Guy Ritchie: 'I start to cringe when I see anything I've made'
As former 'Mr Madonna' Guy Ritchie puts his spin on classic Sixties show The Man From U.N.C.L.E., he tells Susan Griffin about the ups and downs of directing.
In the days leading up to Guy Ritchie's recent nuptials, social media allowed a candid insight into his stag do, where he and his mates were seen lounging on a private jet and sampling wine in Bordeaux. And on the big day itself, with guests including Brad Pitt, David Beckham and Jason Statham, one newspaper hailed him the 'king of bromance'.
The director admits he finds male relationships fascinating.
"The way men interact with each other," he explains. "Even going back to (1998's) Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, I'm drawn to that male-to-male dynamic as kind of a genre unto itself."
He's at it again in The Man From U.N.C.L.E, a big screen adaptation of the Sixties spy TV series, which he's directed and produced - as well as co-written, with his producing partner, Lionel Wigram.
The two are so close, LA-based Wigram even lives with Ritchie and new wife, model Jacqui Ainsley (33), and their three children Rafael, Rivka and Levi, for a large portion of the year (Ritchie also has sons Rocco, who turned 15 just yesterday, and nine-year-old David with ex-wife Madonna.) The pair worked together on the 2009 and 2011 Sherlock Holmes films, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, and created the production company Ritchie/Wigram in 2011.
Unlike actors, who can easily make three or four movies a year, "you commit two years of your life to making one of these films, so you have to be cautious", Ritchie adds. "But we do like to see films actually become films, and it's all about the writing."
In The Man From U.N.C.L.E, British star (and the current Superman) Henry Cavill plays elite CIA operative Napoleon Solo, who encounters his formidable KGB counterpart Illya Kuryakin, portrayed by Armie Hammer, best known for playing twins in The Social Network.
They've both been sent to extract the same vital German asset (Gaby, played by Alicia Vikander) from behind the Berlin Wall at the height of the Cold War. But a few days later, they're informed by their handlers that they'll now be working together on the case.
"What we found so irresistible was taking these polar opposite agents and forcing them together. So they start out trying to annihilate each other and end up co-operating, but maybe still not entirely trusting each other. The story is the evolution of their collaboration."
Set in 1963, we're introduced to a wonderfully slick world, with a beautiful cast, clothing and locations, but that's all secondary to the music for Ritchie.
"My first job in 1984 was a tea boy for Island Records, and it was always a toss-up whether I was going into the film game or into the world of music, and I'm still having that wrestling match, so I've got the best of both worlds."
While Ritchie sounds like he's from the East End, he was actually born in Hertfordshire. His parents separated when he was a kid, and he lived with his model mother and her new husband, Sir Michael Leighton, until their divorce. After leaving school, reportedly with just one qualification, he worked at Island Records before deciding to pursue a career in films.
In 1995, Ritchie wrote and directed his first short film The Hard Case, about four East End lads raising money to enter a card game. His first feature film, Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, was released three years later. This was followed by 2000's Snatch, starring Brad Pitt, which was also favourably reviewed. Less so was 2002's Swept Away starring Madonna, and the 2005 heist movie Revolver. But Ritchie rediscovered his mojo with 2008's RocknRolla.
"I start to cringe when I see anything (I've made)," admits Ritchie. "But I'm quite good at completely forgetting. You know, you'll flick through channels, start watching and five minutes later go, 'I made this film!' And if I don't forget then I'll become a bit self-conscious."
- The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is released this Friday