Posts Tagged ‘King Arthur’

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Clive Owen- King Arthur to Shoot em up

March 20, 2008

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Few actors get to enjoy the status of “overnight sensation”. Next to none get to enjoy it twice. Yet this has happened to Clive Owen, the latest addition to the UK’s canon of international superstars. Breaking through, back in 1990, as the wisecracking, sharp-suited wheeler-dealer Stephen Crane in the hit show Chancer, he was the hottest thing on TV. Then, after spending the best part of a decade seeking cinematic success, came the sleeper smash Croupier. Failing dismally in the UK, it looked at first to be a disaster. Yet the US critics loved it and, Stateside, it raked in millions, at the same time lifting Owen into the upper echelons. And, this time, he was ready.

Clive Owen was born on 3 October, 1964, in Coventry. His father, a Country and Western singer, walked out when he was three (he’d not meet him again for 16 years), and he was raised by his mother and stepfather, the latter working in the ticket office for British Rail. Clive was the fourth of five brothers. The eldest was Garry, now a salesman. Then came Alan and Lee, musicians (they’d release a single called Heartbeat), then Clive and Scott.

Attending Binley Park Comprehensive School, Clive was initially a good student, in the top stream. Then something thoroughly unexpected happened. Clive has often said that, for some unknown reason, he always wanted to act. But it was only after he played the Artful Dodger in a production of Oliver! that everyone else knew it too. Bitten badly by the bug, he couldn’t concentrate on anything else, putting all his energy into the youth theatre he joined at 13. His schoolwork fell away dramatically. Sitting nine O-levels, he passed only one – English.

His persistence was amazing, really. When he first announced in class that he wanted to act, his teacher encouraged all the other kids to laugh at him. Thankfully the steely intensity he exudes onscreen is a real part of his character and he kept at it.

After his catastrophic exam results, Clive was all for jacking school in. But one teacher saw his potential and was keen for him to continue his studies at drama school. Being a prickly little sod, Clive was having none of it. No one can teach you how to act, he said, it’s all inside you already. The teacher fought back, arranging an audition for him at Mountview college and even buying him a train ticket to London. Owen made the journey, and was accepted by Mountview. Yet even this didn’t work. Absolutely convinced that drama school was useless, Clive turned Mountview down, deciding instead to keep working with his youth theatre group and seek work.It would be a bad two years. Another alumnus of Binley Park had been John Bradbury, drummer of the band The Specials, and The Specials’ Number One hit Ghost Town had pretty accurately described the state of Coventry at the time. Work was near impossible to find and, gradually losing contact with his theatre group, Clive began to waste away. “I was doing what half of Coventry was doing at the time,” he said later, “playing pool and waiting for the next Giro”.

Come 1984, his situation was desperate, so desperate that his altered his anti-education stance and, applying to RADA, was accepted. His fellow pupils including Ralph Fiennes and Jane Horrocks, he did well, graduating in 1987. He also had a stroke of luck, experience-wise. While at RADA, his class worked on a new Howard Barker play, then being performed at the Royal Court with Gary Oldman in the lead. When Oldman fell ill, Clive was asked to step in – being the only other actor in the world who knew the part.

After graduation, Owen went looking for stage work. He appeared in The Cat And The Canary at Watford, and Twelfth Night at the Crucible in Sheffield. Then he won a place at the Young Vic, playing in Romeo And Juliet and Measure For Measure and, in Manchester, The Doctor’s Dilemma. He also met his wife. Onstage. In an incident so romantic it borders on cliché, while playing Romeo he fell for his Juliet, Sarah Jane Fenton. Though their relationship would occasionally be turbulent, with the couple splitting up several times, it would last, the pair marrying in 1995 and eventually producing two daughters, Hannah and Eve.

It was all looking good. In 1988, Clive made his film debut, in Vroom. Here he and David Thewlis played two northern lads who restore a classic American car and take off on the road. Before they leave, though, Clive picks up sexy widow Diana Quick, who adds serious spice to the trip. Next he showed a very dark side with his portrayal of the psychotic Gideon Sarn, alongside Janet McTeer’s Prue Sarn, in the historical costume drama Precious Bane. And then came a big TV hit when he played John Ridd, the man who takes Lorna Doone to the altar in RD Blackmore’s classic. Polly Walker was his Lorna and Sean Bean, of course, was the brooding Carver Doone.

