Guy Ritchie

Details, Dec 2011

Two years ago, Guy Ritchie was best known for his famous ex-wife and a couple of London gangster capers he made over ten years ago. But today, the former Mr Ciccone has a new girl on his arm and a hit franchise on his hands. As he puts the final touches to Sherlock Holmes 2, he sits with Details to talk wrestling, Madonna and villains.


Photograph by Mike McGregor

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Are you done with London gangster capers now?
I think so. But I’m not done with caricatures. I love caricatures. So gangsters might inevitably pop up somewhere.

Don’t gangsters object to being caricatured?
No, villains are caricatures. They’ve all got these ridiculous nicknames. And by the way, everyone did well out of it, through books and other movies that came out after the whole Lock Stock wave. All of a sudden, if you had a moniker that had something to do with the amount of fingers you’ve chopped off someone, you got a book deal.

Before you made Lock Stock and Snatch, did you know any villains?
I was loosely aware. But what is a villain? Because, clearly bankers are appalling villains. I just don’t know how interesting they are or how much we want to see a movie about them.

You once said you worked with somebody who murdered people.
Oh I’ve met several characters like that. I went to a football match with a whole gang of these people, and they couldn’t be more genteel. And they talked about stabbing people the same way we would talk about a stag party.

Does success distance you from that world?
Not really. I have a friend in prison, actually, who I visited recently. But my friends aren’t active villains any longer. They’ve all been gentrified. As you grow older, the idea is that you exchange your looks and youth for wisdom, and one of the things that is sacrificed is violence.

And yourself—how long has it been since you had a street fight?
I haven’t had an altercation for, I don’t know, 15 years? I did go through a truculent period once. I smoked a lot of weed and drank a lot of booze, and when I tried to give them both up I thought I’d take up street rowing, which I came unstuck in on a number of occasions. I was just looking for adrenaline. But if someone said something rude to me now I’d just accept it. It’s an age thing. You look like an arse when you’re rolling around on the street at 43 years old.

You’ve done martial arts for years. What have you learned besides how to kick ass?
When I was unemployed, karate was the only thing that I turned up to religiously. So between the ages of 18-22, it’s where I got discipline from. Being screamed at and realizing that the only thing you have to fight against is how much of a puss you are and how much more you can do. Now I do Brazilian ju-jitsu five days a week. It’s like chess for wrestlers. And also, it’s good for old men because you don’t get your nose pressed in or your joints snapped.

Chess, martial arts—there’s a theme here.
And fishing. You can get quite metaphorical about fishing. I think it’s just wrestling with life and with yourself. Life is one long wrestling match. And you can be clever and canny, but which part of you is being clever? Who’s playing who? Who’s being mugged off? Who’s the mark?

I don’t get how fishing fits in.
You know: Who’s the fisherman and who’s the fish? I read a book recently which said that when you cast a line it’s a tentative connection with your unconscious or the natural world. And when you hook into something, you’re not sure what you’ll resurrect from the dead. You get profound on fishing and there’s a whole bunch of philosophy that’s wasted on the youth. As you become an older fart you’re not so motivated by results as you are by the means that you achieve them. And then it becomes about the art of achieving, rather than achieving itself. Anyone north of 40 starts to work that out. None of this shit meant anything to me ten years ago.

You’re a father. What kind of life advice do you give your kids?
I don’t. I’m fucking glad no one gave me too much advice. You’ve got to work it out for yourself. What works for me might not work for anyone else. Because everyone told me that to be good at school was important, but for me it wasn’t. So I am anti-school. And I’m anti-people putting so much pressure on kids and robbing their childhood so they have to do so much homework. I think kids if want to arse around then they should.

The first investor in Lock Stock also introduced you to Madonna. Where would you be without Sting’s wife, Trudie Styler?
Listen we knocked on a lot of doors for Lock Stock. By the time we got around to Trudie we had blisters on our knuckles. It’s just that she was the first person to open up. We had all the dominos lined up, we just needed one domino to tumble. She was like “Sure, I have a few hundred grand.” And as soon as other people saw that she was invested, it all rolled in. I will say that Trudie’s always been helpful, cooperative and fair with me. I’ve been screamed at by her and I normally have a bad reaction to that, but from Trudie I didn’t.

She also introduced you to your ex-wife. You had made all of four hours of cinema at the point that you married the most famous woman in the world. What was that transition like? 
I don’t know. By the way, I enjoyed my first marriage. It’s definitely not something I regret. The experience was ultimately very positive and I could see no other route to take. But you move on, don’t you? You’re right, I stepped into a soap opera, and I lived in it for quite a long period of my life. I’ll probably be more eloquent on it 10 years from now.

Does it feel like a soap opera on the inside?
When you end up with a lot of the things you set out to chase, and find that you’ve stumbled into all sorts of hollow victories, then you become deeply philosophical. I’m quite happy that that experience was accelerated for me. I’m glad I made money, in other words. And I’m glad I got married.