YouTube
YouTube

12 Fascinating Facts About Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

YouTube
YouTube

Now he’s the guy who makes those frenetic Sherlock Holmes movies and used to be married to Madonna. But Guy Ritchie was once the guy who made Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, a smash hit in England, a cult hit in the U.S., and the instigator of a new cycle of rough British crime comedies. Not bad for a guy’s first feature film. Grab a cup of tea (the entire British Empire was built on them, you know), and enjoy these tidbits about some of London’s most unsavory characters.

1. MRS. STING HELPED IT GET MADE.

Trudie Styler, a producer, actress, and wife of Sting, found the screenplay in the mid-1990s and basically loved it. What she didn’t love was the presentation: “It wasn’t an easy read,” she said. “It was a very long, rambling screenplay with terrible typos, and really poorly presented.” (Sounds like Guy Ritchie is even more similar to Quentin Tarantino than we realized.) Fortunately, the substance of what Ritchie was trying to achieve shone through his inelegant presentation. He’d also made a short film, “The Hard Case,” that showed Styler his potential.

2. TOM CRUISE HELPED IT GET RELEASED IN THE U.S.

The film was having trouble finding an American distributor when Trudie Styler called an acquaintance of hers, a movie star named Tom Cruise. Would he be interested in attending a screening for potential buyers in Hollywood? Not to become a buyer himself, necessarily, but just to see the movie? Cruise went to the screening, surrounded by suits and number-crunchers, and was a vocal and enthusiastic viewer. Producer Matthew Vaughn later recalled, “It was hysterical. You had all these mid-level executives sitting there, and Cruise walked in. He saw them all sit up and pay attention, all getting on their phones, and suddenly all these senior executives joined the screening … At the end, Tom got up in front of everyone and said ‘This is the best movie I’ve seen in years, you guys would be fools not to buy it.’”

3. BRAD PITT WAS A FAN, TOO—WHICH IS WHY HE’S IN SNATCH.

When Mr. Jolie sees a movie he loves, he’s been known to call the person who made it. That’s exactly what he did with Guy Ritchie. “He called me and told me that he wanted to be part of whatever I was doing next,” the director said. That turned out to be Snatch. Pitt and Ritchie remain friends to this day (or to the day of that 2013 Esquire interview, anyway).

4. THE BUDGET STARTED AT £20,000,000 AND WAS GRADUALLY REDUCED TO £800,000.

The initial budget was probably unrealistic for a first-time filmmaker anyway, though it’s indicative of how highly regarded Ritchie’s screenplay was (typos and all). After a flurry of excitement, and even some auditions and casting, much of the financing fell through and the project was postponed. Ritchie started making cuts (including everyone’s salary) and found new backers (including his own godparents), but it took a couple years. By that time, the slick production had become a scrappy, low-budget one, which probably better suited the underdog tone of the story anyway.

5. RAY WINSTONE WAS SUPPOSED TO PLAY HATCHET HARRY.

Stuart Wilson/Getty Images

The English character actor was originally cast in the role, but had to drop out when the aforementioned delays screwed up the schedule. He was replaced by P.H. Moriarty.

YouTube

Fittingly, Winstone went on to star in Sexy Beast (2000), a British gangster film clearly inspired by Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

6. THE JOKE ABOUT SOMEONE FORGETTING TO BRING THE GUNS WAS ADDED BECAUSE, UMM, SOMEONE FORGOT TO BRING THE GUNS.

“Have you forgotten those guns, you dozy prat?” Bacon (Jason Statham) asks when the guys are preparing to rob the other gang of robbers, about 73 minutes into the film. As it turns out, someone had indeed neglected to bring the prop guns to the set that day. With no time to retrieve them, Ritchie had Statham make a joke out of it.

7. JASON STATHAM WAS SELLING FAKE PERFUME ON THE STREET WHEN GUY RITCHIE FOUND HIM.

Statham was doing some modeling work in the mid-1990s, but to supplement his income he also sold fake jewelry and perfume on street corners—“hustling,” as he put it. (His dear old dad had done the same in his day.) It was in this capacity that he was introduced to Ritchie, who needed a con artist for Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and who’d already cast Statham’s friend, Vinnie Jones. It was the beginning of Statham’s acting career, and presumably the end of his fake-perfume-and-jewelry-vending career.

