Guy Ritchie

The smoking man

The Onion: Have you had much of a negative response to the film yet?

Guy Ritchie: Yeah. I haven't had it from America yet, but it will happen. It's inevitable. People like championing the underdog, but the second it becomes a dog with four legs that looks quite healthy, people will start to chop those legs off. That's just the nature of humans, really.

O: At what point did you finally get distribution? I heard you were turned down quite a bit.

GR: Yeah, they all turned it down. They all turned it down. Sixteen said, "crap, no." Then the last one, Polygram, who picked it up in the end, picked it up for fuck all. Everyone from the music side of Polygram had gone to see it and they thought it was the best fucking thing they had ever seen, and they coerced Polygram Films into buying it. Then, once they did that, they showed it to 100 people off the street, and they couldn't believe it: It was the best reaction to a film they'd had ever! So they put some money behind it. It's one of those underdog stories. People like an underdog if it makes 'em laugh, if it's warranted.

O: How does one go about beginning a filmmaking career in England, which doesn't have the resources for a young director that America has?

GR: Music videos. Commercials. Where there's an industry. There isn't an industry in film; I don't care what anyone says. You can make an indie, and that's fine, but we don't have the infrastructure that you guys have, the good or the bad. But the music videos—for no one worth talking about; Moody European rave techno shit—they're all short stories, short films. That was perfect. It's a horrible business. I don't know why it's so horrible, and the upper echelon's probably not so bad. But where I was was awful. It was scuzzy, and everyone was cutting everyone else's throat for £1,000. You're always struggling to keep your head above water. But that's fine for where I was, because I knew I wasn't staying in for more than a year. I've got mates still in [the video industry] four years later. I don't know how they fucking do it. But after you've done that for a year, you try to wrangle a couple of commercials, stuff dealing with dialogue. And if you start raising money through that—there's fat banks of money—you can finance your film. The important thing to realize is that nothing fucking happens unless you make it happen. No one will finance your film; you will finance your film. That's the way business works. I would have made Lock, Stock for £100,000, but it wouldn't have been as good a film. It would have materialized. I'm just lucky that mine happened to materialize for a sensible amount of money.

O: Even when a movie like Trainspotting does really well in the U.K., films seem to revert back to life-on-the-dole standards. Drinking, drugs...

GR: Even fucking Trainspotting was about a bunch of smackheads and disaster, wasn't it? It was hardly a salubrious, uplifting topic to pick. I don't know what it is with the Brits. I don't know why that happens, this obsession with depressing fucking genres. I have no interest in it whatsoever. When I go to a film, the last thing I want to see is someone smacking up and getting pissed. I'm not interested. That's why I like America. I think.

O: England in particular seems to have a strange relationship with the portrayal of violence in movies. You went out of your way to imply, rather than show, the violence in Lock, Stock.

GR: People think that Brits are quite stuffy, but they're not in reality. I just fucking disapprove of violence. The whole working class is obsessed by it, and the power base, where the power lies, just frowns upon it. We've got terrible problems with football violence and all that shit. And I just don't like to be promoting it one way or another.

O: Do you think violence and drugs in films have any effect on a society?

GR: Well, people become desensitized. There's no question of a movie's influence, because I'm influenced by movies. I know other people are [influenced] enormously. I think films should stick to some kind of moral code. I just don't think it should be obvious; I think it should be cryptic. But it's no more so than how you, or I, or all our friends should act. We know that when kids are about, you don't teach them things that they shouldn't fucking know. You've got a lot of decency in human beings, and I think there's enough decency in Lock, Stock to sort of let it get away. I don't think it gives any bad influence. It doesn't encourage drugs. If anything, it slightly patronizes drugs. People don't understand that saying, "Just say no" doesn't de-cool the drugs. That's the whole thing about drugs: It's not about getting out of your box. It's about fucking [saying] fuck off to the establishment. As soon as the establishment fucking says, "Drugs fuck off," the establishment catches it in the ass, because it makes drugs cool. You've got to make drugs uncool, and as soon as drugs are uncool, it'll lead us out of fucking poverty. The one line in the movie is, "I don't want any of that shit; I just want to get drunk." I'm not interested in preaching about drugs, but if you want one line, I'd say it's for cunts. Well, not cunts. It's for idiots. Most people are decent human beings, and though they might nick a quid here or there, they look after one another in their community. Just like Big Chris [played by British soccer star Vinnie Jones] takes care of his son, but if you don't pay your debt, he'll slap you one.