Chances are that when audiences think “tough Cockney geezer” they picture Ray Winstone, the veteran British actor whose enduring gallery of rogues has practically given him trademark on the type. From his early roles as young punks and ne’er do-wells in movies like Quadrophenia, Scum and Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains through his unforgettable performances in Nil by Mouth and Sexy Beast, Winstone cornered the market in British hard men — and directors like Martin Scorsese (The Departed) and Steven Spielberg (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) took note.
Winstone has just wrapped filming Darren Aronofsky’s Noah opposite Russell Crowe, and this week he’s in theaters as the lead in British hit The Sweeney — an adaptation of the iconic 1970s police show on which, coincidentally, the star landed one of his earliest roles. We had a chance to chat with Winstone recently about his all-time favorite films.
Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, 1980; 98% Tomatometer)
Well, not necessarily in this order. You’ve got Raging Bull, for the reason that it’s a masterpiece of movie-making. I love it because, when you cut the boxing out, it’s about people. It’s beautifully shot. The slow-motion stuff, the music, the characters, the acting, the direction. It’s classic to me because I’ve been a boxer, and it emotionally touches me. The heart just got to me. I was sitting there with my mate watching that, and he’s a boxer and a champion boxer, and we were both crying at the end of the movie — [laughs] which sounds ridiculous, but it got to us, you know?
Another movie is Once Upon a Time In America, which is a bit of genius film-making, I think. That’s a film I can watch all night long. And I think it is four hours long, or something like that. It’s just a wonderful film to watch.
Then you could cut away from films like that and say a film like Zulu, with Stanley Baker and Michael Caine. It’s just a film that, no matter where you pick it up — like the first two — you have to keep watching. I think I watch that film three times a year.
Another film would be The Vikings, with Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis — with a Bronx accent, I guess, as a viking. But it’s a stirring film, you know, and one of the great films of the time.
I could go on and on. Like The Searchers, with John Wayne. It’s a wonderful film. Brilliantly shot, you know. And Wayne’s playing a bigot in it. A man who’s got a hatred about him, but by the end of it he changes. It’s such a great performance, hero playing a man like that. But you know, I got a million films; I could probably give you another five or 10 that would be totally different. You know a film that changed my mind about everything? I was in New York years ago, walking along on my own, and I saw a film called The Tin Drum. I went in and it started and I thought, “F–k, it’s a German film,” and they’ve got these subtitles and I thought, “I can’t be bothered with this.” But I sat there, and within 10 minutes I forgot about reading it and I just sat there watching this film. What a film. And it kind of changed my mind about film-making.
The Sweeney opens theatrically in select locations this week.