Then, suddenly and quite unexpectedly, he was a star. Chancer, where he played the natty, waggish Stephen Crane, pulling scams on a weekly basis, was immensely popular, throwing Clive’s life into turmoil. The tabloid press were deeply interested in this good-looking newcomer and invaded his privacy wherever possible. He should have enjoyed it, but he didn’t. Hating the constant attention of the tabloids, he refused to co-operate with them, gaining a reputation as a “difficult” actor. Also, as a serious thespian, he was aware of the danger he was in. The public might forever see him as Crane, or at least as a loveable rogue. Threatened with typecasting, he decided to bail out.

Onscreen, this meant controversy. His next part was in Stephen Poliakoff’s Close My Eyes, where he played Richard, younger brother of Saskia Reeves’ Natalie. They’re working-class, trapped in the stuffy middle-class world of Natalie’s husband, played by Alan Rickman. And there’s something else. They’re closer than they should be and actually WAY too close when they embark upon a doomed incestuous affair. The public were shocked that charming Stephen Crane should get up to such beastly antics. And Clive lost an advert, too. He turns them all down, as a rule, but for once had accepted a beer commercial. With Close My Eyes causing such a stir, it was not to be. “They pulled out,” explained Clive “because they didn’t want their Beer Man to shag his sister. How mad’s that?”

Clive would not be seen onscreen for another two years. Keen to let his Chancer-based fame die away, he took to the stage. At the Hampstead Playhouse, he played Leonard Charteris in George Bernard Shaw’s The Philanderer, directed by Brian Cox (later to be his co-star in The Bourne Identity). Pushing even harder against type, he also appeared as a bisexual in Sean Mathias’s Donmar Warehouse revival of Noel Coward’s Design For Living, a show that would see the breakthrough of Rachel Weisz. The Mathias connection would prove useful again later.

Come 1993, and Clive was back onscreen and, for the first time, working in the US. In Class Of ’61 he was Devin O’Neil, an Irish West Point graduate sent off to fight in the Civil War. A modern drama, it concentrated on people issues – friendships broken, tangled relationships, etc – most notably the race question. Then came The Magician, a British TV drama involving Scotland Yard, the IRA and a great deal of counterfeit cash.

After this, Clive was back with Stephen Poliakoff, in Century. Set at the end of 1899, it had Clive as a researcher in a medical centre, working for the grand and brilliant Charles Dance. First he falls for a girl working there, the sexually liberated Clara, played by Miranda Richardson. And then he realises, much to his horror, that Dance is actually practising eugenics, pre-figuring the Nazis by killing and sterilising the poor and “undesirable”.

His next project was serious, too. In Nobody’s Children, Ann-Margret played an American woman who loses a baby and decides to find another in Romania – a Romania wracked by the revolution against Ceaucescu. As Bratu, Clive appeared as an appropriately intense Eastern European, alongside such Brit stalwarts as Katrin Cartlidge and Frances Tomelty, Sting’s ex-wife.

From 1994 to 1996, it was TV all the way. In escaping his Chancer reputation, Clive took all manner of roles, the only similarity being that each was radically different from the last. He was excellent alongside Paul Merton, Martin Clunes and Caroline Quentin in the football-based comedy An Evening With Gary Lineker. Then came Doomsday Gun, where Frank Langella played a supergun-builder who helped first the CIA, then Saddam Hussein. Here Clive joined a heavyweight cast including Kevin Spacey, Francesca Annis and Edward Fox. Next came a starring role in Thomas Hardy’s The Return Of The Native where, as Damon Wildeve, he’s a publican in love with Eustacia Vye (Catherine Zeta Jones), a wild girl who wants to be “loved to madness” and taken away from bleak and lonely Egdon Heath. To spite her, Wildeve marries someone else and, as is the way with Hardy, everything slowly slides towards tragedy and death.

After this period drama came something deeply contemporary in The Turnaround. This was a pilot for a TV series that saw Clive as “seedy but saucy” cop-turned-PI Nick Sharman, having a tough time on complex cases in South London. The role gave Clive plenty to get his teeth into. Sharman has lost his job and his wife due to drink and drugs, so he’s bright but flawed, confident but regretful, an interesting character. The series itself would run in 1996.