8. OF THE 44 SPEAKING ROLES, AT LEAST 17 WERE PLAYED BY PEOPLE WHO’D NEVER ACTED ON FILM OR TV BEFORE.

To get the film made, Ritchie called in favors and even put crew members to work in front of the camera. He also cast a lot of unknown (read: inexpensive) fledgling actors. A handful of them, like Statham and former soccer player Vinnie Jones, went on to have acting careers. Several others didn’t, either staying behind the scenes or leaving the business altogether.

9. MADONNA LIKED THE SOUNDTRACK SO MUCH SHE RELEASED IT ON HER RECORD LABEL (AND THEN MARRIED THE DIRECTOR).

The Queen of Pop was among the movie’s famous fans, and was particularly fond of its eclectic Brit-rock soundtrack. She contacted Ritchie and producer Matthew Vaughn and asked if her label, Maverick, could release the film’s soundtrack in the U.S. Ritchie said she “wined and dined” them in Hollywood a few times, but that it was Vaughn she was romantically interested in, not him. Madonna and Ritchie did start dating, though. They were married in 2000 (and divorced in 2008).

10. IT GOT A NEW ENDING AFTER TEST SCREENINGS.

The movie originally left things open-ended, with the four main characters walking off with the money and Big Chris (Vinnie Jones) and his son about to follow them to get it back. Test audiences didn’t care for it. Scrambling, Ritchie came up with the new, more elaborate finale (written “on the back of a [cigarette] packet,” according to star Nick Moran, who played Eddy), and the cast was reassembled to film it some months after the initial shoot had ended. One problem: Jason Flemyng, who plays Tom, had grown his hair out for another project and couldn’t cut it, which is why Tom wears a stocking cap in the last several minutes of the movie.

YouTube

11. SUPERMODEL CLAUDIA SCHIFFER WAS LEFT ON THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR.

She played Eddy’s girlfriend but was cut from the film entirely after test screenings. (The movie doesn’t have much use for female characters in general.) Happy ending, though: it was here that she met producer Matthew Vaughn, whom she later married.

12. IT WAS TURNED INTO A TV SHOW.

Lock, Stock... (as it was called) ran for seven episodes in the U.K. in the summer of 2000, centering on the occasionally criminal adventures of four friends who run a London pub called The Lock. None of the movie’s cast members were involved, and all of the characters except Bacon were renamed (or maybe it’s a different Bacon, who knows?). Guy Ritchie co-wrote the pilot but otherwise was not heavily involved.

arrow
entertainment
S-Town Podcast Is Being Turned Into a Movie

S-Town, a seven-part podcast from Serial and This American Life, has all the trappings of a binge-worthy story. It all started when a man from the tiny town of Woodstock, Alabama asked a reporter to investigate a local man from a wealthy family who allegedly boasted he had gotten away with murder.

As for what happens next, “someone else ends up dead, sparking a nasty feud, a hunt for hidden treasure, and an unearthing of the mysteries of one man's life,” reads the 2017 podcast’s synopsis, without giving too much away.

Now, that riveting story is being turned into a movie with This American Life’s participation, IndieWire reports. Participant Media acquired the rights to the S-Town podcast, and negotiations are underway to get playwright Samuel Hunter and director Tom McCarthy on board. McCarthy is perhaps best known for directing and co-writing 2015's Oscar-winning Spotlight; he also co-wrote Up and was an executive producer and director for the controversial Netflix series 13 Reasons Why.

S-Town was downloaded over 10 million times over a period of four days after its release, and it received a Peabody Award for the radio/podcast category, according to IndieWire. Just last month, HBO and Sky announced they would be releasing a documentary series about Adnan Syed, the focus of the first season of the Serial podcast, which is developed by This American Life.

In case you missed S-Town when it premiered, you can go back and listen to it here.

