Director Malcolm Venville

The English director discusses his British gangster film starring Ray Winstone and Ian McShane, which is now available on DVD and Blu-ray

Writers Louis Mellis and David Scinto are best known for their popular British gangster film Sexy Beast, starring Ray Winstone and now they are back with another British gangster film starring Ray Winstone. The film, 44 Inch Chest, was directed by Malcolm Venville and is available on DVD and Blu-ray April 20th. In the movie, Winstone stars as Colin, a thug who's wife leaves him and is convinced by his hoodlum friends to kidnap her lover and kill him. We recently had a chance to speak with the movie's director by Malcolm Venville, about the film; it's script, working with its amazing cast of actors, the deleted scenes on the DVD and his next film project. Here is what he had to say:

To begin with, the opening scene of the film features actor Ray Winstone sobbing because his wife has left him and listening to Air Supply, can you talk about shooting that scene and working with Winstone?

Malcolm Venville: Well that was in the script. I think the trick was what wasn't in the script and that was Ray Winstone's performance. I think it was fascinating to invite the audience at the beginning of the movie to see this character emotionally go into this wailing tribute and actually look at a dead man who is alive.

It was such a great experience working with Ray. I watched him as a boy growing up. I'm so familiar with him and all the roles that he's done. I realized when I met Ray that he is a great instinctive actor. It was a real inspiration to watch him and work with him.

Can you talk about the script by "Sexy Beast" writers Louis Mellis and David Scinto, and do you think Ray's previous experience working with them helped his performance in this film?

Malcolm Venville: Absolutely. As far as I'm concerned the writers Louis Mellis and David Scinto wrote a great script. They come from East London. Or one of them does, and they know the dialect and the same world as Ray. So Ray is the perfect guy for this. I couldn't have done better than that. I couldn't imagine any actor in this role but Ray.

You have five really excellent actors going head-to-head with each other in this film between Ray Winstone, Ian McShane, John Hurt, Tom Wilkinson and Stephen Dillane, so what was it like directing all of them on the set?

Malcolm Venville: I think the trick to directing guys like that is you have to be prepared as a director. You have to understand the characters, the feelings of the characters and the feelings between the characters. So when you have actors of that status you have to have the confidence to work with them. I think if your actor's suspect that you aren't prepared and you don't know what's going on then they'll eat you alive. That's not a good position to be in when you are directing a group of guys like this. McShane and Wilkinson had always been involved with the project and then John Hurt came along and Stephen Dillane so we got lucky with the casting. They were all available, they all were ready to go and we made the movie.

Can you talk about Ian McShane's role in the film?

Malcolm Venville: He is unbelievable. He made a movie in the '60s with Richard Burton called Villain, where he was his gay gangster lover and this is kind or a reprise of that role. Essentially he was a young gay criminal and now he's a mature gay criminal in 44 Inch Chest.

Can you discuss some of the themes that are addressed in the film such as revenge and forgiveness?

Malcolm Venville: I think the movie is centered around revenge, especially John Hurt's character. He has almost a pre-biblical view on things, where you take someone's life for wronging you. I think Ray's friends are out of sync with the real world. They're kind of museum pieces. So it's really about revenge, loss and a man's inability to take revenge. Ray is a big man brought to his knees by a woman. Ray would always say that if he didn't have friends like he has in the movie his character probably would have been okay.

Malcolm Venville: I think a great theme of the movie is forgiveness and how forgiveness is connected to survival. Forgiveness is also a great tenant of Christianity and a lot of religions. In the movie, Colin (Winstone) really forgives Loverboy because that is the only way that he can move on. To John Hurt's character the idea of forgiveness is weakness and that is sort of disgusting.

When the film was first released some critics said that the movie was too violent, what do you say to that?

Malcolm Venville: Well when Colin beats up his wife, we kept that to a bare minimum really, which I thought was more powerful that way. The film discusses violence, it investigates violence and I think it's actually a movie about inaction. I didn't feel like it was a violent movie, I just felt like it was a movie with a great deal of feelings.

What can you tell us about the deleted scenes that will be on the DVD?

Malcolm Venville: You know what's really, really interesting is that there are a whole series of epilogues from each character. Each character speaks to the camera about what happened to them after the movie. John Hurt, Ian McShane and Tom Wilkinson do long ones and they're really, really great. I couldn't get them into the edit and I'm really proud of them. The Grim Reaper visits John Hurt at the hospital and Ian McShane talks about his new boyfriend. John Hurt talks to camera about how he died two years later in a hospital room and how the Grim Reaper came for him. McShane talks about his new lover and he describes him in a strange way. They were meant to be epilogues at the end of the movie but we just couldn't make them work because they were long and involved. We cut them from the movie but they make great additional material. Ray's character didn't do one because we felt that his story was told.

Finally, what can you tell us about your new "Henry's Crime?"

Malcolm Venville:Henry's Crime is a film that was written by Sacha Gervasi who is well known for the documentary he did called Anvil! the story of Anvil. He's an interesting writer and he wrote this film, which stars Keanu Reeves, Vera Farmiga and James Caan. It's an upbeat romantic comedy about a man called Henry played by Keanu Reeves and it's really a feel good film in a way, much different than 44 Inch Chest. It should be very interesting. I'm cutting it now and it should be out by the end of this year.