Before that, it was back to America for The Rich Man’s Wife, a winding, Usual Suspects-type thriller. Here Halle Berry is trapped in a terrible marriage and conducting an affair with Clive, her husband’s business partner. Meeting a stranger, she mentions how great it would be if her hubbie were out of the way and, horrifically, he very soon is. Clearly, it’s a very messy situation.

This classy thriller was followed by a genuine oddity, when Clive lent his image to the space age videogame Privateer 2. Here Clive, having been frozen for a decade while a cure is found for his terrible injuries, wakes up on a strange planet and has to go searching across the galaxy to find out who he is and what the hell happened. The rest of the cast is a spectacularly bizarre mish-mash. Lending weight are Christopher Walken, John Hurt and Jurgen Prochnow. Adding sci-fi pedigree is Mary Tamm, formerly Dr Who’s assistant, Romana. Then there’s David McCallum, Brian Blessed and – well REALLY, Rigsby – Don Warrington from Rising Damp.

Still battling to broaden that CV, Clive now took on perhaps his most challenging role. Teaming up once more with Sean Mathias, he took the lead in the film adaptation of the stage hit Bent. As Max – a role originated by Ian McKellen in London, then played by Richard Gere on Broadway – he was a gay man in Dachau, who refuses to confirm his homosexuality and receives a yellow (Jewish) label instead. In the camp, though, he falls for the proudly gay Horst and gradually learns to stand up for what he is – even if it means death. Clive, who lost nearly three stone to play Max, was excellent in the part, at first manipulative and grabbing, then open and strong.

The same year (1997) saw Clive back on the London stage in Closer, a sexy, modern, bitter take on relationships that was described as “Private Lives for the Nineties”. A National Theatre production at the New Ambassadors, it would soon move to Broadway, where Rupert Graves would take Clive’s role, as he had done when Design For Living crossed the pond (Graves had also appeared alongside Clive in Bent and Doomsday Gun). Closer would not be the last time Clive would test himself on the boards. In 2001, he’d star alongside Victoria Hamilton in A Day In The Death Of Joe Egg, about a marriage crumbling under the strain of raising a multiplegic child. Clive had in fact played that role before, back in 1994 at the King’s Head in Islington (the area where Clive now lives).

And now came Clive’s big break – though it didn’t seem that way to begin with. In Mike Hodges’ Croupier, he played a South African wannabe writer who, thanks to his con man father, is schooled in most things shifty. Getting a job in a casino, he’s smart, cool and efficient, consequently he catches the eye of Alex Kingston, who’s planning a scam. Clive goes along with it – but only because it might make great material for a book – and so we enter a world of deception, paranoia and rampant double-crossing. It was a pretty good movie, with Clive standing out as the taciturn, constantly plotting lead. Yet there was no audience in the UK – Croupier sank without trace.

Clive moved on. In the dark Christmas tale The Echo he was Michael Deacon, a maverick reporter who, chasing up the story of a tramp found dead in the garage of rich woman Joely Richardson, discovers far more than he’d bargained for. Then there was an Australian production, Split Second, where he was a lawyer who accidentally kills a cyclist and runs away, only to have his whole life collapse around him.

And then came yet more TV success. In Second Sight he was Detective Chief Inspector Ross Tanner, investigating the savage murder of a 19-year-old kid. Trouble is, Tanner has AZOOR, an acute problem with the eyes that’s causing him to lose his sight. He doesn’t want to tell anyone till he’s solved the case, but it becomes apparent to Detective Inspector Catherine Tully, played by Claire Skinner (his wife Thomasin in The Return Of The Native) who, deciding to help him, becomes his eyes. The show – as pacey as ER, clever and taut as Prime Suspect, and with a dash of The X-Files – was a big hit, spawning three sequels straight away, with more in the pipeline.