[h/t IndieWire]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Netflix
arrow
entertainment
15 Facts About The Staircase, Netflix’s New True Crime Docuseries
Netflix
Netflix

At 2:40 a.m. on December 9, 2001, Durham, North Carolina-based novelist Michael Peterson made a frantic call to 911 to report an accident. His wife, Kathleen, had fallen down a flight of stairs and was unconscious, but still breathing, in a massive pool of her own blood. Michael, who claimed he had been sitting out by the pool, was not sure how it had happened—he just knew that he needed help. By the time the paramedics arrived, it was too late. But the police weren’t convinced that Kathleen had fallen, or that her death was an accident at all.

Within two weeks, Michael Peterson would be indicted for the murder of his wife, and the case—which stretched on through 2017—only got stranger from there.

There’s not a lot one can say about The Staircase without giving too much away. So if you’ve yet to watch all 13 episodes of the compelling docuseries, which is now streaming on Netflix, bookmark this page and come back once you have. For those of you who have powered through it all and are thirsting for more details on the case, read on.

1. IT’S NEW TO NETFLIX, BUT IT ORIGINALLY PREMIERED IN 2004.

If you had a sense of déjà vu while watching The Staircase, it could very well be because you’ve seen it before—at least most of it. A truncated, two-hour version of the miniseries, which is directed by French filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, first premiered on Primetime Thursday in the summer of 2004. The completed docuseries made its television premiere one year later, first in England and then in America (on the Sundance Channel). In 2012, de Lestrade released a two-hour follow-up that continued the story. Netflix’s rendition includes all 10 of the original episodes, plus three brand-new ones, which follow some more recent developments in the case.

2. FILMING BEGAN SHORTLY AFTER MICHAEL PETERSON WAS INDICTED.

In 2001, de Lestrade directed the Oscar-winning Murder on a Sunday Morning, which highlighted the case of Brenton Butler, a black teenager who was wrongfully convicted of murder in Jacksonville, Florida. De Lestrade was on the lookout for his next project, and he had a very specific idea for his follow-up: another documentary that would dissect the American criminal justice system, but this time from the perspective of a white defendant who could afford a top-notch legal team. De Lestrade told The Ringer that he and his team spent five months reviewing about 300 cases, which is how they found Michael Peterson. (That both Peterson and his lawyer, David Rudolf, were willing to offer the filmmakers unfettered access to their preparations for the trial was obviously a bonus.)

But de Lestrade had a feeling that there was something unusual about Peterson’s case that would make for a compelling story. “When [Michael] was talking about his love with Kathleen, I really could feel that sincerity,” de Lestrade said. “But, at the same time, there was a kind of mystery about this man. It was a strange feeling.” Peterson was indicted for the murder of his wife on December 21, 2001; shooting on the series began shortly thereafter.

3. IT WAS ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED TO BE A TWO-HOUR DOCUMENTARY.

Though de Lestrade knew that there was something different about Peterson’s case, even he couldn’t imagine the number of turns it would take over the next 15-plus years. It didn’t take long for the director to realize that his original plan to make a two-hour documentary on the case would barely even scratch the surface.

“When we started shooting in February 2002 and when David Rudolf gave us access and the judge gave us access in the court room and we started to shoot and shoot and shoot then we realized how big it could be,” de Lestrade told Metro. “Because in the beginning it was supposed to be a two-hour film. It wasn’t supposed to be an eight-hour documentary series. But after six months of shooting, I knew we couldn’t tell the story in two hours.” Fortunately, the film’s distributors were receptive to the idea of a miniseries.

4. JEAN-XAVIER DE LESTRADE VOWED TO NEVER MAKE ANOTHER DOCUMENTARY AFTER COMPLETING THE FIRST SEGMENT.

Michael Peterson in 'The Staircase' (2018)
Netflix

Reflecting on The Staircase and Michael Peterson’s case for The Daily Beast in 2013, de Lestrade revealed that he never intended to come back to the story once the original series was in the can. “When I finally completed The Staircase in September 2004, I felt as emotionally drained as David Rudolf did at the end of the film,” he wrote. “I told myself that I would stop making documentary films—just as David had vowed that the Peterson trial would be his last criminal-defense case. It was wrenching to watch as Michael Peterson, bound at the wrists, was swept into the car that would take him to prison for the rest of his life. I couldn’t bear Martha and Margaret’s endless tears. It was harrowing to try to comfort a family shattered by a tragedy that seemed so senseless.”

