12 Facts About Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

Jason Flemyng, Dexter Fletcher, and Jason Statham in 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels' (1998)
Jason Flemyng, Dexter Fletcher, and Jason Statham in 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels' (1998)
Polgram Entertainment

Now he’s the guy who made those frenetic Sherlock Holmes movies, turned Aladdin into a live-action film, 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 as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

1. Trudie Styler helped get it made.

Trudie Styler, a producer, actress, and wife of Sting, found the screenplay for Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels 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 get it released in the U.S.

The film was having trouble finding an American distributor when 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 Brad Pitt 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 told Esquire. 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 original budget was unrealistic for a first-timer.

The budget for Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels started out at £20 million (which would be nearly $45 million today) and was gradually reduced to a more reasonable £800,000 (or about $1.8 million). 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.

Ray Winstone
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. 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 ... 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.

Jason Statham
Bennett Raglin, Getty Images for BET

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 had 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 label (then married the movie's 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.

11. Supermodel Claudia Schiffer was left on the cutting room floor.

Claudia Schiffer 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.

The article originally ran in 2015.

Disney's Most Magical Destinations Have Been Reimagined as Vintage Travel Posters

UpgradedPoints.com
UpgradedPoints.com

Many of the iconic settings of animated Disney movies were modeled after real places around the world. Ussé Castle in France’s Loire Valley, for example, is widely rumored to have been the inspiration behind the original Sleeping Beauty story. (Although the castle in the movie more closely resembles Germany's Neuschwanstein Castle.) Likewise, the fictional island in Moana was made to look like Samoa, and the Sultan’s palace in Aladdin shares some similarities with India's Taj Mahal.

If you’ve ever dreamed of exploring Agrabah or Neverland, then you’ll probably enjoy getting lost in these Disney-inspired travel posters from the designers at UpgradedPoints.com, an online resource that helps individuals maximize their credit card travel rewards. Only one of the posters features a real destination ("Beautiful France"), but these illustrations let you get one step closer to scaling Pride Rock or plumbing the depths of Atlantica.

All of the images are rendered in a vintage style with enticing slogans attached—much like the exotic travel posters that were prevalent in the 1930s.

“A few of our designers wanted to capture that longing to experience the true locations of these fantastic films, and the inner child in all of us couldn’t resist seeing how they interpreted the locations of their favorite films,” UpgradedPoints.com writes. “The results are breathtaking and make us wish we could fall into our favorite Disney movies.”

Keep scrolling to see the posters, and for more travel inspiration, read up on eight real-life locations that inspired Disney places (plus one that didn't).

A Disney-inspired poster of France
UpgradedPoints.com

An Atlantica travel poster
UpgradedPoints.com

A Disney-inspired poster
UpgradedPoints.com

A Disney-inspired poster
UpgradedPoints.com

A Lion King travel poster
UpgradedPoints.com

A Neverland travel poster
UpgradedPoints.com

11 Memorable Facts About Cats the Musical

Mike Clarke/Getty Images
Mike Clarke/Getty Images

“It was better than Cats!” Decades after Andrew Lloyd Webber's famed musical opened on Broadway on October 7, 1982, this tongue-in-cheek idiom remains a part of our lexicon (thanks to Saturday Night Live). Although the feline extravaganza divided the critics, it won over audiences of all ages and became an industry juggernaut—one that single-handedly generated more than $3 billion for New York City's economy—and that was before it made a return to the Great White Way in 2016. In honor of Andrew Lloyd Webber's birthday on March 22, let’s take a trip down memory lane.

1. The work that Cats the musical is based on was originally going to include dogs.

Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, published in 1939, is a collection of feline-themed poems written by the great T. S. Eliot. A whimsical, lighthearted effort, the volume has been delighting cat fanciers for generations—and it could have become just as big of a hit with dog lovers, too. At first, Eliot envisioned the book as an assemblage of canine- and tabby-related poems. However, he came to believe that “dogs don’t seem to lend themselves to verse quite so well, collectively, as cats.” (Spoken like a true ailurophile.) According to his publisher, Eliot decided that “it would be improper to wrap [felines] up with dogs” and barely even mentioned them in the finished product.

For his part, Andrew Lloyd Webber has described his attitude towards cats as “quite neutral.” Still, the composer felt that Eliot’s rhymes could form the basis of a daring, West End-worthy soundtrack. It seemed like an irresistible challenge. “I wanted to set that exciting verse to music,” he explained. “When I [had] written with lyricists in the past … the lyrics have been written to the music. So I was intrigued to see whether I could write a complete piece the other way ‘round.”

2. "Memory" was inspired by a poem that T.S. Eliot never finished.

In 1980, Webber approached T.S. Eliot’s widow, Valerie, to ask for her blessing on the project. She not only said “yes,” but provided the songwriter with some helpful notes and letters that her husband had written about Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats—including a half-finished, eight-line poem called “Grizabella, the Glamour Cat.” Feeling that it was too melancholy for children, Eliot decided to omit the piece from Practical Cats. But the dramatic power of the poem made it irresistible for Webber and Trevor Nunn, the show’s original director. By combining lines from “Grizabella, the Glamour Cat” with those of another Eliot poem, “Rhapsody on a Windy Night,” they laid the foundation for what became the powerful ballad “Memory.” A smash hit within a smash hit, this showstopper has been covered by such icons as Barbra Streisand and Barry Manilow.

