Roll up, roll up... the British gangster-flick is back in town

David Logan and Quentin Tarantino may share video-shop roots. But Circus is no Pulp Fiction?
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It's been a good year for David Logan. Sitting in the lounge of his spacious top-floor flat in a prestigious crescent in Hove, with a TV the size of a car, and enough DVDs to open a small shop, it's easy to detect an air of success.

Since he gave one of his video-shop customers a copy of his screenplay, Circus, to read in 1996, Logan has been suffering the ignominy of the Hollywood dream (including a nightmare shoot and the breakdown of his friendship with director Rob Walker). Not that he really minds. He now commands six-figure sums, has future projects set up with John Woo (Face/Off) and Gary Fleder (Kiss the Girls), and because of his humble video-shop roots and gangster storylines, is being touted as the new Tarantino. Just like one of his scripts, he underpins the obviousness of the comparison by saying: "Tarantino's just the old Dave Logan," adding wryly, "No-one's ever found that very funny."

It becomes clear that Logan loathes obviousness. "I'm sick of political correctness. Women, ethnic minorities, and homosexuals will always get a raw deal in my movies." When I first met him a few years ago, this quiet, unassuming 31-year-old didn't strike me as a misogynist homophobic racist, and in fact he isn't, and never could be.

Anyone that admits they love strong women(and confesses they didn't have the guts to speak to Julianne Moore at a recent party), who is half-Pakistani, and happy to live in very gay Brighton, hasn't a hope of making such anti-PC attitudes convincing. You sense it's just Logan giving Hollywood what it wants to hear.

On the surface, Circus is a British spin on the tongue-in-cheek, "Oops, I accidentally shot his head off" gangster film, with the added ingredients of pastiche from movies like Get Carter and The Italian Job. Logan describes hero Leo, played by John Hannah, as "me - well, the person I'd like to be", who is, interestingly, a gambler, a bit of a smoothie, and who was originally, he says, based on Kirk Douglas's character in Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole. "Douglas played a real shit. A very fanciable shit."

Leo's love interest is his wife, Lily, played by Famke Jansen. Despite being married, their relationship is, refreshingly, full of passion and intrigue. "I like the idea of a husband and wife that are still in love. I hate coincidence in films. I hate couples that get together after 10 minutes and are doing it on the kitchen table before they've worked out who the other person is."

Ironically, a stream of coincidences are what helped David Logan get his breakthrough with Sony Pictures. Choosing to work in his local video shop to support his screenwriting aspirations was, he says, the best thing he could have done. "I chatted to customers about my writing. One of the regulars turned out to be the director, John Hay. I gave him a dodgy thriller to read, about a kidnapper in Ireland and a serial killer in New Orleans, hoping he might like it. He came back, criticised it to the hilt, in the politest way possible, and became a bit of a mentor."

After collaborating on a script with a friend,Logan set about doing his own screenplay. Six months and two drafts later, he presented Hay with Circus. This time, there were no reservations, and Logan found himself an agent in London, who fixed him up with Sony Pictures.

Interestingly, the film I saw is not the screenplay I hear Logan describing. His is a script full of subtlety, whereas Circus on celluloid is a more heavy-handed affair, with, uncharacteristically for Logan, a happy ending, which, he tells me quickly, was a "studio choice". Whether it will match the success of recent Brit gangster flicks like Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, remains to be seen.

'Circus' opens on 5 May

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