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Ray Winstone Talks 'The Sweeney,' Says He'd Rather Be 'Kissing Than Fighting'


(Vertigo, Embargo | Pacific Coast News)

For Ray Winstone, one of the toughest actors around, playing Jack Regan was a chance to put his own spin on a venerated character. Based on the beloved British TV series of the same name, 2013's The Sweeney updates the hardened Flying Squad of London's Metro police department, bringing them to life in the 21st century. The film is an action-packed, old school story of cops and robbers and Winstone is at the forefront, leading the charge, as usual.

We talked to Winstone about The Sweeney, taking on physical, violent roles, his favorite action stars growing up, and some of his experiences making his other films like Sexy Beast, and the upcoming Biblical epic, Noah.

The Sweeney looked like a really fun movie to make. Can you talk about your favorite day on set?
I suppose a million actors say this when they're making a film, but when you turn up on set and your director's standing there in a pair of pajamas, you know you're going to have a fun day, you know? It's kind of like that. We were quite apprehensive about making the film from day one because we were making such an iconic—The Sweeney is known in England as such an iconic show with iconic actors—and we turn up and think "What are we doing this film for?" We're putting our asses on the line here we're gonna get a kicking. Either way, we took a big risk and made the show our own. So once you do that and you know you're making something like that, you're going to have fun. You're going to enjoy it.

You've never shied away from physical roles...
No, but I'm getting a bit older aren't I, Joe? All this running about kills your body you know? I keep breaking ribs and rolling about in the mud, the blood, and the beer. I really need a nice romantic lead now. I'd rather be kissing than fighting I think.

Yeah you got a little of that here, but not enough, right?
Yeah a bit more would've been helpful I think, yeah (laughs).

So do you still enjoy the violent roles? You're great at them.
Yeah I think so. I think it's like playing you know? It's the kid in me. But I still think you've got a responsibility to it...the more sophisticated we become the more barbaric we are at the same time...you've got to tell a story and the violence is part of that story and you're dealing with violent people within the movie. So, I'll play that character that believes you go in, you do a bit of this, and you ask questions later.

When you were coming up as a young actor who were some of the action guys that you really respected?

Oh I love John Wayne. I love John Wayne as an action guy but I've always thought he was an underrated actor, absolutely brilliant you know, very subtle, very bright, the way he performed. James Cagney I loved, (Richard) Burton and Albert Finney, Richard Harris, these kinds of actors. James Stewart—you can see him crying, but being a man with it. Gary Cooper was the same. There were fantastic actors about at the time.

While I've got you, I wanted to ask you about Sexy Beast. What was it like facing Ben Kingsley down every day?
It was a privilege but the thing that happened with Ben was, Ben was working on another film when we started and he got delayed coming to us as an actor. So we had to work around Ben for awhile. In the film, we were waiting for this man to turn up—Don, but we were also waiting for Ben to turn up so that kind of helped us in a way. Is he coming today? Is he coming tomorrow? And when he got there, we kind of clicked right away. It was a fantastic way to work with him. I loved working with Ben. And Ben said he learned a lot from me which is a wonderful thing. He's one of those actors that gives you everything. Sometimes you haven't got to do too much because Ben's doing it for you, just an absolute privilege to work with.

It just seemed like such an intense set. Was that the most intense filmmaking experience you've had?
No, not at all. I wouldn't call it intense. When you have a great script, when you have a really great script, it's not hard work as such. It's a pleasure to turn up everyday...and that goes for 44 Inch Chest, Sexy Beast, that goes for a lot of films I've been lucky enough to do. Intense is for a war zone. When you're on a set you have to laugh a lot, you have to enjoy the people you're with because the subject matter is quite harrowing and that's when it becomes very intense.

I also wanted to ask you about Noah. Can you compare an Aronofsky set to a Spielberg or Scorsese set?
There's not a lot of difference. I mean in the way of professionalism there's not a lot of difference. With Darren (Aronofsky) it's his first big movie challenge. When you go to a $200 million movie and come from making The Wrestler and Black Swan, which were much lower budget—the responsibility he would've had—that would've been the first time he had the responsibility of that amount of money to make a film, but I would think for Darren, it was, once you're making a film you're making a film and that's the bottom line. But I had a great experience working with him. Not only is he a clever man but a very good man as well.

Other than The Sweeney, what role of yours are you most proud of?
I loved playing Henry VIII. I loved playing the King of England because I'm a little kid out of Plaistow in East London and playing the King is something I never thought I'd ever do. I enjoyed it well being the King. I couldn't be the real King, because I'd probably be chopping people's heads off left right and center (laughs).

The Oscars are Sunday, will you be watching?
I'm not in them, I would if I was in them (laughs). I'll be watching because I'd like to see Daniel win it. Daniel Day-Lewis, probably the best screen actor around at the moment. There's a few of them out there, Denzel Washington's a great actor, Gary Oldman, but yeah, at the moment, Daniel Day is probably the best screen actor around. I love watching him so I'd love to see him win the Oscar.

I would too. He is great, but you're not too bad yourself. I wouldn't sell yourself short.
I think they're in a different league them boys. They're something else.


(Photo credits: The Sweeney posters and images courtesy Vertigo and Embargo | John Wayne photo courtesy of Biography | Noah photo courtesy JoBlo via TheDailyMail)

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