On the day of the UK premiere of Brian Helgeland’s LEGEND, we sat down in a brilliant screening room at the Soho Hotel for a press conference with the director himself and the top-billed cast of Tom Hardy, Emily Browning and Christopher Eccleston.
Hosted by Chris Hewitt, questions were put to all in attendance with the press getting to participate as well. See some of the questions that got asked today by Chris and other members of the floor below:
Chris Hewitt: When did you first experience The Krays?
Brian Helgeland first experienced the name when he had been asked to go on tour with Led Zeppelin and one of the Jimmy Page/Robert Plant entourage told him a story about how he lost his finger to these “wild animals” and that’s when he became intrigued by them.
Tom Hardy first came across their legend as a teenager going on holiday, looking through the ‘True Crime’ section of a bookshop and picking up a book about the guys who he now compares their familiarity within London to a red telephone box.
Emily Browning did not actually come across The Krays until she read the script.
Christopher Eccleston, similarly to Tom became obsessed with the brothers at the age of fourteen with his twin brothers.
Press Question: For Tom; how did you get your mind prepared for playing a gangster that is also gay?
Tom Hardy very politely put that he did not think about it because it just is what it is and he was simply playing Ronnie who is gay and made the point that the moment you start trying to play anything (i.e. gay) you kind of miss the point. “Reggie is heterosexual; Ronnie is gay, crack on”.
Press Question: The film focuses on the amount of glamour that was around them in the Sixties and I was just wondering if that sort of thing carries on today in Hollywood with celebrities and gangsters?
Brian and Tom describe it as a funny business because there will always be different versions of those sorts of people in the business, but that they are fully cemented in the entertainment area.
Chris Hewitt: In terms of the research that you did as actors for this film, did you speak to people that were involved with The Krays, did you read books?
Tom Hardy mentioned that there was such a plethora of research on the twins that one can do. He also mentioned how he in fact wore Reggie Kray’s own watch which he died wearing and that they spoke to a lot of people who were involved with them through the years. He also emphasised how there was not a lot of visual documentation of them, apart from one interview with the BBC, but even then you could not really tell if that was their real personalities on screen. It is this lack of information which led him as an actor to depend on pictures, diaries and general patterns in peoples’ perceptions of the brothers as his main source of guidance for portaying them successfully. Tom Hardy “did his homework”!
Emily emphasised how there is not as much information about Frances as there is about The Krays which was nice for her as there would not be as much of a strong idea from viewers about how she should be playing Frances. She held on to a few letters Frances had written and built her character around that, but the main research for her was the cockney accent and getting that right.
Christopher Eccleston believed that Brian had sent a very clear message about what he wanted for his character of officer Nipper Read, and so he relied entirely what was on the script and set. He was a guy who did not want The Krays to have fun, The Rolling Stones to have fun, and so he was the man from the past ten years. “No Homework, just drugs with Brian Helgeland!” he joked.
Press Question: For Tom; in the production notes it says about how you were drawn more to playing Ronnie than Reggie. What drew you to this?
“From a technical point of view, Ron was predictably unpredictable.” Tom went on to say here how he liked the freedom of Ronnie’s character and how he could “free-ball” with him, which is understandable considering his love of roles such as Bronson and Mad Max previously. Reggie on the other hand “is constrained to boundaries and strict disciplines” which is boring for Tom and not how he wants to act. That is why he was initially drawn to Ronnie.
Press Question: For Emily; I’ve realised that the characters you’ve played including this one have been raped, violently abused, orphaned, lobotomised and killed – What do you see as the dangers and the value of depicting victimisation of women on screen?
Emily has been in about 7 films where the character has been in a mental institution of some sort, which is not intentional. She doesn’t really have a career path mapped out but when something comes along and she feels something for it she goes for it. However, saying that, she doesn’t see Frances as victimised in this film, but that Brian wrote her as a very strong character who can stand up to the brothers when necessary.
Press Question: For Brian; Having two Tom Hardy’s on screen was very impressive. Is there any particular shot which was a challenge and if so how did you work around it?
Brian emphasised how that they tried to not make the camera too aware of what was going on so that there was not a heavy focus on the swap between the two Tom Hardys.
There was not really a tricky shot for Tom either. There was no CGI as it was on a tight budget, so ultimately there had to be another actor there who could take notes and replicate his body movements at the end of the day. It was more of a mental puzzle that needed to be unpacked and have life brought into it.
LEGEND is released in UK cinemas on 9th September and the US on 2nd October.
Originally written for Screen Relish – Thanks to them as always for the opportunity!