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Archive for February 19, 2012

Ray Winstone – Part 1

Raymond Andrew “Ray” Winstone (born 19 February 1957) is an English film and television actor. He is mostly known for his “tough guy” roles, beginning with that of Carlin in the 1979 film ‘Scum’ and as Will Scarlet in the cult television adventure series ‘Robin of Sherwood’. He has also become well known as a voice actor. More recently he has branched out into film production. His film résumé includes ‘Cold Mountain’, ‘Nil By Mouth’, ‘King Arthur’,  ‘The Proposition’, ‘The Departed’, ‘Beowulf’, ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’ and ‘Edge of Darkness’. 

Winstone was born in Hackney Hospital, London, the family moved via Plaistow to Enfield when he was seven, and grew up on a council estate just off the A10. Winstone had an early affinity for acting; his father would take him to the cinema every Wednesday afternoon. Later, he would witness Albert Finney in ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’ and the bug would bite: “I thought ‘I could be that geezer'” he said later. Other major influences included John Wayne, James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson. 

Winstone was also a fan of boxing. At the age of 12, Winstone joined the famous Repton Amateur Boxing Club and, over the next 10 years, won 80 out of 88 bouts. At welterweight, he was London schoolboy champion on three occasions, fighting twice for England. The experience gave him a perspective on his later career: “If you can get in a ring with 2,000 people watching and be smacked around by another guy, then walking onstage isn’t hard.”

One of his first TV appearances came in the 1976 “Loving Arms” episode of the popular police series ‘The Sweeney’ where he was credited as “Raymond Winstone” and played a minor part as an unnamed young thug.

He went up to the BBC, where his schoolmates were involved in an audition, and got one of his own by flirting with the secretary. The audition was for one of the most notorious plays in history – Alan Clarke’s ‘Scum’ – and, because Clarke liked Winstone’s cocky, aggressive boxer’s walk, he got the part, even though it had been written for a Glaswegian. The play, written by Roy Minton and directed by Clarke, was a brutal depiction of a young offenders institution. Winstone was cast in the leading role of Carlin, a young offender who struggles against both his captors and his fellow cons in order to become the “Daddy” of the institution. Hard hitting and often violent (particularly during the infamous “billiards” scene in which Carlin uses two billiard balls stuffed in a sock in order to beat one of his fellow inmates over the head) the play was judged unsuitable for broadcast by the BBC, and was not finally shown until 1991. The banned television play was entirely re-filmed in 1979 for cinematic release with many of the original actors playing the same roles. In a recent director’s commentary for the Scum DVD, Winstone cites Clarke as a major influence on his career, and laments the director’s death in 1990 from cancer.

Winstone’s role in Scum seems to have set a mould for many of his other parts; he is frequently cast as a tough or violent man. He has also been cast against type, however, in films in which he reveals a softer side. He had a comedic part in ‘Martha, Meet Frank, Daniel and Lawrence’, and played the romantic lead in ‘Fanny and Elvis’. His favourite role was in the television biopic on the life of England’s most notorious monarch, King Henry VIII.  Helena Bonham Carter co-starred as Henry’s most well-known queen, Anne Boyleyn; Emilia Fox played Jane Seymour, the stellar cast was rounded out by Charles Dance, Emily Blunt, David Suchet, Joss Ackland and Sean Bean. 

After a short run in the TV series ‘Fox’, and a role in ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains’ (alongside Diane Lane, Laura Dern and a host of real-life punks like Fee Waybill, Steve Jones, Paul Cook and Paul Simonon.). It was at this time that Winstone got another big break, being cast as Will Scarlet in ‘Robin of Sherwood’. He proved immensely popular and enjoyed the role, considering Scarlet to be “the first football hooligan”

During this period, he was increasingly drawn to the theatre, playing in Hinkemannin 1988, Some Voices in 1994 and Dealer’s Choice and Pale Horse the following year.