IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Ray Winstone Talks 'The Sweeney' and Confirms a Sequel

Tuesday, 26 February 2013 19:49 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Ray Winstone Talks 'The Sweeney' and Confirms a Sequel

Ray Winstone is no certainly stranger to gritty crime dramas. The British actor, who has appeared in such films as the critically acclaimed Sexy Beast, 44 inch Chest, Edge of Darkness, London Boulevard, and Martin Scorsese’s Academy Award-winning film The Departed, now returns to the genre with his latest movie The Sweeney, which was a box office hit in the U.K. last year but opens in U.S. theaters and On Demand March 1st, and was directed and co-written by Nick Love (Outlaw).

The Sweeney, which is based on the popular ‘70s British television series of the same name, centers on the men and women of the London Metropolitan Police Service’s Flying Squad unit. The team is lead by ethically questionable officer Jack Regan (Winstone) and his loyal partner George Carter, played by rapper-turned-actor Ben “Plan B” Drew. After they stop a warehouse robbery, Internal affairs officer Ivan Lewis (Steven Mackintosh) begins investigating Regan, who is also sleeping with Lewis’ wife, fellow flying squad officer Nancy (Hayley Atwell). The team begins to investigate a jewelry heist gone wrong and Regan suspects his old foe Francis Allen (Paul Anderson), who he soon discovers is setting him up with the help of a dangerous Serbian criminal. With Lewis hot on his trail, Regan dedicates himself to bringing down Allen and his partners anyway he can, against the advice of his boss Frank Haskins (Damian Lewis), and at the price of the death of one of the most beloved members of his squad. 

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with the great Ray Winstone about his work on The Sweeney, which is the best movie I have seen so far this year. The veteran actor discussed the new movie, the TV series that it is based on, his experience appearing on the original show as a young actor, what inspiration he was able to draw from television star John Thaw’s work as Jack Regan, how he approached playing the iconic character, the film’s terrific cast, working with co-writer/director Nick Love, and the planned sequel to the movie. 

Here is what the acclaimed actor had to say:

IAR: To begin with, I know The Sweeney was released in the U.K. last year but I have to tell you that it is my favorite movie that I have seen so far in 2013. 

Ray Winstone: Oh, that’s great to hear. Thank you very much.

I recently learned that early in your career you appeared on The Sweeney television series, which this film is based on. How did it feel for you to come full circle in your career and now star in the feature film version of that classic British TV show?

Winstone: Yeah, that was the first show I had ever done. I mean it was the first time I had ever been on a set I think. It was a big show at the time and I was surrounded by the big TV stars of the time. It’s crazy because all those years ago I never thought that I would be playing this part now.

Obviously this is an updated version of the series and there are a lot of differences between the original show and this film, but can you talk about some of the differences between your interpretation of Jack Reagan and the version that John Thaw played? Was there anything you were able to take away from his performance that you could incorporate into your version of Jack Regan?

Winstone: Before we started filming I had to sit back a little bit and I started thinking about it. I’m playing this iconic character, who the fuck do I think I am? Why do I think I can play this part, you know? So I took a deep breath and stepped back. I thought, you know what, I just have to make this character my own, and do my own Jack Regan. I had to play him by playing myself, which is the way it should be and once I got that I just got on with it. I don't think they are similar as people, but I think the world is probably the same way. I think as people they are different because there is no way I could do what John Thaw did so I had to do it different from that.

In the film, Jack Regan is the good guy but he’s also a bit of a dirty cop and he does things his way. How did you see the character in terms of his honor as a police officer?

Winstone: He does do things his way and sometimes he’s not that much of a likeable character. When everything goes wrong he does what he has to do. He wants to be the man who protects you and cleans up the streets. He does do things for the right reasons. I think the saving grace with Jack is that he is out to get the bad guy. That’s my take on it and the take of what we were writing. I think Jack might put his hands in the till every once in a while but he’s just trying to look after his crew.

Can you talk about the cat and mouse game between Jack and Lewis, and the fact that Jack is having an affair with Lewis’ wife while he is being investigated?

Winstone: Yeah, Nancy and Jack are like Beauty and the Beast. But yeah, you got Lewis there, Steven Mackintosh (TV's Luther), and he’s out to get me. You also got Damian Lewis (TV's Homeland) and he’s the best, so we’re going to get them back in it for the second one and we’re already coming up with ideas for that. We want to get Steven, Damian, and all the boys back in it. We’ll be shooting guns and arresting people, that’s what we do. So once we get that then it’ll be all systems go for us.

So you are already talking about making a sequel?

Winstone: Yeah, we are going to meet today and talk about it.

You mentioned Damian Lewis and in the film his character and yours have an unspoken respect for each other, is that similar in real life as well?

Winstone: Yeah, it is. I’ve known Damian Lewis for years and he is fantastic to work with, so is Steven Mackintosh. It was important to get really capable actors to fill out the other roles. So that brings a whole new ballgame to it. 

Ben Drew (A.K.A. Plan B) is also great in the film, and of course he began his career as a rapper and not an actor, so what was it like working with him on this movie?

Winstone: Well, you know he did a film with Michael Cain called Harry Brown. We were looking for an actor to play Carter and we looked at a lot of different people. For Carter you need someone who looks like he can kick a door down. Ben’s really big over here (in the U.K.) and his music is fantastic. It brings another generation in for The Sweeney. We knew we could get a great performance out of him and he really delivered as well. 

Finally, can you talk about collaborating with the film’s co-writer and director Nick Love?

Winstone: Any time a director shows up to work wearing pajamas in the morning you know he’s going to be good and its going to be fun, right? His work ethic is great and he just makes it easy for you to go to work and enjoy the day. When you work with Nick you know you’ll be smiling from the minute you get to set. 

Will Nick be writing and directing the sequel as well?

Winstone: Yes, of course. I’m working with Nick on the story and then he’ll take it away and work on the script. I’m going to be on board on the production side of it and also on the acting side. Hopefully we can keep working together because we liked working together and we want to get the whole cast back together too.

The Sweeney opens in U.S. theaters and On Demand March 1st. 

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