Guy Ritchie Interview – REVOLVER

     December 4, 2007

Opening this Friday is the new Guy Ritchie movie “Revolver.” And when I say new… to everyone with a Region 2 DVD player, or anyone who lives in the United Kingdom… “Revolver” is a bit old.

The movie was actually released a few years ago over there, but since its initial release, writer/director Guy Ritchie has done some work to try and make the story more coherent and easier to follow. While I’ll admit the movie is definitely not for everyone, there is no denying that Guy has an amazing eye for framing and the movie is beautiful to look at. But I’ll also admit the story will make a lot of people scratch their heads.

Anyway, the highlight of the interview was hearing a funny story about how Guy got the directing gig at Warner Bros. for the remake of “The Dirty Dozen.” Here’s what he said:

Q: I was going to ask you…there are rumors that you might be doing Dirty Dozen or some Sony movie called The Game Keeper or Gate Keeper.

RITCHIE: Yeah. We did a comic about a year ago. It’s called ‘Game Keeper.’ And then, Warner Brothers picked it up, and yeah, it’s about a gamekeeper, and the gamekeeper is someone that keeps down the vermin on the land. So it’s about a gamekeeper from Sarajevo. So I’m doing that with Warner Brothers, actually. And while I was at Warner Brothers, they said do you want to make ‘Dirty Dozen’ as well. [Laughing] So yeah, so the idea is that we all make a remake of ‘The Dirty Dozen,’ too.

Q: And where are you in that process?

RITCHIE: Apparently I’m not supposed to answer that.

Q: So when do you think we’re going to hear about your upcoming projects?

RITCHIE: I don’t know. I don’t know. Lauren, obviously, will answer these things. I don’t know. I imagine in the next six weeks or something like that. All right, see ya.

Anyway, here’s the synopsis for the movie and below that is the transcript of the interview. As always, you can either read it or download the audio as an MP3 by clicking here. “Revolver” open this Friday in limited release.

Gambler and conman Jake Green (Jason Statham) always ran with a bad crowd and it cost him seven years in jail. After his release, Jake becomes unbeatable at the tables using a formula for the ultimate con that he learned from two mysterious prisoners while on the inside. Now, he is ready to take his revenge against Dorothy Macha (Ray Liotta), the man responsible for his jail time. Macha is plotting to eliminate his ruthless rival, Lord John, and has staked his credibility on a huge drug deal with the all-powerful Sam Gold. Jake visits Macha at his casino and humiliates him publicly in a game of chance. Macha, fearing more of the same medicine, sends his goons to “take care of” Jake. His life is saved by enigmatic Zack (Vincent Pastore) who, with his equally inscrutable partner Avi (André Benjamin), offer Jake protection. Against his better judgment, Jake accepts. He soon finds himself playing the very last game he wants to be playing, and there is danger at every turn. But, the biggest danger of all comes from a totally unexpected source…himself. It gradually transpires the real conman is in his head.

Question: How are you?

Guy Ritchie: I’m all right, I think.

Q: No jet lag or anything?

RITCHIE: No, no, I’ve been here a week or so, so I’m not jet lagged.

Q: You came here for our fires.

RITCHIE: It was very nice, you see. I flew up in the Bay (area). I was down in Mexico, and I flew up in the bay, and you come in and you can’t see anything for a very long way. I’m surprised that you can even see the sunshine from down here, because from up there you can’t see anything. So I hope you’re not too perplexed by this film.

Q: No, not really. It’s easy to understand.

RITCHIE: Oh, it is. Good. I’m pleased. You’re the first person that said that, because this is a slightly different cut than the one that we released about two years ago or whatever it was because they just found it too complicated, or so we thought. I expected some people to understand what the theme of the film was going to be about, and there wasn’t many that did. So we thought, ‘Well, what we’ll do is just put a bunch of psychiatrists on the end that could explain that it actually was about something.’ So, I’m pleased to hear it. And I haven’t spoken to anyone literally since this new cut, so I’m quite pleased to hear you say that.

Q: Well, I’ve been questioning my inside voice ever since.

RITCHIE: Oh, yeah?

I don’t know why it’s lying to me. Can you talk about the idea of Sam Gold and do we all have that inside our heads?

