The Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels actor talks about the challenges of shooting his directorial debut, Wild Bill, starring Charlie Creed-Miles and Will Poulter.
The story of a father who is reunited with his sons after being released after 8 years in prison, shooting took place in and around East London and at Three Mills Studios for five weeks.
It features an all star supporting cast including Andy Serkis, Jason Flemyng, Jaime Winstone, Leo Gregory, Sean Pertwee and Mark Warren. The screenplay has been written by Fletcher, together with Danny King and Tim Cole.
Fletcher is also producing the film, together with Sam Tromans and Tim Cole for their new UK production outfit 20ten Media. The film is financed through private equity.
This is your directorial debut..how is it going?
It’s going extraordinarily well. The weather has always been the big drawback. It doesn’t matter how much money you’ve got, if you’ve got snow drifts and ice storms. You have to think on your feet and very quickly and come up with another plan.
We did your first day’s filming and then the next day it snowed really heavily. We immediately had to adapt and move scenes inside. We had to go into sets that weren’t ready. The art department were going around with a paintbrush three steps ahead of us as we were filming three steps behind.
Where did the idea for the film come from?
It’s personal in the respect that I was sitting down and thinking about what kind of story I’d like to make a film about, looking at my own circumstances. I started as a child actor, so I had all these grown up responsibilities as a child, when I was young I lived more of an adult life, but then when I got older I found that I was particularly ill equipped to function as a real adult. It’s this middle ground that you hit where you are in between the two places. When I did grow up and take responsibility for myself, I wanted the right story about a man who was still a boy, and a boy who was very much a man. So that was the jumping off point for me and [the film’s co-writer] Danny King. Then it was about finding a way of placing that.
Slowly the idea came up about a man who has been to prison, because when you go to prison you freeze yourself in time. I also read a story about a woman who abandoned her children and went off on holiday to Greece, and that struck a chord. It was about things coming together at the right time and elements of the story being based on personal experiences.
Although not the prison bit, I haven’t been to prison.
What look and feel are you going for with the film?
One of the great loves of my life is Westerns. So I thought, how can I make a film which is very strongly influenced by westerns. There is this redemptive story about a man who returns from somewhere after a long time away, finds his boys living alone and in effect has to clean up the town to save his sons that he once abandoned. In doing so, he puts himself in massive jeapordy again.
It’s every guys dream to do a Western. It’s the wild west in East London.
The film features a lot of your actor friends, including Jason Flemyng, Andy Serkis and Mark Warren. It must help having those links in the industry?
It certainly helps in readings and honing the material. It helps generate interest. At the level we are doing at you want people to know it’s out there and it’s happening, when I bump into Andy Serkis at an event and I say, hey Andy I’ve got this thing and he says, hey, I’ll come and do it.
It cuts both ways, I’ve done it for them, they’ve done it for me. It’s not unusual to find actors wanting to get involved and help out because they are looking at the bigger picture.
I’ve known Charlie [Creed Miles] since he was 16, we did a TV show together called Press Gang..he and I have been mates ever since then. I had him in mind right from the outset I always felt he was Bill. It was up to him to see the big picture, which he did. Happily it’s worked out.
Have you always wanted to direct?
It’s something I always wanted to do when I was young. But you’ve got to be ready for it. You’ve got to have a good story to tell first of all, and find something that means something to you and that you connect to.
A lot of film-making is good fortune and being in the right place at the right time. This film is a story that allows me to actually realise the dream of getting the film made, as in there are no majestic waterfalls at the base of the amazon. It’s a tower block in east London and once we found that tower block in east London, which is empty, it gave us a real fighting chance of getting the film made. It doesn’t rely on fast cars and exotic locations, this is a strong story at the right level.
Have you been influenced by the directors you have worked with?
A director finds an individual style by accumulating several directors that they like. It’s never any one person or one influence; it’s an amalgamation of many, that allow you to find your own voice.
I’ve been around everyone from Mike Leigh, Kevin Reynolds, David Lynch, Shafner (planet of apes), I’m 45 this year, I started acting when I was 6. So it’s finally paying off!
As an actor, one of your most famous roles was in Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels..do you think that is your target audience?
There might be people who liked Lock Stock, or people who went to see Shifty or Precious and found that kind of film engaging. We don’t want to exclude anyone. Will Poulter is in Misfits so there is a whole younger generation who will engage with it. We feel that we’ve got something who has a wide range.
It’s not a bad thing to be compared with Lock Stock, but there are going to be very different. Expectation of people is one thing, but the film will stand up on its own right.