) — I mean every one, not just yours — and everyone compares every caper film to Pulp Fiction (1994), and to Tarantino’s work. So what do you think of Danny Boyle’s work, what do you think Tarantino’s work, and what other influences do you have?

GR: Okay. You phrased that very nicely. Danny Boyle I have no interest in whatsoever. However, I respect the fact that he turned what I saw were rather miserable English films that didn’t deserve the cinema, suddenly deserve the cinema. And they did, they had an identity — most English films don’t. And that became obvious. I hate films about things like heroin addicts. I just didn’t fucking want to know. I want to know about funny things, I don’t want to know about miserable fucking things; I’ve seen enough of it, and I’m not interested in it. I want to be up, not necessarily up, but…I don’t know what the fuck I want, anyway…so, Danny Boyle, I respect the fact that what he’s done had no influence whatsoever. I mean, consciously no influence whatsoever. Tarantino has had an influence, because he took — which I was impressed by — dialogue which I always thought was fucking sassy, and stuck it on film, and got away with it. And then not only that, everyone thought it was great. So, I says, “Oh, fuck me.” I had an influence from him in point of view of confidence, but no more than that. I daresay my whole filmic structure is completely different than his. But he spotted a niche there and went for it and has been hailed as the cat’s pussy because of it. So he has had an influence on me. And then other than that, it’s just about every fucking film — any good film — that’s ever been made has had an influence on me. But then how much of it, I have no idea. But it’s curious because of what you just said, I mean I wonder if everyone else gets the comparison that I’ve had, because it is inevitable. Every interviewer says, “So, what do you think about Pulp Fiction? What do you think about Reservoir Dogs (1992)? And I’ve never seen Reservoir Dogs. Never seen it. And now I’m past the point where I’m too frightened to see the fucking thing. You know what I mean?

AW: Stylistically, for what I see, I go further back in terms of your influences. I’m thinking of the history of British gangster cinema. So I think of The Krays (1990), I think of The Long Good Friday (1980).

GR: Well that’s much more had something to do with what I’ve got. The Krays, I thought was terrible. I always felt if I made The Krays, I would have made a fucking good film. And I would loved to have done something serious like that, you know, a serious gangster fucking thing. And I would have made it so fucking horrible. And I wouldn’t have had those guys playing it, as much as they’re nice fellows and everything, but fucking they play the banjo, or whatever, or they sing or something. Gangsters are fucking gangsters, man! It’s a whole different fucking ballgame. And that is very important to me when broaching a subject like this. When everyone’s had gangsters playing gangsters, and they have in some films, and so on, then I’ll get bored of it, and I’ll probably want fucking Mary Poppins to play the Krays, or something. But at the moment it just hasn’t been exhausted; you know, proper villains playing proper villains. But The Long Good Friday was cool, man, and it was edgy, and I couldn’t have made that film.

AW: And you know that director has not made anything good since. John Mackenzie’s doing TV movies now.

GR: I mean, what the fuck?

AW: You have to think, what’s he thinking coming from that kind of background?

GR: What the fuck? It amazed me because that looks like that film’s got someone talented behind that.

AW: And it has a very independent flavor. You’d think that he would want to stay out of the mainstream, but he hasn’t, he went the opposite direction.

GR: What the fuck happened there? I have no idea.

AW: Other than people comparing your work to Peter Medak’s The Krays, you have this real connection with the real Krays. That seems almost like a conscious influence, I mean, filming in the boxing ring that they used to hang out in, having Lenny, this guy, a former boxer, who had some association with them. That seems like some kind of a shadow lurking behind the story of the film. Is there something really there, or is that just accidental?

GR: It’s inevitable, again. Because everything, more or less, of the old-school villainy related back to the Krays at some point. And the Krays were a lot worse than everyone thinks they are. And that was why I had a big problem with the film; they just looked like a couple of faggots as far as I was concerned, even with what they were showing. And I know what those boys were doing was a hundred times worse than what everyone thought was going on. So it’s inevitable that anything that is genuine, and old, and British will somehow have something to do with the Krays.