By now, Clive’s life had changed. Croupier had enjoyed fabulous reviews in the US. In fact, popular belief had it that, had the movie not already been shown on Dutch TV, it would have received Oscar-nominations. Hollywood was at last taking notice, and the parts were coming his way. First though came Greenfingers, where he played a prisoner with a talent for gardening. Spotted by horticultural expert Helen Mirren, he finds himself entered in a national competition. There’d also be a string of five short films for BMW. In each, he played the mysterious Driver, engaged in various exciting missions. These were not simply adverts for the cars. The directors included John Frankenheimer and Ang Lee, one was penned by Seven writer Andrew Kevin Walker, and co-stars included Mickey Rourke, Stellan Skarsgard and Madonna, who played a spoilt, arrogant pop star in Star, directed by her husband Guy Ritchie. 2002 would see a further three episodes, seeing Clive work with such luminaries as John Woo, Tony Scott, Gary Oldman, F. Murray Abraham and James Brown.

Now the big hits began. In Robert Altman’s country house murder mystery Gosford Park, Clive found himself at the centre of the action, as a butler with a secret past that might well have something to do with the housekeeper – Helen Mirren once again. Then came The Bourne Identity where an amnesiac Matt Damon is on the run and trying to discover his own identity, while everyone, including Clive as the shady Professor, is out to kill him.

Success allowed Clive to generate his own projects and, with Mike Hodges, Croupier’s director, he put together the existential gangster flick, I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, concerning an ex-enforcer drawn back into the London underworld when his drug-dealing brother is raped and driven to suicide by crime boss Malcolm McDowell. In its themes it was very much like Hodges’ earlier classic, Get Carter.

After this came Beyond Borders. Here Clive played an impassioned relief worker who gets involved with philanthropist socialite Angelina Jolie as they continue to bump into each other across the planet, in the midst of wars and dreadful natural disasters. Originally, the movie was to have been directed by Oliver Stone and to have starred Kevin Costner. According to producer Peter Guber, though, Costner was so demanding they had to dump him, with Clive’s old RADA mucker Ralph Fiennes coming onboard. But then Stone left, and Fiennes too. Once in, Clive would not let it slip, making the most of dramatic scenes like the one where he carries a starving Ethiopian child into a London charity ball and accuses the wealthy guests of dangerous irresponsibility. It was a good role, but a weak movie, not helped by constant delays. Though budgeted at $35 million, it would take only $4.5 million at the US box office.

Nevertheless, Croupier and Gosford Park had raised Clive’s cinematic profile to such a degree that he was chosen by uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer to take the lead in Disney’s historical re-imagining of the legend of King Arthur. Here Owen would play the once and future king as a Roman general leading a band of Sarmatian auxiliaries in occupied Britain. Then, as Rome begins to fall and his knights reach the end of their tours of duty, he must decide whether he will stick around and lead the Brits against the invading Saxons.

He moved on to the infinitely more claustrophobic Closer, taking the role he’d originated in Patrick Marber’s play. As doctor Larry, he’d be set up for humiliation with photographer Julia Roberts by writer Jude Law, but actually enjoy a relationship with her, before forging a bond with Law’s own girlfriend, a self-destructive stripper played by Natalie Portman. It was harsh and testing emotional stuff, with Clive stealing scene after scene from his world-renowned co-stars. It came as no surprise when he won a Golden Globe and found himself Oscar-nominated, too.

Following this, he’d join another all-star cast for Sin City, Robert Rodriguez’s adaptation of Frank Miller’s legendary series of intertwining comic strips. Here he’d play ex-news photographer Dwight, horribly messed around by his dream-girl , manipulated into murder, nearly destroyed. Saved by Rosario Dawson and the girls of Old Town, he then becomes their violent protector. Clive would then move on to Derailed, adapted by Collateral scribe Stuart Beattie from James Siegel’s novel. Here he was an ad exec made despondant by a sexless marriage and a daughter with chronic diabetes. Missing his commuter-train one day, he takes a later one and catches the eye of sexy Jennifer Aniston. They hit it off and, eventually, wind up at a seedy hotel where they’re attacked by a thug, Aniston being raped and Owen badly beaten. Even more unfortunately, the thug steals their details, realises they’re both married and attempts blackmail, leading a guilty Owen to seek incompetent revenge.

