Poppa Ritchie's Got a Brand-New Snatch
by Tony Phillips
“Pull your tongue out of my asshole, Gary!” barks Alan Ford to co-hort Jason Buckham, “dogs do that.” And thus opens Snatch, the very British new film by Madonna’s very British new man, Guy Ritchie. These hijinx won’t be landing either Guy, or his big star Brad Pitt, on The Rosie O’Donnell Show anytime soon. Snatch overflows with gun violence, a human-eating pig farm, even an adorable pit bull under the almost constant threat of being blown away thrown in for good measure. It could not in anyway be considered family fare and little Sesame Street deprived Rocco and Lourdes will be waiting an awfully long time before they get to see what daddy does all day. In the meantime, the handsome, 32-year-old Ritchie has a lot to say about his latest vehicle Snatch.
“The cast gelled together so well,” he explains, “each one is such a character — on and off screen — and they brought a life of their own to the original script I wrote. The roles needed coarseness as well as credibility and comedy.” On casting his slapstick jewel heist that tears through London’s underworld, Ritchie talks about finding just the right actors. They span traditional gritty types like Dennis Farina and Benicio Del Toro to inspired choices like DJ Goldie and Brad Pitt. Ritchie adds, “It’s no good getting Shakespearean actors to play crooked cockney gang members.”
Brad Pitt takes on the role of the barely comprehensible Irish Gypsy boxer Mickey O’Neil. Pitt called Ritchie immediately after the American premiere of Ritchie’s first film, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. The two hit it off and Pitt requested a role in Ritchie’s next film, forgoing his usual $20-million price tag and even agreeing to the same size trailer as the film’s other stars. Pitt says he found the lack of red carpet treatment refreshing. Ritchie says, “It’s very flattering that a star such as Brad would be in our film. He was one of the lads right from the start, a top boy who doesn’t mince around.” If you remember him fondly from his seedier Thelma and Louise days, you’ll be happy to know that “top boy” Pitt spends a good deal of Snatch covered in grime and showing off some really interesting ink-work on his naked torso. But don’t let the tattoos fool you, Ritchie continues of Pitt, “He was probably more of a gent than anyone — he made cups of tea for the punters on set.”
Ritchie makes juggling an all-star cast look effortless, but he did have some help from the man who stood next to him on the altar in Skibo Castle, his best man, Matthew Vaughn. In a blind-item worthy of Michael Musto, Snatch producer Vaughn relays the following tidbit involving the film’s canine cast member, “During the filming, the dog became more and more in love with one of the actors and could only be separated from his leg with great difficulty!” Vaughn conjures the visual, but keeps it blind by adding, “An actor trying to walk across the front of this gas station with a dog stuck to his leg and Guy shouting, ‘Yes — fantastic! Keep filming!’” The film also features the return of Sting’s wife, Trudie Styler, who helped finance Ritchie’s first film. It’s been reported that Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels cost $1.6 million to make and earned $30 million, not a bad return on investment for Ms. Styler. But then, you could say she returned the favor by introducing Ritchie to his new wife Madonna at a luncheon she hosted two years ago.
But it’s not just Ritchie, Madonna and child (well, children) that led to the familial vibe on-set. Ritchie explains, “It’s not only about getting the right face and personality to play the part. It’s about creating a family. That’s why casting takes so long — the actors themselves have to be very real and very strong and they also have to gel off screen. After a long day’s shooting, I want to be able to have a pint with the lads and cash in on the money [Jason] Statham [the actor who plays the character Turkish] owes me from our daily game of chess. We constantly took the piss out of one another,” Ritchie elaborates. “You either sink or swim in this atmosphere and, with this group, a lot of us have swum like fish.” But to keep things from getting too fishy, Ritchie introduced a system of fines on-set. There were fines for mobile phone use, arriving late, napping, even the very British state of just being “cheeky.” Of his system, Ritchie explains, “the fines helped to keep a tight ship. Unfortunately I was one of the ones who suffered the most. These lads had a whole wrap party on me because I kept forgetting to give socks back to the prop department.” Jason Statham adds, “The fine that actually got him every time was the ‘flash’ fine, imposed on him anytime that we felt he was being a bit too ‘flash!’”
And what about that publicist-enforced, off-limits area: the Madonna question? In a film all but devoid of women, Madonna has what’s practically a cameo when “Lucky Star” pops up on the soundtrack not once, but twice. She provides the backing track for a titty bar scene and again in a sequence where a character in the film is being dragged behind a car, these scenes basically beg for the question to be asked, but Ritchie is closed-lipped about his blushing bride. Dave Reid, the first assistant director actually responsible for imposing the “flash” fines is willing to break the silence, saying, “Guy was always late.” Continuing to flap on the boss, Reid says, “He always had an excuse, usually involving transatlantic phone calls with his girlfriend.” So, did Reid have the brass balls to dock the boss? He spills the tea, saying, “Of course I gave him massive fines.”