AW: Because they were organized crime in Britain at one point.

GR: Yeah, they were. And it was that area. And they got away with things that people just can’t get away with any longer. And they influenced a great deal. And then the crime families really died out. And they’ve changed now, the balance of power. I mean, there’s still crime families, but it’s a completely different structure now. It was drugs, really, that revolutionized that whole crime thing everywhere. Did I answer your question?

AW: Yeah. Exactly. I just wanted to know the connection between the film and reality in that sense. I have a really interesting quote here, which I have to read you, and I want to know what you think about it. This is not necessarily my opinion, it’s just something that I read and intrigued me, because it brings up an issue that touches upon a lot of films these days. This is — and you can already guess the agenda just because of where it’s from — it’s the World Socialist Web Site, by critic Robert Stevens from September 11th, 1998, and he says, and I quote, “The violence portrayed in the film is excessive and has become the norm, and is either preceded or followed by an attempt at black humor, so we all know that this is really only good fun. Despite its pretensions to depict the life of the outsider living on the fringes of society, this film is a shallow glorification of the status quo. One is asked yet again to identify with characters that have lost any sense of humanity, and to celebrate in the ruthless pursuit of money and power.” That was said about your movie. What do you think about that?

GR: (laughing) That is fantastic, isn’t it! I mean, that’s hot!

AW: That’s a really thorough critique with a very strong point of view. That guy’s not just blowing smoke.

GR: Oh, no, he sat down and he thought about it. But, fuck, socialism?!

AW: It’s a very socialist perspective. But it’s also very damning of the shallow depiction of violence. Which is a charge that has been leveled often against filmmakers, for example, like Tarantino.

GR: Actually, I have no problem with that whatsoever. I’m a violent fellow. I like violence. As simple as that. I find violence very visceral. Now having said that, that’s sort of me reacting to him. I think violence is part of life. And I think to ignore it is foolish. To ignore it, is to become normal, it’s to become bourgeois, it’s to become everything that life isn’t about. If someone warrants a slap, if someone’s rude and they get a slap, then fuckin’ slap ’em. That’s the way I see it, and you shouldn’t go to prison because of it. Of course there’s a line to be drawn, and where to draw it, but don’t ask me for any of that shit. But my argument would be that I don’t have a problem with violence.

AW: My next question, then, would be where’d you get that scar (indicating a long gash down his left cheek).

GR: You know, that’s something I picked up along the way. I’ve taken my fair share of slaps, and nine times out of ten I’ve asked for it. You know, fair enough; I don’t fucking…I’m not crying about it. But socialism is based on idealism, so how the fuck are you going to argue against an idealist? You can’t. Not to have violence is an ideal in itself. And I celebrate the idea that my film is completely imperfect — and I want it to be imperfect. And I want life to be imperfect. I like the class structure because it’s imperfect. And I like having a monarchy because it’s imperfect. And I don’t have a problem with imperfection, and I think it’s very important to be imperfect. Because perfect is an excuse not to do anything, as far as I can understand. The amount of filmmakers I know that are perfectionists that have never fucking made anything is unbelievable.

AW: Arguably perfection leads to obsession like Nazi Germany. You get wrapped up in perfection, and then it creates its own monstrosity.

GR: Yes. Yes.

AW: Do you come specifically from that East Ender lifestyle?

GR: No. I come from a mix. But I’ve been to both extremes one way or the other. And I know where my priorities lie. And I fucking love a socialist! I love a socialist. I love a socialist because I used to be a socialist. When I was at school I was seriously into socialism. And as I tried to then make a pound or a penny — I used to speak for the socialists at school, and it was a right-wing school, really.

AW: So in a sense, arguably, if you’re depicting violence in the film, in essence, you have a certain currency in that because you grew up with it, you were around it, whereas somebody like Tarantino is just a poser because he’s never been in a bar fight. I mean, one could say that.

