Here at Comic Con we had a chance to set on a press conference and speak to some members of the cast from RocknRolla.
We spoke with Guy Ritchie, Gerard Butler, Jeremy Piven, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges and Idris Elba.
The film follows a Russian mobster who orchestrates a crooked land deal, millions of dollars are up for grabs, and all of London’s criminal underworld wants in on the action. Everyone from a dangerous crime lord to a sexy accountant, a corrupt politician and down-on-their-luck petty thieves conspire, collude and collide with one another in an effort to get rich quick.
Here is what the cast had to say.
Thandie Newton said that this is the best movie of the year.
Butler: That’s the spirit. I won’t contradict her.
Guy, can you talk about what inspired you to do this? There seems to be this whole Russian thing going on now in movies.
Ritchie: Well, the thing is that it’s in the same genre as ‘Snatch’ and ‘Lock Stock’ and I felt as though I wanted to do another one partly because of the amount enthusiasm I got from those movies, but also because England has changed so much in the last fifteen, twenty years and the world of crime has consequently changed so much in the last twenty years. So to a degree part of the movie is about old school gangsters being pushed out by the new school and an aspect of that is Eastern European or Russian. A few years ago if you’re average gangster had made a few million he was seen as a big to do and that’s really been eclipsed by the international Eastern gangster who now comes packing billions. So he comes in and is like a mobile corporation and this is to a degree, one of the stories, is a reflection of the old school natives trying to hang on to business as it used to be, but they’re just being pushed out by the corporate massive crime. I mean corporate in a purely criminal sense.
Why does that genre click with you so well?
Ritchie: I don’t know. I just like under cultures and subcultures and it just happens to be my thing.
What are the similarities and differences in tone in this compared to your previous films?
Ritchie: Well, it’s in the same genre so if you saw this and then you saw ‘Snatch’ you would suspect that the same filmmaker was behind it.
Are there any differences in the way you approached it?
Ritchie: I’d like to think so, yeah, because otherwise we would’ve called I ‘Snatch II’. It’s a new take. It’s a contemporary take and the stories are new, but you can tell that the guy that made those movies previously is the guy that made this movie, but that’s part of the package. That’s what I like to do so it’s influenced.
As you’ve gotten older and made more films has the way that you’ve approached the criminals in your film changed? Maybe when you were younger they were more romantic possibly? Is it different now?
Ritchie: Probably not [laughs]. That will probably be the answer to that one. No, I think it’s pretty much an objective view of crime on the whole. I try not to be ethical or moral about it. It’s simply an observation and a commentary on that observation. That sounded relatively intellectual.
Can each of you talk about your characters in the movie and your on this film?
Butler: That’s a big question. You’re eating up a lot of time. So I’ll make it brief. I play One Two and I’m a part of the gang. We’re all, myself, Idris [Alba] and Tom Hardy, like small time crooks who at the start of the movie are actually trying to do something that I think is almost legitimate and we get kind of screwed over by the more native boss who sees us as immigrants which I suppose we are in a way. We spend the rest of the movie kind of trying to make that up, trying to cover our asses and messing with the very people that Guy was talking about, the even bigger kingpins, the Russians, and then start blaming other people and then it becomes that irresistible Guy Ritchie movie.
Elba: I play Mumbles who as Gerry said is a part of the gang. He’s what we call in London an Earners. You’re an Earner. You’re out there making a little bit of money any way that you can. Smart guys. Street smart. But they just do it in a dodgy way.
Piven: I remember that I was in Cannes when I read the script and I just wanted to be a part of the movie in any way, shape or form. So I basically begged and tried to bribe Guy and somehow we made the movie. We’re the only sort of American voices in the movie. I think that it originally came out because of an Andre 3000 video, the characters? No? A little bit?
Ritchie: It did, yeah. I was influenced by Andre’s – I can’t actually remember the name – Big Boi, isn’t it? It was a couple of videos that I really liked. They were an influence. They were inspired by that.
Elba: I didn’t know that.
Piven: So I just wanted to take the ride and it did not disappoint, for sure.
Bridges: Yeah, without giving too much of the story away, Jeremy and myself, most of our scenes are together. We play the managers of the rock and roll artist who basically the movie is named after. So like he said, talking about a lot of the Russian mob coming into London and taking over organized crime wise and different things going on like that we’re just kind of like hustlers in our own right and it’s basically a situation where you have to see the entire movie to completely get our roles. But that’s what we do, the two Americans in the movie.
Have you ever met someone from the underworld, Guy? I’m sure you’ve met some people who’ve inspired these characters.