RITCHIE: Well, the idea is, is that let me just start with the idea of why I was intrigued with the concept of the film is because the mind hates the concept of the film, right. And that’s why it was a conscious thing. I can’t remember who the first person was that actually brought the concept to me. I realized my mind was trying to make it more complicated than what it actually was. The film is tremendously simple. It’s simply that the only thing or entity that you’re battling is an internal one, right. It’s that voice that when you’re running keeps telling you to stop just when you start getting tired. It’s the ubiquitous voice that stops you from enjoying your life essentially. And it tricks you and seduces you and tells you this is a good idea. And then later, it transponds that it’s not, so that’s the movie, right, and it’s no more complicated than that. Where the mind starts to make it complicated is when you really have to imply it, and then the mind really makes sure that you don’t understand it. And I suppose that’s what I found most intriguing about the concept is how people, you know, you could clearly tell them. We tell them three times in the film. The film is about the fact that there is ultimately no major enemy, external enemy. So we say that three times, and there are some people, ‘Well, what’s the film about?’ And after you tell someone that three times, you think like, ‘That’s interesting, because we told you three times.’ And really, that’s all the film’s about, so there’s three times we say it conspicuously that essentially is what the film is about all the way through. So I’m slightly flummoxed, or I’m not that flummoxed because I understand that the mind’s making it complicated. Because it took me about a week for me to understand the premise in the first place, and then I realized I was just complicating it, and it’s just tremendously simple. So Sam Gold is that entity that makes it complicated. He’s that entity that makes our life useless.

Q: Couldn’t you just appreciate it as a gangster story then?

RITCHIE: I think that’s up to the individual. I mean, I try to do that. I try to make it so, but this makes people so pissed off about the fact that they don’t understand it that they weren’t interested in any gangster movie. What happened was is they got, ‘I don’t understand it, and I’m angry.’ There are some people that didn’t have that reaction. But some people went bananas, and they got really upset about it. And so then pretty swiftly after that, the kind of the gangster aspect was reduced, and it was that what’s the film about aspect was the only thing that anyone was interested in. So I’d like to think that you can enjoy it on that basis. But what gets in the way is that if you don’t understand it, then you can get angry. And I suppose in effect that was supposed to be what Sam Gold is like, because Sam Gold can’t understand it, and Sam Gold has a high opinion of himself. And if Sam Gold can’t understand it, then he’s got to project some kind of an enemy somewhere in the film. So I like to stick with the film on explanations.

Why did you cast Jason Statham again? And he looks totally different.

RITCHIE: The funny thing about Jason is Jason actually has hair, and he makes himself look bald. So I actually let his natural hair grow out.

Q: He didn’t make you say that did he?

RITCHIE: [Laughing] So obviously I like working with Jason and because I had a short hand. And by the way, I had this conversation with Jason, and I said, ‘Listen. Try and get your head around this.’ And he did get his head around it, and then he called back two days later. And if we speak to about it now two years later, now it’s his favorite film. But gradually the concept percolates, and when it does you think, ‘Oh, I know. This is interesting,’ because it’s the ubiquitous concept that affects every aspect of your life. Because there’s no doubt of this tone of conceptualized self or whatever it is that you want to call it. It exists now. I mean, it exists. It just depends on what you want to call it, but Jason really liked that idea, and I liked that idea, because he was into it. So I had a main actor that wanted to do it, and I wanted to do it. That’s why Jason and I ended up working together on it.

Q: Can you talk about the other casting such as Ray Liotta who is really great and also Andre Benjamin and Vincent Pastore and those guys?

RITCHIE: Well, they’re all guys that at some point or another I’ve seen them do something that I was attracted to. And I thought they were all still kind of relatively fresh and hadn’t done this kind of a thing. So for all those reasons, that’s really how I most conspired this collection of actors.

Q: What about all of Ray’s performance in the film? Was that you coming up with different ideas?

RITCHIE: I think that was probably both of us. That was both of us. The idea is that the devil here in Vegas, all right. So we use this kind of Vegas-esque world, which titillates the senses, and you have to be something of an extravagant character within that. So inevitably, he ended up being what it was.

Q: Were you making the film under a lot more scrutiny than previous projects because of your past films and because of real life?

RITCHIE: I’m not sure if I understand the question.

Q: Well it seems you might have taken a beating with Swept Away, and now with your personal life too… so was it a different experience making a gangster film?

RITCHIE: Well, it was a different experience in the fact that it’s hard for people to initially get the premise, right. So you could find members of the crew sitting around reading the concept. And they so wanted to laugh; they wanted it to be a ‘Snatch,’ right, because they thought, ‘Oh, I know what this is going to be. It’s Jason and Guy. It’s the Jason and Guy show,’ right. And to a degree, I want to pick that box, but that’s simply not what this film is about. So it was tricky in the fact that you need to just kind of talk to people about this film before they go and see the film, so they’re like braced for what it is that they’re going to see. I mean, what we don’t want to encourage is people to go and see this film that think they’re going to get a ‘Snatch’ or something that’s light, because it ain’t. It ain’t light, and it ain’t funny. So it’s a film that we want to make sure that you know what you’re getting into before you get into it. We want it to say on the label on the tin what’s in the tin. And there is a temptation, I think, for people to sort of give it a brand that people are familiar with, and I’m desperate for that not to happen.