GR: I’m not claiming that I’m mister fucking street tough, you know what I mean? But I’ve taken a few slaps, and I understand what slaps…and I am one to believe that some people should be slapped. And I’m dubious about the amount of things that go through courts. And a lot of things shouldn’t go through the court system, but society has to be seen to approve of the court system, and I respect that. But there’s no question that if someone comes around your house and fucking nicks something, and you know where they are, you shouldn’t go to the police, you should go and shoot the fuckers. Or whatever it is that, you know, if you know some boys, you have the boys go sort ’em out. “Shoot the fuckers,” may be a bit strong, but I’m trying to illustrate a point; it’s hyperbole, if you like.

AW: That sounds like social Darwinism.

GR: Well, to a degree I think it is, because I think that is realism. And of course, the good thing about society is the whole point of having society is that we don’t want to become too Darwinist in the way we think. So that’s why society has to be seen to disapprove of it. And that’s why I respect society, because we can’t all run around “survival of the fittest.” We can’t fucking do it, because it doesn’t work like that. But, the bottom line is, cutting all the shit to the side, if someone comes round to your house and nicks your stereo, should you really go to the policeman? Or should you, if you knew some villains, should you go to the villains and say, “He’s at this house — can you sort it out.” What would you do?

AW: It depends on the circumstances, I’d have to say.

GR: Okay, it depends on the circumstances.

AW: Because I have very strong socialist feelings on one hand, but then again, if somebody’s in your face, it’s very tempting to want to do something about it right in the moment. You don’t think about your socialist idealism if somebody’s about to challenge you to a fistfight. Like you said, the reviewer of the piece that I read, he’s an idealist, and so you can’t really argue with idealism — not on a theoretical level — but when it comes to a day-to-day in-this-moment level, then which do you choose? I guess that’s the question.

GR: A curious thing is, is that if you spend much time with villains, is how they understand the realities of life. Because they’ve come up the hard way. Now, I haven’t come up the hard way; I sort of had it mixed. So I’m not claiming that I’m out of the gutter by any stretch of the imagination. But these guys have come out of the gutter. And you can fucking give ’em any idealism you like, mate. And all is they know, is they put bread on that table, and they don’t give two fucks for theory. All is they care about is what works. And that’s curious, and I give credence to that.

AW: And it’s real. I mean, you can’t argue with the reality of the life that leads to that philosophy.

GR: No. You can’t argue with it. How can you argue with it? I mean, all is they care about — and this is coming back to Darwin — is that they survive, and the fucker next door doesn’t survive. They drive a nice, car, he doesn’t. And you think you can fucking preach them about idealism; takes it in the ass, as far as these guys are concerned.

AW: Can you tell me anything at all about Diamonds [1], the film that you’ve made a ten million dollar deal with Sony Pictures for?

GR: I can tell you about it, from the point of view that the reason it’s under ten million dollars, is that the filmmaker manages to keep control. And I think they’ve got some kind of a negative pick-up deal, or so. They’re completely out of my hair…I can cast who I like, and the rest of it. And it’s about dogfights, diamond-dealing, obviously…but it’s only lightly about diamond-dealing. So I’m slightly nervous about calling it Diamonds, because I think everyone’s going to go along expecting to see fucking loads of diamonds. It’s about one stone, but again, it’s like Lock, Stock — there’s a load of different narratives sort of dove-tailing together. It’s about dogfights, it’s about car-stealing, it’s about bare-knuckle fights, it’s about gypsies, it’s about all sort of salubrious activities of the English underworld. Because as much as I respect Merchant-Ivory — and I do, incidentally, because I think they make films that look like they should be in the fucking cinema as opposed to the TV — I’ve got no interest in Britain’s colonial past. I’m only interested in what I find moving and passionate.

AW: Is this developing into a theme for you — exploring the British underworld? If you could pick a term or a theme, what is your theme as a filmmaker? Do you have an idea yet, or are you still developing it?

