The Winstones - Bring your daughter to the slaughter
A new British horror movie casts Ray and Jaime Winstone together in a film for the first time. On set in Wales, they reveal the secrets of the family profession to Charlotte Cripps
Friday 18 March 2011
It's not every day that you see Ray Winstone in rural west Wales dressed as a local butcher in blood-stained white overalls and with a thick paint-brush moustache. He is starring alongside his daughter Jaime, 25, in the new, low-budget British horror flick Elfie Hopkins, a disturbing tale about a bizarre family of cannibals who move into a rural British hunting village to eat its residents.
"Usually, I turn up on set and I just worry about what I am going to do," says Winstone senior. "But with your own children, you worry more about them and want them to be the best. I had to get over that quickly and let Jaime get on with it."
After pacing up and down in the light drizzle, while learning his lines out loud, he gives his daughter a bit of fatherly advice. "All right, chicken," says the Scum and Sexy Beast star in his trademark cockney accent. "The older you get, the easier it gets to learn the script. Then you get Alzheimer's. If it's well written, then it's much easier to learn. It's all about understanding what it means."
Jaime is playing Elfie Hopkins, a grungy teen detective who attempts to uncover the truth about a close-knit family of cannibals, the Gammons, causing mayhem in her village. Her bleached-blonde hair has a green tinge, and she wears a red Hawaiian shirt and Dr Martens – a far cry from her usual city-girl look.
"Elfie's been an alter ego of mine for a while now and it's a dream come true to play her," says Jaime. "She is feral and there is a real vulnerability to her. I haven't played someone like this before – but this is probably the nearest person to my real self, which is quite nice."
She's sitting on a doorstep holding a script and looking doe-eyed, but she has butterflies in her stomach in anticipation of acting in a scene with her dad. Jaime acted alongside her dad in the ITV series Vincent in 2005, but this is the first film they have worked together in a film. And this is definitely a family affair for father and daughter, who is also trying her hand for the first time at co-producing a film. It is being made as a co-production between Black and Blue Films and Size 9 Productions, a production company set up by Ray and his agent, Michael Wiggs. It was Jaime who brought them the Elfie script, co-written by the film's director Ryan Andrews, and it will be Size 9's first theatrical release.
For four years Jaime has been developing the character of Elfie Hopkins, who is loosely based on the idea of a female Kurt Cobain, battles with self-belief issues and, adopting a posher voice, pretends to be a 1930s detective when she speaks into her dictaphone.
Dylan, her sidekick, is played by Aneurin Barnard, who won a Laurence Olivier Award for his role in Spring Awakening in 2010.
But Winstone senior, as the all-knowing and all-seeing Butcher Bryn, appears to continue his role as a father figure on screen. "I'm finding out who my character is as I go along, because it is quite stylised and heightened," he says. "Without giving too much away, he is a bit of a strange character. He is the village butcher, and his father and grandfather were butchers. He is the centre of the village and at the end of the day, he is a bit of a guardian angel for Elfie Hopkins."
Having grown up on the sets of her dad's films, from Nil by Mouth and The Departed to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, for Jaime acting is the most natural thing in the world. "For me, this is where I really shine. This is my stomping ground. Acting is second nature to me. It feels so natural, like it is what I am supposed to be doing."
She first appeared in the urban drama Kidulthood, written by Noel Clarke, and recently landed a role in Made in Dagenham, the film about the 1968 strike at a Ford assembly plant. She also played Kelly in E4's zombie horror series, Dead Set.
Her hardcore sex scenes in the yacht-party independent horror film Donkey Punch were risqué. "I'm lucky to have a dad in the industry who's done much worse things on film, and you have to become a bigger person and respect that as an artist." She remembers watching the brutal boys' borstal film Scum on TV at the age of nine. "I shouldn't have been watching it," she says. "It wasn't until the credits came up that I said, 'Oh, that's my dad'."