Now considered a true Hollywood up-and-comer, 2006 would see Owen making no fewer than four appearances on our screens. First he’d pop up in a 2-minute comedy cameo in Steve Martin’s The Pink Panther, dressed in a tuxedo, chasing bandits and being sprayed with poisonous chemicals in jokey reference to the James Bond role he’d recently lost to Daniel Craig. Then would come Spike Lee’s Inside Man where he’d play a charismatic, cold and clinical crook who, when a bank raid goes wrong, must be talked out of executing the hostages by cop Denzel Washington.

Having missed out on starring alongside Julianne Moore in Savage Grace, Owen would next join her in The Children Of Men, based on PD James’ novel and directed by Alfonso Cuaron. This would be set in the chaotic world of 2027, where all men are impotent and the country is run by the sinister Warden, who promotes the suicide of the elderly, the exile of criminals and the enslaving of immigrants. Owen would play a fusty academic, used to an ordered existence, who’s drawn into activism and agrees to help a miraculoualy pregnant Moore reach a sanctuary at sea where she may help scientists save the human race. Following this, he’d return to Sin City territory for Shoot ‘Em Up, a gun-loving bullet-fest described as a John Woo wet dream, where Clive would deliver a woman’s baby during a gunfight and then have to protect it against a huge army of shooters.

Having escaped unwanted flash-fame, then worked hard to earn genuine respect through a series of challenging roles, coming into his own in his late thirties, Clive Owen is doing all he can to take control of his own life. And anyone who’s ever spent time playing pool and waiting for the next Giro would understand that.

(sourced from the internet)

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Ray Winstone- The Man ( I had to say that or he’d have me)

March 11, 2008

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Aside from its usual period dramas and flash, empty gangster films, the UK film industry has also managed to continue a longstanding tradition of cinema verite. This began with John Osborne and his emotionally charged kitchen-sink drama, and continued on through the tough and often controversial works of Mike Leigh and Alan Clarke. Today, the genre has been very much resuscitated by two movies in particular – Gary Oldmans Nil By Mouth and Tim Roth’s The War Zone. And the star of both, the man chosen to portray the strong, loyal, kind and utterly psychotic Late Nineties British Male? Ray Winstone – seemingly a lucky Cockney journeyman plucked from obscurity for no reason other than the fact that his face fitted. But this is far from true. Winstone has reached this peak by overcoming quite fearsome hurdles in a career stretching back 23 years. The guy is, quite literally, a fighter.

Raymond Andrew Winstone was born on February 19th, 1957, in Hackney, East London. The Winstones were originally from Cirencester – half of the family shifting to London, the other half to Wales. Moving via Plaistow to Enfield when young Ray was 7, his father (also Raymond) ran a fruit and veg business (he’s now a cabbie) while his mother, Margaret, had a job emptying fruit machines. Winstone recalls playing with his friends on bomb sites – until the nation heard the confessions of the Moors Murderers, and all that changed. Raymond was schooled at Edmonton County, which had changed from a Grammar School to a Comprehensive upon his arrival. He didn’t take to academic education, eventually leaving school with a single CSE (Grade 2) in Drama

Drama, he liked. His father would take him to the cinema every Wednesday afternoon (often falling asleep, having been up so early at the markets), and Winstone remembers his first cinematic experience, seeing 101 Dalmations and rushing towards the screen to berate Cruella de Vil. Later, he would witness Albert Finney in Saturday Night, Sunday Morning and the bug would bite – “I thought ‘I could be that geezer'”, he said later. Other major influences would be John Wayne and the menacing, unhinged characters of James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson. So, receiving extra tuition from the drama-teaching mother of a female schoolmate, he took to the stage, appearing as a Cockney newspaper-seller (what else?) in a production of Emile And The Detectives.

Another thing he took to was boxing. Known to his friends as Winnie, at home he was called Little Sugs (his dad already being known as Sugar – after Sugar Ray Robinson). At age 12, Winstone joined the famous Repton Amateur Boxing Club and, over the next 10 years, won 80 out of 88 bouts. At welterweight, he was London Schoolboy Champion of three occasions, fighting twice for England. The experience gave him a valuable perspective on his later career. “If you can get in a ring with 2000 people watching and be smacked around by another guy,” he said “then walking onstage isn’t hard”.