Ritchie: Absolutely, not. I refute that. The criminal underbelly of society is heavily frowned upon by myself [laughs].
When you were doing research for this movie did you find a lot of interesting things? Liz Hurley said when she was doing her movie she found the people she met were even giving input.
Ritchie: That’s interesting. What Liz Hurley movie is that?
‘Mickey Blue Eyes’.
Butler: Interestingly enough, she was big in the underworld. She was there with the best of them [laughs].
Did you ever solicit ideas from them or find that people you met wanted to be a part of the process?
Ritchie: Yes. Many of the ideas in the pig feeding story, for example, in ‘Snatch’, if you’re familiar with that, is a cliché of how people dispose of bodies. I mean, since then I’ve seen it pop up in several movies. I had met the guy that used to remove the teeth before they chopped them up and gave them to the pigs. By the way, he’s now a grandfather and is a lovely chap. He gives to charity. He runs his local football team and he looks like your average avuncular, generous individual. Sometimes there’s nothing exotic about the exoticism of crime. That’s kind of interesting in and of itself, that some times people can do these what we see as heinous and nefarious acts and then to them it’s just par for the course.
Actors, can you talk about working with Guy Ritchie and his style of directing?
Bridges: His process is that he practices jujitsu early in the morning. He grapples and then comes in energetic as hell everyday. He knows exactly what he wants, how everything is supposed to pan out. He’s very particular and very opinionated. I’ve never worked with anyone like him, but I mean a great guy. I was very happy to work with him and I learned a lot from him. That’s my take on it.
Elba: Guy has this thing where he’s like, ‘Okay –’ and the crew know that as soon as he says, ‘Five, four, three…’ and at first I was like, ‘What’s going to happen?’ Someone said, ‘Oh, you’ve got to say your line, that’s action. He counts down to the action.’ That was new to me and an interesting way to do it. Suddenly you see the whole room focus and get into the Guy Ritchie space which is a good thing. It’s great actually.
How do you compare Guy to other director’s you’ve worked with?
Butler:Well, he has a different name which was a big thing for me. No. What I loved about Guy,
and I’m sure he knows it, but that name, it’s kind of in your soul. He’s an institution and suddenly you’re there and you’re working with him. What surprised me was how easy going he was. For me then it’s like trusting that you have a director who knows exactly what he wants, but he’s going to let you do what you want and there’s a natural flow that we kind of all got into as we hung out and spent time together. The script has a rhythm. It’s just got a rhythm and he really kind of understood that, but at the same time he just lets it happen. He interjects when it’s necessary, but that’s what’s great about the movie, it has this flow to it, this rhythm. It’s really the script. It’s just learning to trust that. He’s kind of like the master director that way.
Ritchie: Thanks, Gerry. You will have another job after that.
Butler: Did I get it right? Was that good? I didn’t understand what you wrote here.
Your last movie ‘Revolver’ was ambitious, but divided critics. Do you think now it’s eventually been understood and appreciated by the audiences, especially with the ambitious metaphysical allegories within it?
Ritchie: This is a high falootin’ question. I don’t know. You might better know than I. I always knew that it was going to be tricky myself, purely because of it’s ambition. But it’s exactly the movie that I set out to make and it’s the movie that I’m happy with, but it’s going to divide opinion certainly. By it’s very definition that’s what it was designed to do.
You’ve said that this movie has some social commentary. Can you talk more about that?
Ritchie: Sure. The social commentary is everything that I’ve been talking about. The social commentary is how the face of England, and I suppose in turn England no longer has the identity that we previously understood it had. It’s become international like New York has become international. So the commentary is how, I suppose, identities shifted, cultural identities have shifted. I mean, if you take New York and London now they’re so much more similar than they used to be. It’s a commentary on that. It’s a commentary on how crime has shifted. It’s a commentary on how business is conducted. Previously people could offer, lets take the example of, a million pounds for a house and then an oligarch would come along and would say, ‘Look, just to take it off the market and save any haggling I’ll offer you twenty million.’ That wasn’t necessarily uncommon. It suddenly became, ‘It’s going for a million.’ ‘Well, I’ll offer two million, three million –’ and then you go, ‘Ah, fuck it. Look, here’s twenty million.’ Now they did that with football teams. They did that with football players. They did it with every sort of cultural manifestation that we had. It’s that these exponential bids would suddenly come into the occasion. That had a tremendous cultural effect on the way that everything was manifest. So we’ve tried to reflect some of that within the movie too.
Will you continue exploring contemporary London as you continue making movies?