She has a small role in the British actor Dexter Fletcher's directorial debut, the east-London-set Wild Bill, which is about a father who is reunited with his sons after a long stint in jail. "I don't feel pressure. I just feel a part of the industry that I feel safe in. Dad is born from independent British film and it's what I know."
Jaime grew up on a north London estate with her dad and mum, Elaine, and her elder sister, Lois, an actress and musician who is also to appear in a new film, The Hot Potato, with Ray. She also has a younger sister, Ellie, aged nine.
Jaime admits the film industry can be hard to deal with. "I know that in-between stage before an actor makes it – I've seen it with my dad's career. He got me involved in what he was doing early on."
After lunch a mini-bus arrives to take Ray, Jaime and the crew to the butcher's shop location up a winding country road. "It's nice to get a bit nervous before a scene," says Winstone senior. "I think it gives you an edge. I don't get panicky any more." Did Jaime get any tips from her dad about acting? "We have always been taught in my family to follow your instinct," she says. "As an actor your biggest tool is your instinct. If you go with that and trust your gut feeling, it will come across."
The real village butcher, who looks like a mini Ray, is on hand to coach the star on handling and cutting the meat. The butcher's shop window is full of extra pheasants and rabbits for the scene; fresh pigs' heads line the walls. Jaime runs in to show me the giant meat fridge with an animal carcass hanging from a hook inside; then "action!" is called.
But it's not only the Winstone family who are pulling together to make this film happen on a tight budget. Andrews, the director, has even turfed his parents out of their nearby house, turning it into the home of the cannibal family. The staircase of his family home is covered with plastic to protect the cream carpet from dirt and his parents have found alternative accommodation for the next month.
Andrews became friends with Jaime when he was part of the camera crew for Daddy's Girl, an independent Welsh film made in 2006, which starred Jaime as a teen with a twisted lust for blood. Extending their shared love of fantasy, horror and anything grunge-related, Elfie Hopkins is, says Andrews, "a combination of an eclectic mix of British twee and American grunge – a weird mash-up of two worlds with a heightened comic-strip feel."
Jaime says: "Ryan and I have been looking forward to making this film for years since our styles just collided and we really hit it off. It feels the right time to capture that 1990s vibe now."
Rupert Evans (Hellboy) and Kate Magowan (Primeval) play Mr and Mrs Gammon, the heads of the carnivorous family who move into the village with their two children.
To get Winstone senior on board was a good move, especially, says Jaime, "when the British film industry is going under. Dad didn't have to be in it. He wanted to be in it because he wants to be part of an independent British film. We have to keep our industry moving. But he didn't have to audition for the part!"
"I think it would have been a liberty if she had [made me]," says Ray.
For the real locals of this remote village, who peer out of windows as filming takes place, it is quite a sight – especially when gory cannibal scenes are filmed in the beautiful woods. Tomorrow, Butcher Bryn shoots a cannibal in the head. But for now, Winstone senior stands behind the shop's counter innocently sharpening knives for the Gammon family, not knowing that he is enabling their sinister activities.
Ray has just filmed Tracker, an action thriller where he plays Arjan van Diemen, a South African guerrilla fighter. "I had enough time to get the South African accent under my belt. I softened it down for the character. I wasn't one of those actors who can turn it on overnight. I don't have a great ear for that."
Later this year he will play Regan in The Sweeney, a remake of the 1970s TV series that he was once an extra in. Then he stars as a father with Alzheimer's in Ashes, a cat-and-mouse thriller directed by Mat Whitecross of Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll fame.
Does his new role as a butcher have any links to the tough Carlin, who he played in Scum? "I think everything is an off-shoot of Scum – that is where I learnt my trade, because I was directed by Alan Clarke, who was a great teacher. Now I'm seeing a whole load of new kids coming through who are working as I was 30 odd years ago and starting off on their journey."
'Elfie Hopkins' is due out later this year
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