5. DE LESTRADE HAS NEVER STEPPED AWAY FROM THE STORY.

Though de Lestrade has worked on a handful of other projects since The Staircase’s original release, he has never stopped working on the project since he first began filming in 2002. When asked by Metro what it felt like to “return” to the project, the director was quick to make it clear that, “I never quit The Staircase. I have been obsessed by the story and by the character. It has been my obsession to go through the legal process. And to end the series when the justice system gave an answer to the case.”

6. FOR DE LESTRADE, IT WASN’T ABOUT PROVING PETERSON’S GUILT OR INNOCENCE.

In April 2018, Netflix’s three new episodes of The Staircase premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. Following the screening, de Lestrade held a Q&A in which he explained that determining Peterson’s innocence—or guilt—was never part of his grand plan for the film. “The purpose has never been to look for the truth,” he said. “Or to look for what happened that night. It was just to look at the way the justice system would treat the case, and it took 17 years.”

7. BUT FOR THE RECORD: DE LESTRADE DOESN’T BELIEVE THAT PETERSON IS GUILTY.

Though de Lestrade wasn’t looking to uncover the truth about Peterson's guilt or innocence, he did form an opinion: He does not believe that Michael Peterson killed his wife. “We weren’t there that night so we can’t pretend we know what happened,” de Lestrade told the Tribeca Film Festival audience. “We may have an opinion or a feeling, but to me, there is no strong evidence presented that Michael Peterson killed his wife. That’s where I stand.”

8. THE CASE HAS BEEN A FRUSTRATING ONE FOR THE DIRECTOR.

The Peterson family in 'The Staircase' (2018)
Netflix

Writing for The Daily Beast, de Lestrade admitted that the long road—and contradictory evidence—that has been presented throughout Peterson's seemingly endless legal battles has been difficult to reconcile at times:

“It has been immensely frustrating that the truth of this story has remained so obscure for so long. I never believed the prosecution’s murder theory. The evidence contradicted it. It’s impossible to kill someone by hitting them over the head without inflicting either skull fractures or cerebral contusions. On the other hand, the fall scenario put forth by the defense didn’t entirely satisfy me either. The lacerations on Kathleen's scalp are difficult to reconcile with an accidental fall down the stairs.”

9. AS BIZARRE AS THE “OWL THEORY” SEEMS, MANY PEOPLE BELIEVE IN ITS PLAUSIBILITY.

The Staircase puts forth a number of possible theories about what could have caused Kathleen Peterson’s death, the most bizarre one being that she was attacked by an owl. More specifically: that an owl got tangled in her hair and, in an attempt to extricate itself, ending up causing her death. It may sound strange, but the autopsy report did note that Kathleen had pine needles stuck to one of her hands, clumps of her own hair in both hands, and a few small feathers entangled in one of those clumps.

“When you look at her injuries, they do appear consistent with being made by an owl’s talons,” Mary Jude Darrow, Peterson’s attorney, told Audubon in 2016. “But I would hate to risk my client’s life or future on that argument.” Several animal experts agreed in the theory's plausibility, as did the film’s director … eventually.

“At face value, this theory seemed absurd, so I treated it with a great deal of caution,” de Lestrade wrote. “Yet, today, I have to admit that numerous facts favor this owl theory. Two years ago, I met with a well-known neurological surgeon. After a careful look—over several days—at Kathleen’s injuries, he told me, ‘These injuries are not consistent with any form of blunt instrument used as a weapon. These injuries could not be produced with a pipe, hammer, knife, tire iron, or even a hand claw such as would be used in the garden. These wounds, however, are most consistent with lacerations caused by a large raptor or bird of prey. Four punctures wounds converging to a point via jagged lacerations, without associated scalp contusions, must be considered to have been inflicted by a raptor talon until proven otherwise. Furthermore, these specific lacerations are of the dimensions of a barred owl’s talons.’”

