Your new movie Vengeance
- in a few words, what is it about?
Itís about revenge and it's about acceptance. Itís about a man
whoís been on the run for nearly three decades but when his daughter
is brutally raped, heís forced out of hiding and returns to a London
he no longer recognises to deal with the attackers when the police do
I think one way (of many) to look at Vengeance
is as a swan song to the gangster genre of old - would you at all agree,
and is that a genre at all dear to you?
I wouldnít say it's a swan song to the
genre, but Iíd certainly say it's a farewell to the way things used to
be and those types of villains. The line ĎItís all changed, I
donít recognise ití recurs throughout the movie with good cause. Itís
of course a genre I hold dear and over the years has treated me very
well. There are a lot of cheap imitation films out there but when the
British do a great gangster film, itís really great. Iím talking Lock,
Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, 44 Inch
Cake. The original Rise
of the Footsoldier was a film Iím
still incredibly proud to have been a part of. Did you see Will Gilbey
just won a BAFTA for editing? Itís very much deserved, he taught me a
lot while we worked on Rise
of the Footsoldier, heís bloody good.
(Other) sources of inspiration when writing Vengeance?
It was back in 2010 when an attack took place in which someone very
close to me was the victim of a rape and I was the victim of an
attempted murder. It was a night I will never forget and will carry with
me to my grave. Out of respect to the identity of my friend, I have
never spoken about the specifics of what happened to her but I have
spoken publicly about how I was kicked in the head for over ten minutes
by this gang made up of three guys and a girl, all teenagers. It was
only the arrival of the police and paramedics that stopped them or I
wouldnít have lived to tell the tale. The consequence of the police
deciding to not take any action spurred me on to make a documentary
about the realities of rape and its aftermath; not just on the direct
victims but those around them. After years as an editor, from that
moment I decided that independent filmmaking was the path I was going to
follow and I branched off into feature films.
As much as Vengeance is a revenge film, thereís also
social commentary in there on how much things have changed. I donít
want to get too into the way things are now, because these days you
canít f**king say anything without people taking offence. Christ, you
canít even tell a joke anymore because weíve forgotten that in
humour, offence is taken, not given. But needless to say the gist of my
take on things is young hoodies with knives run the country and our
prisons and police couldnít be further from a deterrent.
To what extent could you identify with the lead character of Vengeance,
and was Eric in any way or form based on yourself?
Iíd identify with him so much as I fully understand his frustration
at how the authorities deal, or rather donít deal with the situation
and his rage at the attackers. I wouldnít say he was based on me.
Maybe he was based on a version of me that I wished I could have been
at one point in time. Thereís something to be said for the way he
tries to deal with whatís happened, he definitely means well and
thereís no doubt heís seen some s**t.
Although my film proceeds this indecent, I fully understood what Liam
Neeson meant when he was recently stitched up by that journalist. In
the days that followed my attack, I spent a few days skulking round
pubs and streets looking for anyone that looked like my attackers.
Nothing can prepare you for the rage, itís this primal rage that you
canít describe to anyone, no one can understand it until they feel
it but you hope no one ever will. Iím not condoning it, nor saying
itís the answer, because it isnít. But it is a normal human
reaction to someone you love being raped and I can tell you that
itís got absolutely f**k all to do with race.
tends to be very raw in its outbursts of violence, as well as showing all
the scars and bruises - so what was the idea behind that? And what
can you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at
It was very important for me to strike a balance in showing that the
aftermath of any violent acts in the film is equally as painful and
shocking as the violence itself. I think that goes across the board for
the approach to the entire film - bleak - thatís the one note I gave
to the composer when he asked for the tone of the film. Much like Harry
Brown, which was a big inspiration for me when writing. Itís very
Do talk about your key cast, and why exactly these
Iíd been friends and neighbours with Billy Murray for years, we had
houses just down the road from each other in Turkey and lived in the
same docks in East London. Heís a terrific actor, I think heís one
of the best British actors we have, and at a test screening a few years
back, a lot of compliments were along the lines of Vengeance being
his best performance, because thereís so much range in it - not just
the usual point and shoot, so to speak.
