8 August 2022 The Irish Film & Television Network
Ray Winstone Talks to IFTN on Kildare Set of Sky One’s ‘Moonfleet’
20 Dec 2013 : Kevin Cronin
Moonfleet actors Aneurin Barnard & Ray Winstone at a script reading
Ray Winstone - Hollywood veteran famous for playing tough-as-nails criminals and hardmen in such films as ‘Nil By Mouth’, ‘Sexy Beast’ and ‘The Departed’ – stars in the lead role of Sky One’s new Christmas adventure ‘Moonfleet’, filmed in Kildare, Wicklow and Dublin this Summer.

A swash-buckling 18th century epic, ‘Moonfleet’ features Winstone as sea-faring smuggler Elzevir Block and boasts the added benefit of depicting Irish scenery at its most beautiful to an international audience. It will air in two parts on Sky One HD this Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th December.

Back in July, IFTN was granted the opportunity to meet Winstone on the Celbridge set of ‘Moonfleet’ to chat about the role; reminisce about his experiences shooting in Ireland; and reflect on memories of making ‘King Arthur’ here ten years ago.

Dressed in period clothing and sporting theatrical hair extensions, the actor was in jovial form for the interview - laughing in his distinctive gravelly baritone and with tongue firmly in cheek throughout…

‘We had quite a heavy shoot. When you look at the schedule, you think it’s impossible, but thank god, the director and all the team have done their homework and we’ve knocked it out! Last week we had half days and half nights, which always is a killer. It messes with your time and all that, but it could be worse. We could be unemployed, so it’s all right! The bay here in Wicklow [Silver Strand] is stunning. We saw seals and dolphins the other day. I was out rowing on the Liffey for the role too. It was supposed to be in the Hague, so there was a bit of CGI added there. The first week we had to get in the sea in Wicklow, when we get shipwrecked. That was pretty cold, but it was refreshing at the same time. It was a beautiful day! The water was like glass! And we’ve been to Howth. I thought I might have seen Brendan Gleeson having a little stroll about there, but he’s obviously heard I’m in town and he’s ducking!’

In preparing for the role, Winstone watched the 1955 film adaptation of ‘Moonfleet’ starring Stewart Granger, but quickly realised he’d have to take a different approach.

I saw the old film of ‘Moonfleet’ on TV about three weeks before I came over. I thought I look nothing like Stewart Granger, who was a very tall good-looking man - but we’re making something different. I had this sea-faring idea in my head and I decided my character had to be a real man - with a beard and long hair. The hair is not real but it’s very good though. My wife hates it. She says I look like an old hippy! An old rocker or a greaser!

When asked about the level of stunts and action involved, Winstone admitted he underestimated the physicality of the role.

‘Yeah, there were more stunts than I expected to be honest with you! I ain’t no spring chicken anymore! The first week was a killer cause we were walking up hills all the time. That was a bit of a knackering experience but the weather’s been great! We’ve been so lucky up to now. I think we’ve only had three days of rain which, in Ireland, is unusual. But it seems to be like that every time I come here. The last time I worked in Ireland was ‘King Arthur’, ten years ago. I was here for about four months and we only had three days of rain then too!’

Warming to the topic, Mr Winstone described the wild time he enjoyed while shooting the Arthurian epic - with as many adventures off-set as on.

‘When I was here for ‘King Arthur’, we were out all the time. I think everyone was drunk on that job for four and half months! I actually moved out of Dublin – I was staying in the Four Seasons hotel. I went ‘I’ve gotta get out of Dublin because I’m on the piss all the time! I’ve gotta go!’. So I found a place between Newtownmountkennedy and Roundwood. I said ‘I’m gonna live there on an old farm for the duration of the shoot’. And nothing changed. I was on the piss but the only difference was I was looking at mountains instead of the town of Dublin. It’s the national sport! But I’m getting older now and I can’t do that so much anymore. You can’t get up in the morning if you do…’

Elaborating on his affection for Ireland, Winstone revealed his wife Elaine hails from Dublin and actress daughter Jaime was in Dublin at the same time filming Cecelia Ahern adaptation ‘Love, Rosie’.

