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OUCH! THIS BLOKE IS ONE BLOODY PLAYER!

By DIANE BARONI
Executive Editor, Moviecrazed
Published in Interview magazine, February 2001

 

In England, he was notorious for being one of soccer's bad boys--a superstar player whose audacious moves on the field (he once "marked" an opponent during a match by grabbing his testicles; see photo at left) often got him in trouble. But that same rowdy rep, plus great looks and potent charisma, also got Vinnie Jones noticed. He hosted his own cable talk show, had a newspaper column, published a book, and did a shocking video about what really goes on in the soccer world--for which he was censured by the governing association and fined 20,000 pounds. Sensing screen potential in the rough-and-tumble athlete, writer-director Guy Ritchie offered Jones a part in his 1998 film, “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”--a huge hit in England and a cult sensation on this side of the pond.

Now Jones is getting major attention as Bullet Tooth Tony, a menacing, murderous underworld operator in another Ritchie movie, “Snatch’--a dark gangster comedy involving a botched diamond heist, bare-knuckle boxing, crazed Irish gypsies (one of whom is played by none other than Brad Pitt), and a screwed-up dog.

What's next? “Swordfish,” a thriller with John Travolta and Halle Berry, and a starring role in “Mean Machine,” Jones' third movie for Ska Films, the company founded by Ritchie and producer Matthew Vaughn. With the offers rolling in, the 36-year-old Brit, along with his wife and two kids, has settled happily into a rented house in Beverly Hills. "I love it here, absolutely love it," he says. "Wherever I lay my hat, it's my home."


DIANE BARONI: Before we get going, I have to ask: What was that marking thing all about?

VINNIE JONES: The guy behind me was mouthing off, so to shut him up, I just grabbed his balls and gave 'em a twist. I do things on impulse.

DB: So I gather.

VJ: Yeah. A photographer took a picture of me doing it and it got the sports picture of the year award.

DB: Do you do a lot of stuff like that?

VJ: Let's say I was a bit unorthodox in the way I played the game.

DB: You don't play anymore?

VJ: No. After “Lock, Stock” I got a call from Jerry Bruckheimer's office asking me to do “Gone in 60 Seconds” with Nicolas Cage, which meant coming over here for six months, so I had to make a decision. There were still two years on my soccer contract but I'd won some awards for “Lock, Stock--Best Newcomer and so on--so I thought I'd give it a go.

DB: How does acting compare with soccer?

VJ: As an athlete I played at the top level for 15 years, but because of my style of play, I didn't get the kind of credibility I'm already getting as an actor. It's nice having people pat you on the back rather than writing bad stuff about you.

DB: Guy Ritchie has said there was a special atmosphere on the “Snatch” set--everyone getting along so well, "having a bit of a jolly," that he decided to work more of that into the script.

VJ: It carried over from “Lock, Stock,” really. There was no big-time actors in that one, and we were all sort of doin' it for nothing, and we wanted to keep that spirit in “Snatch.” Sometimes we was laughing so much we had to keep turning away from the camera. The thing with the dog where he was all over the black guy, that wasn't in the scene; it just happened, and Guy left it in.

DB: “Snatch” does have a big-time actor though--Brad Pitt, in the role of a gypsy, of all things. What was it like to work with him?

VJ: Great. It's great to see Brad in a role being funny. He went to the gypsy camp and spent the whole day; he was great with them. In the film, half the time you can't understand a word he's saying, but it was on purpose. That's how pikeys [slang for gypsies] talk.

DB: Is there a scene in the film you're especially proud of?

VJ: Yeah, the scene in the pub, which is similar to the one Samuel L. Jackson did in “Pulp Fiction” where he's in the cafe and they put the gun to his head. It showed that “Lock, Stock” wasn't just a flash in the pan for me. I knew the critics were going to say, "Yeah, he was great in that, but let's see him in his next movie, see if he really can act." I was very conscious of that. So Guy says to me, "Look, get “Pulp Fiction” and watch that scene, see how awesome it was, and go from there. If you can get anywhere near that, you'll be made; you can steal a movie with scenes like that." I have some other great scenes, but that one in the pub, I think people will remember it. That's what I like doing, making unforgettable moments in movies.

DB: It was brilliant. Did you ad-lib at all?

VJ: No, it was all Guy's. He doesn't let you stray away from the script much.

DB:I hear you're writing a screenplay yourself. What's it about?

VJ: I'm writing a movie, yeah. There's comedy in it, but there's a dark side to it as well. A bunch of lads, they follow one of their pals who wants to go to the Olympics, and then he meets this girl, and he starts getting more famous ... it's sort of two movies, really, it's going along doing comedy and all of a sudden it twists right 'round into a thriller.

DB: Bullet Tooth Tony certainly has a dark side, but you also made him funny.

VJ: I like the comic aspect of my characters--not out-and-out comedy, but I like to show that side of them.

DB: How would you characterize Tony? Is he a true bad guy?

VJ: I thought of him more as a fix-it kind of guy. He got the job done.

DB: That's for sure. Still, it's fair to say that you've mostly played violent, underworld characters. Do you think you'll eventually branch out? What other types of roles do you see yourself playing?

VJ: I love great action movies and westerns, films like “Braveheart” and “The Last of the Mohicans.” They'd be great for me, them roles. They're what I'd feel confident in. But the last thing I want is to be labeled. I feel I've got a lot more strings to my guitar, you know?