Deciding to pursue Drama, Winstone enrolled at the Corona School in Hammersmith. At £900 a term, it was expensive, considering the average wage was some £36 a week. And Ray was way too much of a rebel to make the most of it. Back then he was a skinhead, into ska and natty tonic suits. Once he turned up to ballet class in a leotard and bovver boots, another time he received an exam mark of zero for reciting passages from Julius Caesar in ripe Cockney. He did make his stage debut proper, in What A Crazy World at Stratford East, but he danced badly and sang terribly, leading his usually-supportive father to say “Give it up, while you’re ahead”.

Then came the crunch. Winstone was not popular with the school establishment, who considered him a bad influence. After some 12 months, he found that he was the only pupil not invited to the Christmas party and decided to take revenge for this slight. Hammering some tacks through a piece of wood, he placed it under the wheel of his headmistress’s car and blew out the tyre. For this, he was expelled. No problem, he wasn’t into it anyway. For a laugh and a farewell drink, he went up to the BBC, where his schoolmates were involved in an audition. Hanging around reception, he flirted with the receptionist and, for an even bigger laugh, wangled his way into an audition of his own. The audition was for one of the most notorious plays in history – Alan Clarke’s Scum – and, because Clarke liked his cocky, aggressive boxer’s walk, he got the part. Amazingly (also considering the part had been written for a Glaswegian), it seemed he was on his way to the top.

He wasn’t – yet, anyway. Due to its sickening violence and outraged condemnation of the borstal service (the government, of course, running that service AND the BBC), Scum was shelved indefinitely. Giving acting up as a bad lot, Winstone retired, working on fruit stalls and as a sales rep. Then, suddenly, Scum was un-shelved. Or rather Clarke managed to get it re-shot as a movie. Winstone was called in again, this time by producer Davina Belling, to re-play the bully Carlin. This led to a part in The Who’s Quadrophenia, and the Belling-produced That Summer – a kind of punky coming-of-age flick set by the seaside. On location in Torquay (in 1979), Winstone met Elaine. They married, had two kids – Lois, born in 1982, and Jaime, born three years later – and, unusually in showbiz, are still married to this day.Still, times were hard. Winstone was bankrupted by the Inland Revenue before his marriage, and again soon afterwards. His near-religious refusal to worry saw him through, as it would his occasional run-ins with the police. Winstone’s face and carriage might win him regular roles as a villainous hard man, but they also attract the attention of the law. As a kid, he was arrested on sus on several occasions. Later, returning from filming an episode of Bergerac on Jersey, he was stopped on suspicion of gun-running. And, a couple of years after that, he spent 72 hours in a Leeds jail, having been “identified” by a member of the public who’d seen an identikit picture of a criminal on Crimewatch UK.After a short run in the TV series Fox, and a role in All Washed Up (alongside Diane Lane, Laura Dern and a hosts of real-life punks like Fee Waybill, Steve Jones, Paul Cook and Paul Simonon), Winstone got another big break, being cast as Will Scarlet in the Jason Connery-starring series Robin Hood. He proved immensely popular and enjoyed the role, considering Scarlet to be “the first football hooligan” – though he was not so keen on the dubbed German version, which had him sounding like a “psychotic mincer”. But once the show was over, the parts dried up. He got involved in co-producing Tank Malling, starring Connery, Amanda Donohoe and ex-Page 3 girl Maria Whittaker, and scored a few TV parts – over the years he’s appeared in all manner of shows, including The Sweeney, The Bill, Boon, Fairly Secret Army (as Stubby Collins), Ever Decreasing Circles, Murder Most Horrid, Birds Of A Feather, Minder, Kavanagh QC, Auf Wiedershein Pet and Get Back (with the fledgling Kate Winslet) – but nothing to secure his future. He was increasingly drawn to the theatre, playing in Hinkemann in 1988, then Some Voices in 1994 and Dealer’s Choice and Pale Horse the next year.