‘My wife’s a Dublin girl! She’s from Rathfarnham, and her family are the Kellys and the Farrells. She was born in Holles Street hospital - in the lift. Yeah, she was born in the lift! There’s a joke there somewhere but I’m not even going to go there! My daughter Jaime is here making ‘Love, Rosie’. I haven’t had much time to see her and have only seen her once over the past three weeks. She’s back in Ireland again this week after Glastonbury and we’ll see how she looks when she gets back from there. I didn’t want my girls to be actresses, I really didn’t. I thought they’d be something else! But they grew up on film sets. My Jaime wanted to be a director but was asked to act in a film for a laugh, and fell in love with it. My daughter Lois is a singer who acts as well. And I tell my youngest daughter , please don’t be in movies! But if that’s what they want to do, I back them.’

Winstone refused to be drawn on his appeal as an actor but highlighted his humble roots and youth growing up in the East End of London.

‘I don’t know and I don’t appeal to everyone, believe me! If we knew the answer to that question, we’d bottle it, eh? That would be alright, wouldn’t it? Earn a nice few quid. I’m a kid from the streets of East London. I shouldn’t really ever have been in the arts. I got no background in the arts and no family in it. My education has been working in this business. I had none when I started. I couldn’t read till I was about 12 or 13, and I couldn’t read properly until I picked up a script and had to. So my education has been working in this game. You make films like ‘Nil By Mouth’, ‘Warzone’ and ‘Sexy Beast’ because they have something to say. ‘Moonfleet’ is a family show. It’s a great old fashioned style adventure. They want Moonfleet to be something you can watch during Christmas when you’ve had your turkey and you turn the telly on, and you can watch it with your five-year-old and your Nan. It’s a family thing! What I love about it is it’s an adventure but there’s also a message about what’s happening in the world today – it’s about revenue and where the money goes. Reading the papers, Ireland seems to be worse than the UK after what these scallywag bankers have been up to. And the normal people in the street are paying for it.

Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Noah’, starring Russell Crowe in the titular role and Ray Winstone as the villain, is one of the most anticipated Hollywood blockbusters of 2014. With shooting wrapped, Winstone was eager to see the finished product.

‘I’d never worked with Russell Crowe before and he was terrific. I had a ball with him. He’s a really good guy. I had worked with Anthony Hopkins before and I love him - he’s a great man. Darren Aronofsky is a talent but when I first heard Russell was playing Noah, I went ‘you’re havin’ a laugh, aren’t ya?’. I read it but it turned out I had read the wrong script - one that was five years old - and I wasn’t too sure about it. But when I got the real script, I got it. I think it’s going to be something really massive. I guess it’s the biggest movie that I’ve worked on. ‘Beowulf’ and ‘King Arthur’ were big too, but this feels massive. I’ve got a strong feeling about ‘Noah’. I think it’s going to be a very good film that people will watch for a long time to come. It’s like that feeling on ‘King Arthur’ when you roll over a hill in your armour and see they’ve built a wall that’s a quarter of a mile long. There’s no acting required because it’s all there! It’s done for you!’

Another iconic Hollywood director whom Winstone collaborated with on ‘Hugo’ and ‘The Departed’ is Martin Scorsese - with the latter experience proving especially memorable.

‘You just want to pick Scorsese up and cuddle him. He’s like this little geezer with eyebrows and big glasses. And he laughs! It’s what he loves doing. We set up this death scene in ‘The Departed’ where I kill the wife in a flashback and I said I’ve got another idea for the scene - to use a hammer. Scorsese agreed to try it. I told the actress what to do and she went down like a sack of potatoes, and he was laughing! It’s this horrific, horrible scene and he’s laughing ‘haw, haw, haw’ - like the Penguin! But he’s great because you’re working with someone who loves what they’re doing and that’s infectious on the rest of the cast and crew. They just love him to death.’

Accustomed as he is to playing gangsters, has Winstone ever watched Ireland’s most successful TV drama export ‘Love/Hate’ or consider himself a good fit for a future part?

I haven’t seen it yet, but someone told me about it last night and said it was fantastic. I could be the baddie in it, I suppose! Love/Hate, eh? I must have a little look…

‘Moonfleet’ airs in two parts on Sky One HD on Sat 28th and Sun 29th December, and the trailer can be viewed below:

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