GR: Still developing. I don’t really have an idea. I’ll do one more film in this genre, and then I won’t do another one. I’m learning as I go, really, and I don’t want to be too clever about it. I want to work hard at it, and see what happens. So who knows from there?

AW: What other genres are you interested in?

GR: I’m interested in comedy. And I fancy the idea of me being quite a serious sort of fellow. But comedy is what seems to come out on the page. Sometimes I’m writing a very serious scene, and I’m thinking, “Oh, fuck me, this is cool, I’m going to have the audience’s attention here,” and they’ll be thinking, “Oh, fuck me, this is serious.” I can’t help but put in the funny line. You know what I mean? A “poom-boom” line, but nevertheless, it can tear the asshole out of the credibility that you’re trying to create. So I want to make this film about the making of a porno. And it’s not like Boogie Nights (1997) at all. It’s a complete comedy. And I was going to do it in Vegas, but now I think I might take it back to England, because it just becomes lots more provincial, and I quite like the idea of it being so.

AW: But also in a sense, the advantage of doing that is that’s the world that you know, so you would ostensibly have more to say about it then.

GR: Yeah. I don’t know a great deal about the porn world. But also, the curious thing is, is that the Americans — everyone says that we’ve got a difference in humor. A few nuances, maybe. But by and large, you laugh at the same fucking things I laugh at. If your sensibilities are the same as mine, then, well, you’ll laugh at it. Not because you’re American and I’m English. Is there much of a difference between it? So my film plays the same here, if not better here, than it plays back home. And people say, “In America, they’ll think I’m…whatever.” Fuck it, they understand it. They laugh at the same fucking things that you laugh at. And in fact, they’re keener to laugh at things than you are back home, which is quite interesting.

AW: Well, because here it’s exotic. It’s the appeal of something foreign.

GR: Now that’s interesting you should say so, because no one’s actually said that. I mean, is it exotic?

AW: To a degree, because especially how it plays in middle America might be very different from how it plays on the coast, because people have a much more worldly sense in a place like San Francisco; I mean, people call this a very European city. So people, I think, like to think here that they have that connection with European culture and so they go to films like this because there’s a real fascination with British culture here, with Irish culture, with anything that has to do with anything from somewhere else, really. I think that partially it’s an identification with one’s roots, or an attempt to get back to some idea of heritage. But also it’s different, it’s significantly different from the United States. I mean, it’s funny, when I lived in Europe, I noticed in Germany, so many of the commercials were marketing American style; Harley-Davidsons, people in convertibles in jeans driving through the desert. You come here, you see like perfume commercials, they’re all marketed as quote “European.” You know, sexy European women, and fine hotels.

GR: I can’t say I like that at all, and I understand exactly your example of chewing gum and blue jeans. And I can see that. And I’m just trying to imagine me seeing that as the English thing.

AW: Conversely, you obviously watched a lot of American crime movies, and just crime movies in general. I noticed you have that little nod to Sergio Leone; you’ve got the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966) theme in it [2], which I though was hysterical, because unless you’ve seen the movie, and you know that musical cue, it’s not funny. But at the same time, obviously you felt that enough people were going to get it by putting it in.

GR: I felt those films were fucking fantastic.

AW: They’re some of my favorites.

GR: Are they? Well they are mine, too. And it was curious, when Sergio made Once Upon a Time in America (1984), how that didn’t work for me. And Morricone is just the fucking cat’s pussy, I mean, that man is doing it. And together they did make great stuff, but it became too obvious once they did Once Upon a Time in America. He did Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) as well, didn’t he?

AW: Yes he did. Which was earlier, though.

GR: Which was earlier, and I thought it was brilliant the first time I saw it. And if you watch it now, it doesn’t hold up.

AW: Not for me much as the older stuff, simply because I think if you look, especially at the Clint Eastwood work, he’s totally dealing with archetypes. Those are like dark fairy tales with guns. And that stuff is so timeless, like Kurosawa’s films. Which is why Leone copied Kurosawa.

GR: I don’t know Kurosawa. Who’s Kurosawa?