And it was in the theatre that it all came good. Winstone was asked to appear in Mr Thomas, a play written by his friend and fellow-Londoner Kathy Burke. The reviews were good, and led to Winstone being cast, alongside Burke, in Gary Oldman’s crushing, claustrophobic drama Nil By Mouth. As a cocaine-fuelled wife-batterer, he was lauded across the board, receiving a BAFTA nomination (he’d actually got one 17 years earlier, as Best Newcomer for That Summer). The psycho tough guy roles would come rolling in – in the likes of Face – but Winstone’s talent for portraying conflicted characters was also recognised, most notably by Tim Roth who cast him in The War Zone as a man who betrays wife Tilda Swinton with his own daughter and simply cannot see anything wrong in his actions. It’s worth noting that both Oldman and Tim Roth were fellow alumni of Alan Clarke. There was one distasteful episode, when Ray did a series of Pils ads where he played upon the phrase Who’s the Daddy, thus undermining the seriousness of both Nil By Mouth and The War Zone. Not good.

Winstone’s obvious toughness would also allow him to play decent men softened by love in romantic comedies like Fanny And Elvis and There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble. In Last Christmas, he even managed to convince as a dead father, now a trainee angel, who returns from heaven to help his young son cope with his bereavement. And he could play second fiddle to other tough guys, in Sexy Beast facing the comically overblown wrath of Ben Kingsley when he refuses to return from the Costa del Crime for one last job.

His career was still on the up. After a brief role alongside Kathy Burke again in the tragi-comic and almost universally slated The Martins, came Last Orders, directed by Fred Schepisi (of Roxanne fame), where he starred alongside the weighty likes of Michael Caine, Helen Mirren, David Hemmings and Tom Courtney. This saw three friends meeting up for the funeral of a fourth (Caine), with Ray playing Caine’s son, Vince. In flashback, the tale of their lives would be told, including that of Vince’s severely handicapped sister, a girl never accepted by her father. Before shooting began, Ray was fearful that meeting these actor-heroes (he loved the likes of Zulu and The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner) might turn out to be disappointing. Thankfully, his co-stars were as impressive as he’d hoped.

Next Ray would nab a prime part in Ripley’s Game, the follow-on piece to The Talented Mr Ripley. Here John Malkovich takes over from Matt Damon as the sinister Ripley, playing him as a cold-blooded terror. Ray’s an old friend who asks Ripley to murder some Russian enemies of his – Ripley agrees, as long as Ray persuades poor, innocent Dougray Scott to attempt the murders too (Scott being an enemy of Ripley’s). Ray is superb as the cajoling thug, showing no mercy in bending Scott to his will. Then would come Lenny Blue, the sequel to Tough Love, and the short The Bouncer, finding real feelings in a tough job.

Also on TV, Ray would appear as Henry VIII in a six-part TV series, desperate to beget a son and battling to hold on to an unruly court and kingdom, his situation made all the worse by his inability to control either his wives or his own emotions. Alongside such heavyweights as Charles Dance, Joss Ackland, Sean Bean and Helena Bonham Carter, he put in an excellent performance, showing Henry as exuberant but also paranoid, suspicious and haunted by his own treacheries.

And, having been told by his dad all those years ago to give it up, his stage-work has improved immeasurably too, having in 2000 starred in To The Green Fields Beyond at the Donmar Warehouse – being directed by Sam Mendes, the man behind American Beauty. 2002 would see him at the Royal Court, as Griffin in The Night Heron, then two years later he’d join Kevin Spacey for 24 Hour Plays at the Old Vic, a series of productions that were written, rehearsed and performed in a single day.

Now internationally known, Ray was next chosen by Anthony Minghella to play Teague, the rough Home Guard boss in his civil war drama Cold Mountain. Empowered to execute Confederate deserters, he runs his outfit with relish, killing a mother’s sons before her eyes and also slaughtering a backwards boy. Not believing that Nicole Kidman’s lover Jude Law will return from the war, he sets his sights on winning both Kidman and her land, and proves a thoroughly unpleasant villain.

Perhaps inspired by Kathy Burke and Gary Oldman, Ray now decided to create his own features, setting up Size 9 and Flicks production companies with his long-time agent Michael Wiggs. The first effort would be She’s Gone, where businessman Ray’s young daughter disappears in Istanbul (though filming would be held up by unrest in the Middle East).

