Q&A: Guy Ritchie


Guy Ritchie is returning to form. The British filmmaker first made waves in the late 1990s with a pair of London-set crime capers -- "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" and "Snatch" -- and made even more when he married Madonna in 2000. Their subsequent collaboration, "Swept Away," didn't exactly win over Hollywood; 2005's "Revolver" might well have bought him a ticket to movie jail.

But Ritchie is revisiting the crime caper in "RocknRolla," which had its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.

And while he and his wife have again become tabloid fodder, so too has his movie after it was reported this summer that its producer, Joel Silver, was shopping it to other distributors because Warner Bros. president Alan Horn said the film had limited boxoffice prospects in the U.S. (Warners, though, is still releasing the movie Oct. 8 on 800 screens in North America.)

The Hollywood Reporter talked to Ritchie about his career.

Hollywood Reporter: So "RocknRolla" seems like a return to your roots. How did it come about?

Guy Ritchie: There's a conspiracy of answers. For one, it's easy for me to find a market for those films. And I enjoy making them, and no one else seems to making those kinds of movies. I was also interested in what is happening in London and how it's been changing. Nothing was reflecting that change creatively, and I wanted to explore that evolution, or de-evolution.

THR: After "Revolver" and "Swept Away," some will say that you're just going back to what you were successful at.

Ritchie: There's truth in that, to a degree. I wanted to make those movies, they are avenues I wanted to explore. But "Lock" and "Snatch," they are the movies I like doing. It's a balance. I want to make what I want to make and still have people come out. "Revolver," to a degree, was an indulgence. I fell in love with the idea, the concept of, "What if your mind is your greatest enemy?" There are only a finite amount of films like that that people going to accept from me.

THR: How do you get out of movie jail?

Ritchie: You simply make something that people are excited about. It's as simple as that.

THR: What do you make of the hullabaloo over speculation that the movie might not have the full backing of Warners? Do you agree with Alan Horn that it's "too English," and will that hurt its chances of finding an audience?

Ritchie: Maybe he's right. And I agree with him: 800 is too many screens. I would go smaller than that. I made it as a commercial film. It does have a lot of English-isms, but I see movies with a lot of American-isms. It plays well. So I think we go with caution. If it is accessible, then open it on more screens.

THR: People are jazzed about "Sherlock Holmes," which you describe as an intellectual action movie. How is your take going to be different than what we've seen historically?

Ritchie: Other productions didn't have the access to technology or the money I have now. I am no longer restricted by what encumbered those previous productions. I have deep pockets and a great script and the backing of a very excited studio. It's tricky to say what exactly I'll do, but I think it will be a culmination of things, of creative tricks and concepts that will amount to a different interpretation than what has come before.

THR: You have Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock. What do you make of his career trajectory this summer?

Ritchie: It's a clear illustration of the movie business world. Everyone was extremely happy when "Iron Man" worked, and then when "Tropic Thunder" worked. No one doubts his talent and his abilities. It's just that the wheels came off for a while. He has the best British accent I've ever heard.

Even better than the British actors I've worked with.

THR: "RocknRolla" came out of a meeting with Joel Silver when you were discussing the remakes of "The Dirty Dozen." You also have "Sgt. Rock" that you're developing with him. What's going on with those?

Ritchie: They are going to be very expensive productions, so they take a little more time.

THR: That's a lot of World War II movies for one man.

Ritchie: I don't have a problem with that. My intention is to make a lot of movies in the next few years.