Ritchie: Well, I used the word exponential and I think it’s pertinent towards culture in general and particularly any capital that moves as fast as New York or London. The technology is the reduction of time, space and motion and it’s done that to culture too. So everything is moving exponentially, so fast that we can’t keep tabs on it. So I suppose that this is the interesting part just before it completely goes off the Richter scale in terms of it’s pace of changing. This is like a documentary on before it completely is something that we can’t recognize at all, the identity that it once had.
As your career keeps going audiences have come to expect certain things from you in your movies, your characters, for instance. Does that make it more difficult when you do a succeeding film?
Ritchie: I think it depends on what genre I’m going into. The movie after we’re doing is ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and that’s clearly going to be in a different genre, right. So I think that people would expect something very different and hopefully a flavor of what it is I’m familiar with. This was clear in the fact that it did what it said on the tin. I was interested in the genre. I was interested in the genre that people are familiar with. As I said, I hope it’s got enough stuff in it, new nutrition, to inspire an audience.
Do it always keep you second guessing though?Ritchie: Oh, no. I’ve been ambitious with how the plots interweave. The hard work is actually writing the thing. Shooting is comparatively easy.
How different is your take going to be on ‘Sherlock Holmes’?
Ritchie: It’s going to be very contemporary. I suppose that originally Sherlock Holmes was this intellectual action man. I think what happened was that they played down the action man aspect because they just didn’t have the means of executing the action in an interesting way. Well, we do have the means and we have the technology. So we’re just riding on the back of that.
When you say contemporary do you mean in feel or setting?
Ritchie: I mean, it still remains in it’s period, but we like the idea that he’s an intellectual action guy, to a degree.
Is there a race against time now because of Sacha Baron Coen’s attempt to do something like that.
Ritchie: They don’t even have a script yet. So we’re hoping not, no.
Gerard, [Mark] Neveldine and [Brian [Taylor] showed clips of ‘Gamer’. Can you talk about your role in that and how insane those guys are?
Butler: That was a pretty intense experience working with those guys. They have an incredible imagination and this great connection to young culture, to pop culture and also the internet and science, etcetera. This movie is very much an example of that, but also they create a story so cleverly and with such great characters, more so in their other stuff than in this, and yet they have such a dark nightmare. You’re literally walking around the set at night and there are people hanging with hooks coming out of their skin and that’s your day filming. There’s blood dripping. I had blood on me. These people did it for fun. Anyway, it’s really coo, but I’m not here to talk about that. Talk about ‘RocknRolla’! [laughs]
Have they talked to you about the sequel to ’300′? It’s strange because you all died.
Butler: They’ve mentioned it and we’ll leave it at that. It’s a very interesting idea, I have to say and I’m as floored as you are.
Guy, is ‘Sherlock Holmes’ going to be London based as well?
Are you a fan of London still?
Ritchie: It’s me hometown, yeah.
Elba: He’s got a pub.
Ritchie: I do have a pub.
You do have a pub in London?
Ritchie: Yeah. It’s much harder to run a pub than it is to make a film, by the way.
What is about London that you love then?
Ritchie: I was born there and I see the change and I know a great deal about it and I’m invested and I live vicariously through my wife. So I was once a spy and now I’ve become a tourist and it’s much more fun to live in London as a tourist than it is a spy. Someone told me the definition of that. A spy always looks for the bad stuff and a tourist always looks for the good stuff. So it makes it easy being married to an American.
Have you discovered new things about London being married to an American?
Ritchie: Sure. I mean, London is big. I don’t know if you know how big it is, but when you think that New York is big, New York goes up. London just goes on and on and on and on. It’s been going on for two thousand years and hasn’t stopped for that whole time. New York has been going on for like three hundred years.
How has the smoking ban in England effected your business? I know a lot of pubs had to close because people want a smoke with their drink.
Ritchie: Well, the only reason that I went into the pub business is because they stopped smoking in pubs. I think four pubs a day go out of business because of it.
Idris, there are characters in this film about to go legit. On ‘The Wire’ your character was about to go legit. Why is that criminals can’t seem to make that leap and getting thrown back into that world?
Elba: Well, the reality is that most criminals, eighty percent of criminals end up in jail or dead and that’s the reality. The twenty percent that make it end up being politicians. That’s really it. I get to play bad guys. It was good to be home making a movie with Guy in London. London is such a fantastic character, a really good bunch of actors on this. We had a good crew and honestly this film from start to finish is bollix. It’s really good.
Guy, you’ve had a couple of interesting weeks. Is everything okay?
Ritchie: As far as I’m aware of.
RocknRolla Opens October 3 2008