3. Dame Judi Dench left the cast of Cats when her Achilles tendon snapped.

One of Britain’s most esteemed actresses, Dench was brought in to play Grizabella for Cats’s original run on the West End. Then, about three weeks into rehearsals, she was going through a scene with co-star Wayne Sleep (Mr. Mistoffelees) when disaster struck. “She went, ‘You kicked me!’” Sleep recalls in the above video. “And I said, ‘I didn’t, actually, are you alright?’” She wasn’t. Somehow, Dench had managed to tear her Achilles tendon. As a last-minute replacement, Elaine Paige of Evita fame was brought aboard. In an eerie coincidence, Paige had heard a recorded version of “Memory” on a local radio station less than 24 hours before she was asked to play Grizabella. Also, an actual black cat had crossed her path that day. Spooky.

4. To finance the show, Andrew Lloyd Webber ended up mortgaging his house.

Although Andrew Lloyd Webber had previously won great acclaim as one of the creative minds behind Jesus Christ Superstar and other hit shows, Cats had a hard time finding investors. According to choreographer Gillian Lynne, “[it] was very, very difficult to finance because everyone said ‘A show about cats? You must be raving mad.’” In fact, the musical fell so far short of its fundraising goals that Webber ended up taking out a second mortgage on his home to help get Cats the musical off the ground.

5. When Cats the musical came to Broadway, its venue got a huge makeover.

Cats made its West End debut on May 11, 1981. Seventeen months later, a Broadway production of the musical launched what was to become an 18-year run at the Winter Garden Theatre. But before the show could open, some major adjustments had to be made to the venue. Cats came with an enormous, sprawling set which was far too large for the theatre’s available performing space. To make some more room, the stage had to be expanded. Consequently, several rows of orchestra seats were removed, along with the Winter Garden’s proscenium arch. And that was just the beginning. For Grizabella’s climactic ascent into the Heaviside Layer on a giant, levitating tire, the crew installed a hydraulic lift in the orchestra pit and carved a massive hole through the auditorium ceiling. Finally, the theater’s walls were painted black to set the proper mood. After Cats closed in 2000, the original look of the Winter Garden was painstakingly restored—at a cost of $8 million.

6. Cats the musical set longevity records on both sides of the Atlantic.

The original London production took its final bow on May 11, 2002, exactly 21 years after the show had opened—which, at the time, made Cats the longest-running musical in the West End’s history. (It would lose that title to Les Miserables in 2006.) Across the pond, the show was performed at the Winter Garden for the 6138th time on June 19, 1997, putting Cats ahead of A Chorus Line as the longest-running show on Broadway. To celebrate, a massive outdoor celebration was held between 50th and 51st streets, complete with a laser light show and an exclusive after-party for Cats alums.

7. One theatergoer sued the show for $6 million.

Like Hair, Cats involves a lot of performer-audience interaction. See it live, and you might just spot a leotard-clad actor licking himself near your seat before the curtain goes up. In some productions, the character Rum Tum Tugger even rushes out into the crowd and finds an unsuspecting patron to dance with. At a Broadway performance on January 30, 1996, Tugger was played by stage veteran David Hibbard. That night, he singled out one Evelyn Amato as his would-be dance partner. Mildly put, she did not appreciate his antics. Alleging that Hibbard had gyrated his pelvis in her face, Amato sued the musical and its creative team for $6 million.

8. Thanks to Cats the musical, T.S. Eliot received a posthumous Tony.

Because most of the songs in Cats are almost verbatim recitations of Eliot’s poems, he’s regarded as its primary lyricist—even though he died in 1965, long before the show was conceived. Still, Eliot’s contributions earned him a 1983 Tony for Best Book of a Musical. A visibly moved Valerie Eliot took the stage to accept this prize on her late spouse’s behalf. “Tonight’s honor would have given my husband particular pleasure because he loved the theatre,” she told the crowd. Eliot also shared the Best Original Score Tony with Andrew Lloyd Webber.

9. The original Broadway production used more than 3000 pounds of yak hair.

Major productions of Cats use meticulously crafted yak hair wigs, which currently cost around $2300 apiece and can take 40 hours or more to produce. Adding to the expense is the fact that costumers can’t just recycle an old wig after some performer gets recast. “Each wig is made specifically for the actor,” explains wigmaker Hannah McGregor in the above video. Since people tend to have differently shaped heads, precise measurements are taken of every cast member’s skull before he or she is fitted with a new head of hair. “[Their wigs] have to fit them perfectly,” McGregor adds, “because of the amount of jumping and skipping they do as cats.” Perhaps it should come as no surprise that, over its 18-year run, the first Broadway production used 3247 pounds of yak hair. (In comparison, the heaviest actual yaks only weigh around 2200 pounds.)

10. A recent revival included hip hop.

In December 2014, Cats returned to the West End with an all-new cast and music. “The Rum Tum Tugger,” a popular Act I song, was reimagined as a hip hop number. “I’ve come to the conclusion, having read [Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats] again, that maybe Eliot was the inventor of rap,” Webber told the press.

11. Another revival featured an internet-famous feline for one night only.

On September 30, Grumpy Cat made her Broadway debut in Cats, briefly taking the stage with the cast. Despite being named Honorary Jellicle Cat, she hated every minute of it.

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