Q: Most people know that the film was delayed several years in coming out here, and that makes people skeptical. They say is something wrong? So how do you expect that to play into what already sounds like an uphill battle?

RITCHIE: Well listen, it’s just a battle, just what can you do? It’s an uphill battle. The movie itself is about kind of the ultimate trick. And if it has any validity to it, it’s always going to be an uphill battle. And you know, I anticipated that when I got myself into it, but I don’t wish to make life hard for myself for the rest of my life. But the premise was too audacious for me to turn down, and to a degree you sort of forget about uphill battles when you’re working, because you’re distracted by the fact that you’re doing what you’re doing. So I mean, my experience is if you know what you’re getting into and if you can keep a bold mind, then you will be rewarded by the experience and ultimately much more so than anything else I suspect I’m going to do. But in the interim, it’s not an easy film, but that’s the nature of the movie.

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Q: How involved are you to get your actors performances? And the look of your films is very stylized, but in terms of what they give you… how much is that you and how much is that a collaborative effort?

RITCHIE: Again, I don’t think too much about this, but what happens is if you’re comfortable with what they manifest on the other side of the camera, then you keep your mouth shut. It doesn’t occur to you that you should interject. But if you feel as though in some way your opinion could assist the vision, then it all happens instinctively. So with some actors I never say anything, and some actors I say rather a lot.

Q: Who did you have to kind of poke on this one?

RITCHIE: Well, I think I poked everyone. [Laughing] At some point or another, I think yeah, I had conversations with everyone. So I’m not sure anyone was, I mean, it certainly it wouldn’t be a slander in any way if I said I spoke to some actors more than others, because I like the people that take a line, all right, and say, ‘This is the way I’m going to play it.’ And then there’s no sort of ambiguity about which way they’re playing it, and then you can interject or not. What you don’t want is something that’s wishy washy, but I don’t think anyone was wishy-washy.

Q: Do you think the use of voice over helps reinforce the whole idea that it’s kind of internal?

RITCHIE: I mean, the film doesn’t work without the voice over. So the idea, and this is another thing that struck me that people couldn’t get, the idea that in the end Sam Gold would get you. He clearly gets (can’t hear) Macha, right? And if you get in business with Mr. Gold, I can’t even remember what the line is actually. But if you get in business with him, you’re in business with him, right? And then, he’ll end up getting you one way or the other. And then, I think it was the voice in Macha’s head that’s saying, ‘Now Gold’s going to come and get me.’ But what he didn’t realize is that was Gold, so Gold is essentially the ultimate combat because he has no power, and the only power that they’re power of illusions.

Q: Could you talk about the quotes in the movie and where did he find them?

RITCHIE: Well, he found them all over the place. I think we found them all over the place.

Q: Like in terms of suicide quotes or what is that quote?

RITCHIE: I can’t even remember all that, but it’s ‘the road to suicide,’ I believe, which I think the first line is. Isn’t it? ‘There’s no such thing as,’ ultimately there’s no such thing as an external opponent or enemy I think it is, yeah. I can’t remember. In the end, you’ll find that all sort of philosophy or psychiatry or spiritual philosophy is based on this premise of the false self, right. So everything’s just a commentary on this false self. And this is simply just another commentary on this false self. It’s just we were very specific about the fact that that’s what we were doing as opposed to any other film that you go and see will always be about the lack of manifestations of the false self. All drama is about the struggle between good and evil, all right. But what we have a saying is, is that all that drama is actually taking place in your noggin. And there was just something very specific about it, like in ‘Fight Club,’ actually. If you reflect on ‘Fight Club,’ and I saw it again like a month ago. That’s what’s being said in ‘Fight Club.’ Whether you realize it, this duality, that plays and then you go, ‘Oh, I know.’ There it comes again. But I remember when I first saw ‘Fight Club,’ I thought, ‘Oh, I seem to remember everyone saying it’s schizophrenia.’ But I don’t think it was about schizophrenia. I think what the mind does is it puts it into a label. It doesn’t threaten you as an individual, all right. So it says, ‘Oh, that’s cool. That person has schizophrenia.’ But we’ve all got schizophrenia because we’ve got two voices in our head, but it just depends if your schizophrenia is acute. So I forgot what the question was now.

Q: Did you happen to sort of just find these quotes here now?

