Don­ald Clarke has a go at movie tough guy Ray Win­stone – but is he hard enough?

From Scum to Nil by Mouth to Sexy Beast and be­yond, Ray Win­stone will go down in his­tory as one of British cinema’s great hard­men. He plays it with such con­vic­tion, but is he re­ally that tough in real life? Don­ald Clarke gets ready for a dust-up

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FRONT PAGE -

Watch out Derry~Lon­don­derry. Ray Win­stone has touched down to pro­mote the open­ing film in the ex­cel­lent Foyle Film Fes­ti­val. Has any­one got a bit tasty with him yet? Know what I mean? Any ag­gro?

“I’ve only been here an hour. Not yet. Plenty of time for that though,” he chor­tles.

Come to think of it, Ray must get aw­fully bored with peo­ple talk­ing to him as if he’s just emerged from a pow-wow with the Kray twins. He did, in­deed, come from a proper work­ing­class Lon­don back­ground. Raised in West Ham and En­field, he is the son of a fruit-and-veg­etable sales­man who went on to be­come a taxi driver. He boxed as a lad. He ad­mits to get­ting in the odd spot of bother.

But Ray has been a proper ac­tor for some 35 years. He starred in Gary Old­man’s crit­i­cally lauded Nil by Mouth. He was crack­ing in Sexy Beast. He’s even played Henry VIII. But I guess the odd geezer must still try and pick fights with him when he goes down the pub. He is, af­ter all, one of British cinema’s great hard­men.

“Well, usu­ally, the peo­ple that do that are wankers any­way,” he says. “So any­one with any brains or who is any sort of man wouldn’t do that. If you treat peo­ple right, you don’t get that kind of bother. So, no. That doesn’t hap­pen too much.”

Foyle kicked off with a screening of Mat White­cross’s ur­ban thriller Ashes. Draw­ing on in­ci­dents from the di­rec­tor’s past, the pic­ture stars Win­stone as an Alzheimer’s pa­tient who is sprung from hospi­tal by his un­re­li­able son.

“I think it’s a thriller more than any­thing else,” Win­stone ex­plains. “It’s just about a sit­u­a­tion that two peo­ple find them­selves in. It’s about two guys in a car. You don’t know why they’re there or where they’re from.”

I have heard word that the mem­bers of Cold­play – whose videos White­cross worked on – were in­stru­men­tal in get­ting the funds to­gether.

“By all ac­counts they were,” Win­stone says. “They were very help­ful to Mat. He has a great re­la­tion­ship with them. They are busy boys any­way and they’re ev­ery­where.”

Well, that’s a good way to spend your mil­lions – bet­ter that than buy­ing lux­ury boats.

“Oh I don’t know. I like the idea of buy­ing boats. Ha ha!” Win­stone wheezes.

Steady on. Ray has some­thing of a trou­bled his­tory when it comes to money. In 1988, a lit­tle over a decade into his ca­reer, he was de­clared bank­rupt. Five years later, he went broke again. “Who has a trou­bled his­tory?” He does. Doesn’t he? “De­pends what you call get­ting in trou­ble,” he says. “I wouldn’t call it that. It’s just about grow­ing up and learn­ing to treat money the right way. What changes your at­ti­tude is hav­ing fam­ily. It’s like, when you’re young, you only have your own prick to look af­ter. Once you have kids and you’re mar- ried, then you got a re­spon­si­bil­ity for them. You learn.”

As you may have gath­ered, Ray Win­stone does not as­sume any fey the­atri­cal airs. He has never moved away from the outer reaches of Lon­don and the city still im­poses it­self on his grav­elly voice and broad de­meanour. It comes as no sur­prise to learn that he was a very de­cent boxer as a lad. The young Win­stone be­came wel­ter­weight school­boy cham­pion of Lon­don on three oc­ca­sions and fought for Eng­land. One pre­sumes he might have had a sniff at a pro­fes­sional ca­reer. Was he ever forced to choose be­tween act­ing and fight­ing?

“Nah! You make a mis­take in the box­ing ring and you get a punch and it re­ally hurts. If

you are booed off stage, you go

home and go to bed. That’s the way that goes. I have al­ways felt lucky enough to be em­ployed in a busi­ness I never thought I’d be in.”

