I’m happy to admit I’ve been lucky. I was lucky when Alan Clarke cast me in Scum and I was lucky when Gary Oldman cast me in Nil By Mouth. Thanks to those films, and Nil By Mouth in particular, I have a career. I make a good living doing the thing I love. So, yes, I’ve been very lucky.
Don’t become an actor because you want to do it. Do it because you have to do it. There’s a bloody big difference.
People have got to get behind British film before America takes over the world. In other countries, New Zealand or Australia, you check into a hotel and they’ve a whole channel dedicated to local films. They’re not all great movies but it’s great to find people who are proud of local cinema. And it’s a damn sight better than six channels showing Men In Black 2, which is what you get in a lot of British and American hotels.
A man should be allowed to enjoy a cigarette. It’s not a lot to ask.
Opportunity sometimes knocks twice. We made Scum twice. First time, we made it as a TV drama for the BBC but it got banned because it was so controversial. So then we remade it for the cinema. In between making the two versions, me and the rest of the guys, like Phil Daniels and Ray Burdis, had learnt so much more about acting that we gave much better, more solid performances. Opportunities like that don’t happen often so you have to take advantage of them when they do come along.
Don’t be scared to steal from the greats. When we were making Robin Of Sherwood, me and Jason Connery “based” a punch-up on the famous fight between John Wayne and Victor McLaglen in The Quiet Man. Our thinking was this: if it was good enough for the Duke, it was good enough for us.
It’s great to work with your heroes. No one does what I do better than Timothy Spall. He’s spellbindingly good. I got to work with Timothy years ago on Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. It was an amazing experience for a young actor. I think I’d be a much poorer person if I hadn’t had that chance.
Martin Scorsese’s bloody good. I used to say that to him when we were making The Departed: “Hey, Marty, you’re bloody good at this directing lark.” That always made him laugh. I think he gets a bit sick of everyone calling him a genius, even though that’s exactly what he is.
Alan Clarke might be the best director I’ve ever worked with. He had this amazing way of directing you without you even knowing it. You’d arrive on set and Alan would come up to you and say, “Alright, Ray, how you going? How’s your mother? Has she got over that dose of ’flu yet?” And before you know it, you were completely relaxed and ready to go to work. He was a genius, Alan Clarke. I still miss him, and he’s been dead for twenty years.
People are more or less the same all over. I made a film in Australia a few years back, The Proposition. I was watching some rugby and a guy got taken off with a cut head. The commentator said, “Jeez, he’s covered in claret!” I thought, “Claret?! That’s my language.” There I was on the other side of the world and they were using exactly the same slang.
If I did it all again I really wouldn’t change a thing. Other than the death of my mother when I was quite young, I have no regrets. If I gave you a punch, you deserved it.
Boxing’s a great thing for young people to do. I actually owe my first acting job to boxing. I was walking down a corridor and Alan Clarke saw me and called me over. It turned out he really liked my swagger. It was the way I used to walk to the ring. Because of that, I got the lead in Scum.
I’m a big Bollywood fan. Growing up in the East End, there were a few cinemas that showed Bollywood films. They always struck me as very vibrant and exciting. I think it’d be great if British film and Bollywood got together. We might give the Yanks a run for their money.
Never drink beer in scorching heat. I’ve made movies in some of the warmest places on the planet. If you want to experience the worst possible headache, drink a skinfull at lunch in Northern Queensland. There’s not enough paracetamol in the world!
You can’t escape your past. It doesn’t matter what TV show I appear on or which film I make, to people of a certain age I’m always going to be Will Scarlett or Arnie the mechanic from Minder.
I believe in live and let live, but if you f*** with me, that’s it.
I don’t get starstruck. I’ve worked with people I admire but I don’t get flustered or tongue-tied. The best stars are the ones who come across as people you’d like to have a beer with. You don’t get starstruck when you’re with your drinking buddies, do you?
John Malkovich is a good kisser. I spent the best part of a day kissing him on the set of Ripley’s Game. It wasn’t a patch on the day I spent smooching with Angelina Jolie for Beowulf, mind. As work days go, that was one of the best. Still, I can’t say the wife was too happy about it.
I don’t like guns, or violence for that matter. Don’t put it around but I’m a bit of an old softy.
I am a serious actor. People don’t always believe me because I have such a fun time on set. But I’m as serious about acting as the next guy. People just need to remember that you can smile and still be working hard. I’d hate to be a miserable sod just so people thought I was a serious actor. F*** that!
Who’s the Daddy? Who do you think?