Leslie Grantham and I had been friends for a while and been looking for
a film project to work on together. Both he and Billy were still huge in
terms of their EastEnders reputations, so it will
always be a career highlight for me standing in my apartment in London
shooting a scene with ĎJohnny Allení and ĎDen Wattsí. The last
scene they have, in particular, is absolutely electric.
Iíd been trying to make a documentary about Chris Langham for years
and have always been incredibly supportive of him and what happened. The
subject of press intrusion and sensationalist journalism is something I
have absolutely no truck with. He kept saying Ďthank you, but no thank
you' and in time that extended to íthank you, but no thank you, but
maybe we can find another projectí, so we had lunch and luckily that
Iíd met Crissy Rock when I made my documentary and was desperate to
work with her on a film as I knew she was a great actress - she won the
Silver Bear for her performance in Ladybird, Ladybird at
the 44th Berlin Film Festival. In Vengeance, she delivers an
incredible monologue; itís one of my pieces of writing that Iím most
proud of - but my God, she really brought it to life. That scene brings a
tremendous amount of gravity and emotional depth to the film.
The rest of the cast auditioned although Iíd worked with several of
them before. I actually went to school with Freya who plays the female
lead and weíd always kept in touch. She came and read for us and it
was hands down one of the best auditions Iíve seen to this day.
A few words about the shoot as such, and the
If you asked me to describe it in one word, Iíd say intense. It was a
very very tight shoot, only pulled off because we shot everything within
one square mile of East London, with the exception of a 2nd unit shoot
in Bodrum, Turkey, which was frankly a welcome break at the end of
principal photography. I still marvel at quite what we pulled off, from
filming in the extravagance of Canary Wharfís Plateau restaurant,
filled with a hundred extras to fight scenes and burning buildings. The
rape scene itself was shot at the end of a very cold and very long day
when tensions were already running high and so I remember that being a
particularly unpleasant moment for obvious reasons. But like every
independent film, we got on and did it.
From what I know, Vengeance
took quite a few years from being finished until its release - so what's
the story behind that?
Iím very blessed at the number of movies Iíve been fortunate to be
involved with in a very short period of time, but you know what,
sometimes s**t happens. Many a better film has sat on the shelf in
a sales agents office for a lot longer. Despite how hard it is to
actually get an independent film made in the first place, there are a
bloody lot of them made and so, for too many reasons to even fathom,
sometimes selling them is just as hard as getting them off the ground in
the first place. I find why it's being released now more fascinating.
With the passing of Leslie Grantham last year, the knife crime epidemic
London is experiencing, and the resurgence in British crime DVDs (my
film The Krays: Dead Man Walking was the fastest
selling British non-theatrical DVD of 2018), in many ways now feels like
a far more appropriate time for the filmís release.
That said, when and where will
the film be released, however tentatively?
Itís in post-production now and Iím working with Craig Gannon on the
score so weíre hoping it will finally see the light of day this
Christmas or early 2020 at the latest.
can tell us about audience and critical reception of Vengeance
I know youíve seen an early cut and enjoyed it. We had a lot of good
press and feedback at the time of the original test screening back in
2012, so it will be interesting to read some of the new reviews,
especially as I say, in our current climate. Isnít that sad? That the
situation has only gotten worse and the subject more releveant in the
best part of a decade since we filmed it...
Any future projects you'd like to share?
Speaking of all those reasons things donít go to plan, we were
literally about to roll on two films, a horror in Los Angeles and a
crime film in London, but earlier this year I was approached to write a
book. Thinking I knew best, I ignored the [better] advice of the
publisher and drastically underestimated the time needed to undertake it
so I sat down with my producers and they fortunately agreed to move our
dates to accommodate the book. Thatís due out next February and has
been a wonderful opportunity and an invaluable experience. Not entirely
unrelated to the book, Iíve also been having some provisional meetings
with a couple of charities about another venture which is also a new
change of pace and very refreshing and rewarding.
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
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That Instagram, itís everywhere. The other week, it went down all over
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they just got on with their lives, which was nice. You can follow my
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you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
Do you have any vodka?
for the interview!