The idea, according to that same surgeon, is that the owl attack happened outside the house, which led to Kathleen fainting, “most likely on the staircase, leading to a fall either down the stairs or at the foot of the stairs, suffering a fractured thyroid cartilage as she fell. This is followed by a period of unconsciousness, during which she either hemorrhages to death or asphyxiates to death.”

10. PETERSON CALLS ACCEPTING AN ALFORD PLEA “THE MOST DIFFICULT DECISION” HE HAS EVER MADE.

Given that the newest installments of The Staircase involve Peterson entering an Alford plea (a plea deal in which the defendant maintains his or her innocence, but acknowledges that the prosecution has enough evidence to convict them) to the charge of voluntary manslaughter, and walking free, it’s doubtful we’ll see new episodes of the series. But Peterson told Dateline’s Dennis Murphy that entering that plea was “the most difficult decision I ever made in my life … And I’m talking, you know, joining the Marines, anything I did in my life, this was the most difficult decision I made. And I did it because the second most difficult thing I ever did in my life was to live through that trial and listen to all of those lies and perjuries, the nonsense.”

11. THE DOCUMENTARY’S EDITOR BEGAN A RELATIONSHIP WITH MICHAEL PETERSON.

Though the documentary is full shocking moments and revelations, one of the most surprising events happened off-screen: During the course of production, The Staircase editor Sophie Brunet and Michael Peterson fell in love. “This is one of the incredible things that happened during those 15 years,” de Lestrade told L’Express. “Life is really full of surprises. They had a real story, which lasted until May 2017. But she never let her own feelings affect the course of editing.”

12. IT'S TAUGHT IN LAW SCHOOL CLASSROOMS.

Michael Peterson and David Rudolf in 'The Staircase (2018)
Netflix

Thomas B. Metzloff, a law professor at Duke University who was one of Michael and Kathleen’s neighbors at the time of her death, told The News & Observer that The Staircase is required viewing for his students—though he disagrees with the documentary’s suggestion that Peterson did not get a fair trial.

“I don't think the average person who followed the trial closely in real time comes away with a reaction of 'Oh, my gosh, here's an innocent man who is being victimized,'” he said. “Having been to the trial, it was a fair trial. It was a good jury. The evidence was presented and David Rudolf was able to point out the weaknesses. For example, his cross-examination of [SBI blood expert] Duane Deaver, which I attended, was very powerful. So there was evidence to support the verdict. Whether there should have been reasonable doubt is for people to judge based on the evidence.”

13. IT HAS A LINK TO MAKING A MURDERER.

The Staircase has a coincidental link to Netflix’s first big true crime docuseries hit: Rudolf was the UNC clinical law professor of Jerry Buting who, along with Dean Strang, defended Steven Avery in Making a Murderer.

14. A PSYCHIC PURCHASED THE PETERSON HOME FOR $1.3 MILLION IN 2008.

Michael Peterson no longer lives in the Durham home he shared with his late wife Kathleen; it has passed through two owners since first being sold for $640,000 in 2004. The second, and current, owner is a psychic named Biond Fury, who said he had no knowledge of Peterson’s trial or the home’s history. According to WRAL, “he was attracted to the house because of its architecture and layout.”

15. NBC'S TRIAL & ERROR IS A PARODY OF THE STAIRCASE.

Anyone who has watched NBC’s Trial & Error, starring John Lithgow, has likely noticed the many nods to The Staircase in the mockumentary sitcom (there was even a reference to the owl theory).

“The genesis of this was around five years ago in the writers’ rooms across Warner Bros … a documentary called The Staircase was going around,” Trial & Error co-creator Jeff Astrof said at the 2017 Television Critics Association. “And I remember I watched it with my wife—and at the time I wish I had said John Lithgow for this story to work—[but instead] I said, ‘If this guy was played by Steve Carell, this would be the funniest comedy I’ve ever seen.’ And my wife gave me as much encouragement as any time she ever has, and she said, ‘Yeah, maybe.’”

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios