Ritchie Rich - Guy Ritchie Brings Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels Across the Pond
by Laura Macdonald
One of the slickest, classiest, funniest films to come out of Britain in many moons opened last week in the States. A wonderful mash of clever dialogue, snappy camera work and effects make this devilish feature debut by Guy Ritchie, an indie film not to be missed. "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" is refreshing not only for the way it makes fun of the films it reveres, (from "The Long Good Friday" to "Reservoir Dogs"), it's a violent film where most of the gore is implied (in other words, they avoided spilling the claret). indieWIRE caught up with Guy Ritchie at the Sundance Film Festival, relaxing in the hotbed of activity, the Shadow Ridge Hotel a.k.a. Center of Madness and Mayhem.
At the mention of British film company Working Title Productions and a certain woman there who passed on his script numerous times, Ritchie jumps enthusiastically into the interview.
Guy Ritchie: She drove me mad. She said to me, "What makes you think you can make this film? How are you going to shoot this thing?" And I remember her not understanding a thing that I was about. Everything I said to her, it went straight over her head and she ended up saying, "I don't think Guy knows a thing about filmmaking." And I remember resenting that enormously. That was one of the original group of companies that we approached with the script.
indieWIRE: When are we talking about? What time frame?
Ritchie: About two and a half years ago. I mean she's a nice woman, but we just didn't click. Even when Polygram picked the film up in the UK they were reluctant to put much money behind it. They acquired it for not a lot of money, after a lot of "umming" and ahhing, as no one else would buy it in the UK. We had 16 distributors look at it at private screenings in London and we didn't do any festivals until we got rid of it. We had two screenings for the public amidst all this and they went mad for it. So, we knew we had something pretty good, so we offered it to more distributors and they were just like "See ya later." They wouldn't return our calls or just said, "Sorry, it's not for us." Finally we showed it to Polygram and they were the last company left, so they made us a very low offer and we grabbed it. They were only semi-interested in it. It wasn't until they started test screening it to the public and went "Hello, this looks interesting," then they put a lot of money behind it. And it flew in the UK.
iW: When was it released?
Ritchie: It was released at the end of August and it's made about $20 million in the UK and it's doing really well in Australia too.
iW: How have you found the audiences here compared to the Edinburgh fest, London crowds etc?
Ritchie: Pretty much the same everywhere really. But, they are more enthusiastic in America, they make a lot more noise. They love clapping and making mad sounds and as far as I'm concerned that's great. I love it.
iW: The storming reception at the "Lock, Stock" premiere here at Sundance, do you take that with a pinch of salt or a great indication that the film's going to go well here?
Ritchie: A big pinch of salt. I think it'd be foolish not to, I mean it is a film friendly crowd here. They're well versed in the ways of film so who knows if that's a proper indication of the American public's reaction to the film. It'd be foolish to count our chickens as the film still could go either way. But I do know that people seem to like it. But America's the biggest territory in the world. Obviously if people like the film, it'll make a big difference in my life.
iW: What about how the film's going to sell to the audiences here. In England, it was a classy gangster film with Vinnie Jones (famous English footballer) in it, what about over here?
Ritchie: Basically they're pushing the English factor and they've gone more for the humor. The Brits went for the hard look of the film which I wasn't so keen on. I like the American campaign, it suits me 100% and if it doesn't do well here I'm not blaming these boys. At home I would have, I would have said that they went about it wrong. But, they did put enough money behind it so you couldn't get away from it in England. I do know that we lost a lot of the audience because of that macho look, but other people were drawn to it, so it'll be interesting to see how it goes over here. One thing that we didn't do at home is any free screenings, which I think are great