AW: Well, Akira Kurosawa did Seven Samurai (1954), for example.

GR: Oh, right. Okay.

AW: But Fistful of Dollars (1964), Leone’s film, is actually the same story as Yojimbo (1961). He actually took it from Kurosawa’s movie. Then Seven Samurai was remade by a different director, who I forget now, who made The Magnificent Seven (1960). But strangely enough, Kurosawa’s films were very influenced by early American silent westerns. So it came full circle.

GR: That’s very interesting. I love Seven Samurai.

AW: Well you would really dig all of Kurosawa’s movies, because they have that same use of metaphor, and myth, and symbol —

GR: I love all that.

AW: They’re very visual, too. It’s like what I liked about your film, is that you get to the point. And again, this is coming from a 250-page draft, down to a workable two-hour draft, and like you said, you cut ten minutes, but again, it just keeps moving. Is that a valuable lesson you feel you’ve learned on this thing, is just to keep it snapping?

GR: I read an interesting article in Premiere the other day; I think it was (James) Cameron. And he was saying that the film dictates the pace; you can’t dictate it, the film has a life of its own. And if I had the advantage of having shot a few films then I’d know more about this. But I can only draw from my experience of having made 20 music videos, and one commercial, and a short film, and a feature film. Which is actually quite a lot! (laughs) And I would say that he’s right. I would say that you’ll find out — it’s all a mud slinging game, anyway, when you sling a load of mud, see what sticks, cut it all down, oh, bosh, there we go, right. There we go, take that, put it all together, right, take it all down, strip it down. And then eventually you sort of wattle down to what you think works. And it’s during that wattling period you suddenly realize that, oh, it should be longer, or it should be shorter. My experience is always it should be shorter. I have to respect what Cameron said, or whoever it was I did respect, because they knew what they were talking about. Because I remember it getting logged in my think-tank. And I think that’s probably a very important think; the film dictates to you how long it’s supposed to be.

AW: It makes it sound like more of an organic process, too. When you were on the set did you allow any improvisation, did you allow things to take shape on the set as well?

GR: Yeah, sure. I mean, I loved all the lads, and it was a great shoot to work on. And everyone was allowed to put in their two bob, but most of the time we didn’t have time to accommodate it, so it just got piled by the wayside. But there’s the odd line throughout the film, and in fact, some of the best lines in it are stuff where we had a half an hour to kill, so we’d say, “Fine, you come out with a line.” And then you think-tank it, and you go round and round and round, and then in the end you’d have a funny fucking line. Like, “It’s been emotional,” you know, right at the end.

AW: Is that all real slang? There was one line which I thought was so funny, when he says, “And Robert’s your father’s brother,” which is obviously, “Bob’s your uncle,” modified.

GR: Do you say, “Bob’s your uncle,” out here?

AW: No, we don’t. But I cracked up, because I recognized where it came from. Is that a real slang term?

GR: No.

AW: And I guess there’s a lot of little gems in there like that.

GR: There’s a lot of things like that. That’s for people that can appreciate those things. And it’s funny, you’ll get an audience, and all of a sudden there will be one person who will laugh at that, and it’ll be: pause, beat, beat, “Oh!” And then some bastard’s got it. That’s good. It’s nice to have little booby traps in your film.

AW: What do you want to accomplish in the long term with filmmaking? What’s your goal?

GR: Don’t know. I really don’t. I’d like to have a long career, is what I’d like to say. I respect any of those guys who have done so. At the moment, I’m a young cocky, turk. I feel somewhat stupid getting all this attention, because maybe I should be getting this attention in ten years’ time. But it’s fun, and who wants to listen to me can listen to me. But you know, it’s a question of persistency and consistency, and whether you’re still hanging in there in 20 years’ time.

AW: Enjoy the ride!

[1.] Diamonds was retitled Snatch (2000) on release.

[2.] The music played by the pocket watch carried by Colonel Mortimer (Lee van Cleef), a piece which was composed by Ennnio Morricone and woven into the film’s score.