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RITCHIE, GUY: LOCK STOCK

RITCHIE'S DOUBLE BARREL HIT
He's never made a film before, but British film maker Guy Ritchie beat the odds, got his tough film off the ground, and hates the British Establishment for turning their noses up at it. Now it's the highest grossing British film since The Full Monty, and Ritchie has reason to laugh. He spoke to PAUL FISCHER.

Guy Ritchie is your typical working-class Londoner. The difference is, he's become a film director. Clearly influenced by the strains of American cinema, his desire was to make a film that would just entertain. There are no pretensions about Ritchie, and he concedes, that while "subconsciously I may have been influenced by American movies, I'm not a film BUFF, and so I don't know who's done what. I'm just an ordinary cinema goer, who can't remember the names of directors, producers, etc. All I can remember is whether it was quite fun, moving, poignant; that's all I ever remember about films. Unlike Tarantino, who can spout off a hundred names." Ironic, when British critics have compared his debut film to the early work of that maverick American. "But that's inevitable", Ritchie responds. "Anything in this genre has to be connected with his name, at one stage or another. I'm somewhat in awe about it."

"I felt there was a niche in the market that just hadn't been filled"

It was as an ordinary movie goer that Ritchie realised he can do what these directors can do, offering the British film industry the kinds of movies rarely bankrolled by the big boys. "I felt there was a niche in the market that just hadn't been filled, and it seemed that no one was going to fill it. Me and my mates used to go back to the pictures, now and then we'd see something that looked exciting, and maybe take a left turn just where it's supposed to, and we're all going to get terribly excited and think this is brilliant. Of course that never happened, and just when it took a left, it took a right. We'd all sigh. So I kept on thinking: If they'd done this, instead of that, it would have been so much better; I always had an opinion, which usually differed from what I saw being done. So I ended being forced into making a film."

But not through the usual route. No film school for young Ritchie. "It seemed that everyone coming out of film school seemed to think the same way, and they made short films that were unwatchable and boring - they don't have a beginning, middle or end. What they have are these surreal, abstract qualities, which have fuck all relevance to entertaining."

The film industry establishment didn't want to know

So along came the idea for Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, an irreverent, ensemble caper thriller-cum-black comedy, revolving around a group of seemingly disparate characters who come together in a series of twists and turns. The film revolves around Eddy (Nick Moran) who's from London's East End, where crime is a bit of a lark, when it's not imitation Kray Bros. His particular talent, apart from con artistry, which comes with the territory, is card playing. Three of his mates (Jason Fleming, Dexter Fletcher, and Jason Statham) pool their ill-gotten and legit gains to make up the stake to play poker at porn king Hatchet Harry's place.

Eddy's good, but Harry's game is fixed, and he goes down to the tune of half a million, payable in a week, or Barry the Baptist (real life villain, the late Lenny McLean), so named for his propensity to drown debt-faulters in a bucket, will cut off his digits. Eddy and his mates have to come up with a moneymaking scheme, or it is poverty and pain forever more. How they do it (or not) involves drug dealers, ex-public schoolboys, antique shotguns and an assortment of lightweight and heavy duty criminals.

"It took us almost three years to raise the money"

It was one thing to decide he needed to fill that niche which he thought was empty in the British industry, it was another to persuade others to invest in his idea. The film industry establishment didn't want to know.

"It took us almost three years to raise the money, and neither I nor my producer were able to earn any other income during that time. The arrogant big boys all treated us with disdain and didn't want to know; but PolyGram finally came to the party - reluctantly." Even when he was trying to sell the film after [financing ultimately came from individual investors], distributors were clearly not interested. "Most of them knocked us back at the beginning, so during screenings, they were determined to hate the film. One stupid cow from [one of the mini major US companies] even took a pillow with her and slept through the screening." Of course, he hopes they're all eating their words: Lock, Stock, with all its extreme profanity and rawness, has taken over $20 million at the British box office.

"Now many of the big boys are coming to us. It's incredible."

"Now many of the big boys are coming to us. It's incredible." The film is set to open in the United States next February, and Ritchie has no doubt that getting his next film made "will be a piece of cake". He's currently writing another caper thriller around London's Jewish diamond trade. That niche he wanted filling has been filled indeed.

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