Robert De Niro's shoes are ones that not many actors would jump into, but Ray Winstone is not a man who steps away from a challenge. As a former amateur boxing champion and longtime onscreen tough guy, Winstone (who you probably love best from his roles in uncompromisingly gritty British dramas like Nil By Mouth or Sexy Beast) was found ready and willing to jump into the chance to appear alongside Mel Gibson in the big screen version of what began as a hit BBC tv series, Edge Of Darkness.
Izumi Hasegawa: Why are you drawn to stories about characters who lose family and fight for justice?
Ray Winstone: I think you look at the script first. If you love the script, and it just happens to be about that subject, the subject is not the thing you look at first. It’s the script.
RW: It’s funny because the parts you really want to play are the emotional parts. I do, anyway, personally. To sit across the table or sit in the garden watching someone play the emotional part…when I read the script, and I didn’t have a lot of time to get my act together, and with the help of Martin [Campbell] and Mel [Gibson], to decide which way you’re going to take it….to play a man, really, me in the film — a man with no emotion who’s seen death and created death, I’ve kind of met people like that, years ago, who’ve been through…whether it’s the second World War or people who were members of the SAS. They have these eyes that kind of burn into you and look at the wall behind you. You can’t tell them lies.
Because of the amount of emotion that Mel has to go through in this film, it’s kind of making the decision. It’s all about decisions anyway, as an actor, but to make a decision to play someone who had no emotion on the surface, that’s fun because you usually play a guy playing with it in loads of films like that. Besides, going to work is fun anyway, especially when you’re sitting opposite someone like Mel or John Hurt or whatever it is. It’s always a blessing because you’re working with people who are talented and know their job and know their business.
IH: Is Steven Soderbergh’s Cleo still happening?
RW: I don’t know. It was going to go last year, and I think Steven had another film to go and do. There was talk of it going this year, but I haven’t heard anything more about it, to be quite honest with you. It’d be great, dressing up in a toga and all that with Tony Curtis haircuts, singing rock n’ roll.
IH: Would it have been you singing?
RW: Do you want me to apologize for that? [Laughs] From a kid, I always wanted to be a singer. My balls dropped one day, and that was it. My daughter’s a singer. She sings jazz and blues, but I’m a frustrated singer, really. I think I became an actor because I couldn’t sing. You play a different kind of music now. I’d love to do that.
IH: It’s not officially dead?
RW: I haven’t been told it’s dead. I haven’t been told when it’s going, but I’d love to, and to get a chance to kiss Catherine Zeta-Jones — that’s just making movies, isn’t it? That’s what I’m doing it for. I’d love to do the film, and I think he’s a very, very clever boy, and I think if anyone can pull that off, he could.
'Edge of Darkness' is in theaters now from Warner Bros. Pictures.