Iconic ghost laid to rest
Police roles come at cost in writes
AY Winstone has been cracking skulls and kicking in doors since he broke into the mainstream in Gary Oldman’s 1997 drama Nil By Mouth.
That film led to star turns in the equally confronting Sexy Beast and Martin Scorsese’s crime thriller The Departed and set up Winstone as the ultimate hardman.
His latest project sees him reprise the role of DI Jack Regan in a remake of 1970s UK cop drama The Sweeney. Winstone had to get past the ghost of the late British star John Thaw, who played Regan in the TV series and mentored Winstone on the original set.
‘‘I was an extra on The Sweeney after I left college and was lucky enough to work with John Thaw so making this film was like going full circle,’’ he says.
‘‘He was an icon and while many say that the part was tailor made for me, it wasn’t easy because of all the baggage from the show. For me, I had to find another way in there and create something else by stamping my own mark on the part.’’
Set in modern times, The Sweeney is faster and harder than the TV show. Winstone’s Regan, a no-nonsense enforcer, and partner George Carter (Plan B musician Ben Drew), set their sights on an old criminal foe after a brutal murder during an otherwise innocuous hold-up.
Directed by Nick Love ( Outlaw) and written by BAFTA winner John Hodge ( Trainspotting), the plot thickens via a series of car chases, shoot-outs and twists – without ever being held back by the show’s legacy.
‘‘The name The Sweeney opened doors for us but we wanted to make a cops and robbers, British-style movie so the only connection was the name really,’’ says Winstone, who shares an affinity with his character.
‘‘I’m playing an old guy who shaped his career in the ’70s and looks at the world in a completely different way to the next generation.
‘‘He’s a dinosaur and of the persuasion that you’ve got to kick down some doors and rough a few people up because there are bad guys out there.’’
On the flipside is Drew’s character Carter, a maverick cop from the wrong side of the tracks who walks a fine line between crime stopper and crime starter.
Raised in a working class family in the neglected East London borough of Forest Gate, Drew is an expert in street law, from his riots-referencing Ill Manors album to the crim he plays in Michael Caine film Harry Brown. Playing a likeable policeman tested his mettle. ‘‘I played him the way I wish the police had been when I was growing up – only concerned by real criminals like murderers and rapists as opposed to kids smoking a bit of weed,’’ he says.
Ray Winstone (left) and Ben Drew partner up in the big-screen remake of