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Underground provides Ritchie with fertile ground, again

Category: RockNRolla News
Article Date: September 5, 2008 | Publication: Canwest News Service | Author: Jay Stone
Source: Canwest News Service

Posted by: admin

If you ask Guy Ritchie how he knows so much about the volatile underworld of Cockney gangsters and stylish thugs that have become familiar fixtures in his whirlwind London heist films -- movies like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch and now, his new movie RocknRolla -- he'll tell you that he learns about it from the newspapers.

RocknRolla, an English corruption of rock-and-roller, means a volatile live wire with desire for life, Ritchie says, which makes it fertile ground for film.

"They're interesting characters, these rock-and-rollers, and they seem pertinent to put into a film with all the other stands of what I can glean from the headlines in London at the moment. I'm trying to make an amalgamation of all the characters that summarize our culture at present," at least as far as he can tell from the London tabloids that write about such things.

So does that mean he believes what he reads in the tabloids?

"You probably know the answer to that one," Ritchie says, and indeed we do. He's become one of the unhappy targets of the tabloid press, mostly because of his marriage to Madonna, a relationship that has given him an air of super-celebrity out of proportion to his output, even given that Brad Pitt, another of those tabloid targets, starred in Snatch.

RocknRolla has nothing to do with Madonna -- it's a Guy Ritchie crime drama, this time taking place in the upper echelons of the London underworld where real estate has replaced drugs as the most lucrative product -- but it's a connection that Ritchie can't escape.

Jeremy Piven, who has a small role in the film, recalled that when Madonna visited the set of the film in London, it was an intimidating moment.

"She really didn't have to say anything," Piven told the press yesterday at the Toronto International Film Festival, where RocknRolla is having its North American premiere. "She's Madonna. It was like having some sort of animal, a wild beast, walk into the room, you know what I mean? I mean, like, there it is."

She's also probably the biggest name connected with the movie, which opens Oct. 31.

It stars Tom Wilkinson as Lenny, a leader of a brutal gang, who is making a real estate deal with some shady Russians that keeps being sabotaged by his crooked accountant (played with feline sexiness by Thandie Newton) and a group of small-time hoods led by Gerard Butler, the Scottish actor best known as the hunk who led the Spartans to a heroic battle in the stylized epic 300.

Asked what appealed to him about Butler, Ritchie says, "Good abs."

The movie has the familiar fast-cutting, darkly comic air of Ritchie's other gangster pictures -- his most notable failure was when he stepped outside the genre to direct Madonna in the love story Swept Away -- but it moves up a bit in society, to the more elevated concerns of London property values.

"The movie was inspired by the fact that London has become a new Wild West," Ritchie says. "I suppose where it's really changed is in the upper echelons, so I just wanted to make a humorous commentary on that.

"The main character in this film is the environment itself, it's London, so it's a Western, if you will, about this new rich London."

But even in rich London, Ritchie is attracted to the people who live on the outside of the law. It's a visceral interest, he says: "For some reason I'm entertained by that world. I'm not quite sure why that is."

It's an interest that is bound to continue, because RocknRolla ends with a promise of a sequel. Producer Joel Silver acknowledges it's a cocky thing to say, but he says he would love to see another one.

Around that, though, Ritchie is moving away from the world of RocknRolla into other genres.

He's set to direct an adaptation of Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr., and he's looking at making movies out of the comic hero Sgt. Rock and of another comic book series he has created, Gamekeeper.

"We've been trying to fill up the arsenal with as much product as we can. I like the idea of coming out of the stocks and being as busy as possible for the foreseeable future. Trying to make as many movies as I can in as many genres as I can."


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