It was Scum, in 1977, that changed things for Win­stone. Among the most con­tro­ver­sial BBC pro­duc­tions of its time, Alan Clarke’s vi­o­lent drama of life in a borstal trig­gered mas­sive protests from “de­cency” cam­paign­ers such as Mrs Mary White­house. But it gained a gen­uine cult fol­low­ing and was al­most im­me­di­ately re­made as a cinema pro­duc­tion fea­tur­ing much of the orig­i­nal cast.

“It was just luck,” he muses. “I went along to the cast­ing with a few kids who were in the same col­lege. I chat­ted to the re­cep­tion­ist and ended up go­ing in for a laugh. I was the last one in and I got the job sim­ply be­cause of the way I walked.”

Did they know, while mak­ing the orig­i­nal play, that they were brew­ing a po­ten­tial sen­sa­tion?

“No, no, no,” he says. “Then Mary White­house got it banned. We owe her a lot, be­cause peo­ple paid at­ten­tion, and we had then made it as a film. The ban­ning of it brought that to the front. I was away on hon­ey­moon. We came back, hav­ing missed all the hype, and saw crowds fight­ing to get into a screening at The

“When you’re young, you only have your own prick to look af­ter. Once you have kids and you’re mar­ried, then you got a re­spon­si­bil­ity for them. You learn”

Prince Charles Cinema. Fuck me! We didn’t see that com­ing.”

We think of Win­stone as be­ing a ubiq­ui­tous pres­ence over the past few decades, but – as that bank­ruptcy fil­ing con­firms – the 1980s were not that busy for our hero. A reg­u­lar role in the TV se­ries Robin of Sher­wood helped stuff cof­fers in the early 1980s. He had re­cur­ring part in Min­der. It was not, how­ever, un­til 1997, when he starred as the ag­gres­sive Ray in

Nil by Mouth, that he es­tab­lished a de­gree of pro­fes­sional sta­bil­ity. Work for the likes of Martin Scors­ese, Steven Spiel­berg and Robert Ze­meckis fol­lowed.

“Yeah, af­ter Scum came out, the British film in­dus­try es­sen­tially col­lapsed,” he says. “It was quiet for a long while. Things didn’t re­ally change un­til Nil by Mouth. That put me back in the game.”

Where did that cruel, vi­o­lent char­ac­ter come from? Did such a per­son lurk in his past?

“You know, it’s all re­ally from Gary’s past. We’re from the same place. There is a river be­tween our ar­eas. But it’s still the same place. I guess I’ve seen those guys, but I wouldn’t put my fin­ger on any par­tic­u­lar per­son. It’s about un­e­d­u­cated peo­ple who haven’t got a way of ex­press­ing them­selves. And be­cause they can’t ex­press them­selves, they be­come vi­o­lent.”

It seems as if Ray’s own home life has been – by the stan­dards of this busi­ness – re­mark­ably sta­ble. He has been mar­ried to the same woman, Elaine, for well over 30 years. They have never even con­tem­plated leav­ing the old smoke. Un­less he re­ally is in­tend­ing to buy those boats, money can­not be in short sup­ply. In the past few years, he’s ap­peared in Scors­ese’s Hugo, the re­make of The Sweeney, the smash Snow White and the Hunts­man and, as Marg­witch in the re­cent TV ver­sion of

Great Ex­pec­ta­tions.

I sus­pect that liv­ing with Ray Win­stone is not as dif­fi­cult as he’d like to pre­tend. He seems like a man who val­ues fam­ily. Men­tion of his ac­tor daugh­ter, Jaime Win­stone, re­cently in­ter­viewed in these pages, trig­gers a warm, af­fec­tion­ate burr.

“Oh, she’s a good girl,” he says. “They’re quite in­de­pen­dent, my girls. You ei­ther go along with them or you ar­gue all day long. I would have been happy if she’d done any­thing else. But you sup­port them.”

What of the in­domitable, Elaine? She must be a pa­tient woman.

“Oh no. I wouldn’t say that,” he chor­tles. “Show me a woman that is. They’re the bosses. Aren’t they? They run it all. Well, she’d have to be fairly pa­tient with me. But I am very good to her – I very rarely go home.”

I don’t be­lieve it for a mo­ment.

The Foyle Film Fes­ti­val runs un­til Sun­day Novem­ber 25th

Rogues gallery: Ray Win­stone in Scum, Nil by Mouth, Sexy Beast and, ahem, In­di­ana Jones and the Crys­tal Skull

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.