By Tim Nasson
It’s obvious upon meeting the most envied man in Hollywood, Guy Ritchie, to see why Madonna decided on him for her
second husband and father of her second child, Rocco. Four days after moving from London to a home in Beverly Hills, Ritchie sauntered into the Four Seasons in Los Angeles to talk in-depth about his second film, Snatch, but not much at all about his marriage to the Material Girl.
Better-looking in person than in pictures, Mr. Madonna entered a suite at the hotel and settled himself into a chair. Sporting a two-day-old growth of blonde hair on his face, and wearing a black Dolce & Gabbana T-shirt with Snatch written across it — they’re selling for over $150 on E-Bay — and light blue jeans with dirty white sneakers, Ritchie explained that he had “shot enough film to make two movies. I had almost four hours of material to work with, and wished I didn’t have to cut out as much as I did.” The final print comes in at a little over an hour and a half.
When I saw Snatch, I wondered why Ritchie had made what seemed to be a sequel or carbon copy of the cult favorite of 1998, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. I asked him whether the striking similarities between his two films were intentional. “Of course they were. They are definitely linked. I felt that I’d be committing a crime to the public if I did not make another film based on such characters.”
The film’s characters range from con men and thieves to traveling gypsies and unlicensed boxing promoters, all of whom reside on the outskirts of London. Brad Pitt, who plays Mickey O’Neil, a wildcard Irish gypsy boxer, looks
trashier and dirtier than ever. But that’s not a bad thing. There’s always room for hot, trashy guys in this world.
“Straight guys who go to the movies think that Brad Pitt is too hot and they get intimidated by his looks,” said Ritchie. “Since he is so scruffy-looking in Snatch, hopefully they will feel less threatened.”
I had to ask Ritchie how he came about the name of the film. “It’s very eye-catching, isn’t it?” is all he would say. I did get a huge laugh out of him when I said he should have his film double-bill with last fall’s Shaft. “Too bad they both aren’t going to be at theaters at the same time,” he said. “It would have lots of families wondering if a Triple XXX theater had invaded their neighborhood multiplex.”
Since Snatch cost less than $8 million to make, the obvious question is how Ritchie managed to “snatch” Pitt, an actor who has not received less than $20 million for a film in many a year.
“Ironically enough, a while back, I was here at this hotel and was in my room in bed, watching Meet Joe Black on HBO, when the telephone rang. It was Brad Pitt’s agent, saying that Brad wanted to have a chat with me. I said ‘Really? OK,’ and hung the tele up thinking it was one of me friends plaing a game with me. Fifteen minutes later, the phone rang again, and the same person was on the other end wondering why I was not yet headed down to the lounge for my chat with Brad. At that point, I just wanted to find out who the hell was playing with me, so I went down to the lounge and got a shock when I saw Brad sitting there actually waiting for me. During a couple of drinks, he told me that he loved Lock, Stock, which he’d just seen, and wanted me to cast him in my next movie. I told him,” Ritchie said with a laugh, “that if he played his cards right, perhaps I would find him a role.”
Pitt worked for scale on Snatch and in certain ways reprises his violent role from Fight Club. Back then, he’d expressed his desire to do more art-film roles. He seems to have gotten his wish.
“I make films that I would want to see,” Ritchie said, explaining why his films are rife with characters such as Barry the Baptist (who has a penchant for drowning people), Bullet Tooth Tony, and Franky Four Fingers, played by the odds-on favorite to win this year’s Best Supporting Actor award, Benicio Del Toro. “Those are the characters I want to see when I go to the movies.”
Even actors who are Puerto Rican, such as Del Toro, who end up playing Hassidic Jewish diamond dealers are OK with Ritchie. “Having actors playing something that they are the furthest thing from is where the fun is.”
Ritchie’s gold wedding band glistened on his right hand. “My life has changed a lot since I took up with Madonna,” he admitted. “I was virtually unknown in London before we started going out. Now I am recognized pretty much everywhere.” Ritchie met Madonna two years ago at a party thrown by Trudy Styler, wife of singer/actor Sting, whom Ritchie had cast in his first film.
The little woman
Though Madonna is 10 years over her husband’s 32, Ritchie seems to be very happy with the relationship. When asked if he would like to direct his new wife in a film, he said, “I’d love to. I hope we do get to work together really soon.”
Rumors abound in Hollywood that the two will soon conspire on The Mole. Ritchie neither denied nor confirmed the story. He did laugh, without uttering a word, when I asked if his outfit at his wedding, instead of the traditional tuxedo, was a kilt sans underwear. Many who were at the December event verified the report.
“If and when I do a movie with Madonna, I am sure that she’ll get paid her customary fee. I didn’t even get a break when I used [her song] ‘Lucky Star’ in Snatch,” he confessed. But he doesn’t seem fazed. “It’s not a big deal to me. Ultimately, the money ends up being spent on me anyway,” he admitted.
At that moment, a publicist walked into the room and, as viciously as a rabid coyote, barked, “Guy is here to talk about his movie, not about his wife or their relationship.” It seems Madonna is the head of her household and demands of her new husband the silence and privacy she also demands from the press. Madonna should be commended for keeping her children well-hidden from the paparazzi. But the way in which she and now Ritchie go about trying to retain their privacy seems pompous. As the world knows, Madonna bent over backwards, sideways and upside-down
(especially in her Sex book) to make a name for herself. She seems not to be able to deal with her celebrity the way someone of her stature should.
Ritchie, though out to make a name for himself, and having pretty much succeeded by marrying Madonna, does not want to sell out. “I was offered the job to direct Charlies Angels, but turned it down. I probably would have done it if it had been my first film, but since I had already established my name, I did not want to sign on to it. The movies I make cost so little that the studios leave me alone and give me pretty much total control. With a big-budget
film you are at the mercy of the studio’s whims. Charlie’s Angels cost more than ten times more than Snatch. The studio system is a beguiling thing, and I want to make movies that I have as much control with as possible.”
He may have control with the studios, but my guess is that when he gets home from work each night, control gets passed on to his wife.
Guy Ritchie Interview with Tim Nasson about Snatch.