RITCHIE: Yeah, because you don’t need to go very far, and then you find a quote, right, what the seven deadly sins are. They’re all sort of egotistical characteristics. But the ego, it’s a thing, right. It’s an unseen entity that doesn’t want to be exposed. So it will give you enough of its characteristics to feel as though you’re onto it but never give you enough to make sure that you’re really onto it. And once you get into that venue, it becomes very interesting, and it’s part of a game that you want to share with people. It’s a real thing that people are just not aware of it. And it’s the very thing that affects and informs your entire life. So I mean that’s the reason why I made the movie.

Q: And what kind of film is RocknRolla?

RITCHIE: No, that’s not such cerebral stuff, right. That’s fun. It’s kind of commentary on how London is now. And ultimately, it’s Russian oligarchs buying up the city and stuff and then the shenanigans that take place in the underworld, which it’s about. So it’s fun, and it’s easy.

Q: Is it a commentary on certain soccer teams or?

RITCHIE: It has something to do, there is a bit of, yes, there are people that own soccer. There is a particularly oligarchy we’ve got in the film who builds soccer stadiums, yeah.

Q: I was going to ask you…there’s rumors that you might be doing Dirty Dozen or some Sony movie called The Game Keeper or Gate Keeper.

RITCHIE: Yeah. We did a comic about a year ago. It’s called ‘Game Keeper.’ And then, Warner Brothers picked it up, and yeah, it’s about a gamekeeper, and the gamekeeper is someone that keeps down the vermin on the land. So it’s about a gamekeeper from Sarajevo. So I’m doing that with Warner Brothers, actually. And while I was at Warner Brothers, they said do you want to make ‘Dirty Dozen’ as well. [Laughing] So yeah, so the idea is that we all make a remake of ‘The Dirty Dozen,’ too.

Q: And where are you in that process?

RITCHIE: Apparently I’m not supposed to answer that.

Q: When you make a movie, what do you most pay attention to?

RITCHIE: I think you pay attention to what it is that you are paying attention to. So last night actually. He was a kind of successful businessman. And he says the reason he’s successful and why he thinks everyone else around him doesn’t flow so well is because he sees a flag on a hill and he doesn’t start thinking about what’s on the other side of the hill. All right, he aims for that flag, and he doesn’t let his imagination run away with himself of what’s taking place on the other side of the hill. You get to that flag, and when you’re at that flag, you can look at the next flag. So I think it’s just a question, we were standing on a golf course at the time, which is why the metaphor conjures up. [Laughs] So I think it’s a question of that. It’s like climbing a mountain, and it’s base camp. So you just go from base camp to base camp and then eventually you sort of climb the mountain, and you’re not quite sure because you’d never climb the mountain, right, if you’re looking at the summit. So you just focus on what it is that you’re focusing on at that time.

Q: But each project is different?

RITCHIE: Yeah. What happens is, is I feel as though like from a sort of marketing point of view, you should probably map your career out in an intelligent and sort of formulated way, but I just don’t think it works like that. It isn’t in my case. What happens is I get excited about something, and strike while the iron is hot. So that’s why I had fun with ‘Revolver,’ so I just liked the concept. And if I didn’t get into that concept then, I don’t think I would three years later. I’m not sure if you’d be interested in that in the same way as you were then.

Q: And since you can’t talk specifically about it, can I just ask what your projects are or what’s the next project?

RITCHIE: Actually, I think it’s those two things you mentioned, actually. It was going to be ‘Game Keeper,’ and it was going to be ‘Dirty Dozen.’

Q: And then RocknRolla?

RITCHIE: Oh now, ‘RocknRolla’ I’ve already finished. ‘RocknRolla’ comes spring 2008.

Q: Can you talk about working at a big studio versus on your own in England?

RITCHIE: Well, I haven’t really worked with a big studio.

Q: Warner Bros?

RITCHIE: Well, I haven’t really done. You mean the ‘RocknRolla’ thing.

Q: No. I mean whatever you can…

RITCHIE: Oh, I don’t know. We’ll have to have this conversation in a year or two from now, because I haven’t really worked for a big studio.

Q: Would you ever do a kick ass gangster film with a female protagonist and who would you cast?

RITCHIE: Give me a film where there’s been a good kick ass gangster girl, if anyone can. I don’t know.

QUESTION: La Femme Nikita.

RITCHIE: Oh, there you go. By the way, that was one of my favorite films. So yes. If a script like that came along.

Q: Who would you pick? Who have you seen that you think would be good for that role?

RITCHIE: Unfortunately, I haven’t spent enough time thinking about it to answer that question. I could get myself in trouble, so I won’t answer that.

Q: So when do you think we’re going to hear about your upcoming projects?

RITCHIE: I don’t know. I don’t know. Lauren, obviously, will answer these things. I don’t know. I imagine in the next six weeks or something like that. All right, see ya.

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