In the meantime, there would be more action in King Arthur, where Clive Owen’s Arthur was a Roman general leading Samartian horsemen during the occupation of Britain. Rome is falling, his henchmen are reaching the end of their terms of service and the Saxons are invading. Will he remain behind and lead the Brits in a battle for freedom? Ray would play Bors, one of Arthur’s key knights, in this frantic, romantic drama, produced by the ever-overheated Jerry Bruckheimer. More craziness would follow when Ray provided the voice of Soldier Sam in the long-awaited screen version of The Magic Roundabout.

2005 would provide a neat summation of Winstone’s status in the industry. First he’d skip off to Australia for The Proposition, a seriously gritty Outback tale where he’d play Captain Stanley, obsessed with civilising his new nation, who leaves the comfort of life with wife Emily Watson to hunt down three murderous outlaw brothers – Guy Pearce, Richard Wilson and Danny Huston. Capturing the first two, he strikes a deal with Pearce; hunt down and kill Huston or both he and Wilson will be executed. It was as twisted and violent as you’d expect from the pen of ex-rocker Nick Cave and Winstone was suitably merciless in his law-bringing.

Next would come a part in The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, intended to match the success of The Lord Of The Rings franchise. A massive worldwide hit, this would see his War Zone co-star Tilda Swinton bubble with frosty malice as Jadis, the White Witch, with Winstone lending his voice to Mr Beaver, brave enough to shelter the Pevensey kids but also smart enough to scurry away from danger. On TV – for Winstone would still devote time to TV, despite his burgeoning Hollywood reputation – there’d be Vincent, where he play a rough ex-cop-turned-private-dick leading a squad of maverick investigators. It wasn’t a particularly good series, its weak scripts hidden behind a torrent of swearing, but it was popular. The British public, it seemed, now took Winstone’s presence, like that of Helen Mirren, as a sign of high quality.

2006 would see Winstone stick to the same fecund course. Through his own Size 9 Productions he’d deliver the bloody Sweeney Todd, playing the butchering barber as a man destroyed by a traumatic childhood, suffering inner turmoil but killing without conscience. Also on TV would be All In The Game, where he’d play the presurised manager of a failing Premiership football team. Untypically, he’d go way overboard with his performance (and, again, his foul language). In fact, it was a fairly pointless role for Winstone at this stage of his career, and he surely only took it because, as a major fan of West Ham United, he wanted to experience life as a true insider.

On the Silver Screen, he’d still happily slip between the micro and the mega. For his Cold Mountain director Anthony Minghella, he’d pop up in Breaking And Entering, playing a curious cop investigating a burglery at architect Jude Law’s office (Law then doing some investigating of his own and winding up in a relationship with Bosnian refugee Juliette Binoche). Then would come another prestigious part, this time in Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, where cop Leonardo DiCaprio would infiltrate Jack Nicholson’s criminal gang and crook Matt Damon would sneak into the police. Nicholson would win huge plaudits for his psychotic and depraved display, and he’d be well backed by Winstone as his suspicious, vicious henchman Mr French.

Somehow – probably because Americans had been so impressed by Sexy Beast – Winstone had risen to unlikely Hollywood heights. And he’d maintain this position in 2007 when taking the title role, alongside Angelina Jolie and Anthony Hopkins, in Beowulf, where director Robert Zemeckis would recount the ancient saga using the same motion capture techniques he’d used to such success with The Polar Express. But Winstone, being Winstone, would remain resolutely indie, too, rejoining Nick Cave for the saucy British comedy Death Of A Ladies’ Man, where he’d be a travelling beauty products salesman preying on lonely women.

Having struggled so hard for so long, Ray Winstone’s feet are firmly on the ground. He lives with Elaine in Roydon, Essex, and keeps up the physical training, being a regular at Ricky English’s gym in Watford (English is the guy who trained Brad Pitt for his part in Guy Ritchie’s Snatch). He supports his children (in 2006 Jaime would star in the tough East End drama Kidulthood). And he loves music, sharing his dad’s love of crooners, but also enjoying the soul of Motown, Al Green, Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye, as well as punky London poets like Paul Weller, Madness and the late lamented Ian Dury.

Having taken a fearful battering in the middle rounds of his life, Little Sugs has come off the ropes swinging. Here’s one guy who WON’T be shouting “No mas”.

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