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Jameson Cult Film Club: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels & A Talk With Nick Moran (JDIFF 2015)

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2015.

One of the biggest losses of the dissolution of the long-standing relationship between Jameson and the Dublin International Film Festival this year (aside from the fact that “J-diff” is a pretty catchy acronym) is the fact that the Jameson Cult Film Club seems unlikely to be held as part of future festivals. The Jameson Cult Film Club is a wonderfully fun and casual celebration of cult classic cinema in a rich and atmospheric environment, often accompanied with very clever theatrical flourishes.

There are quite a few events hosted each year, but it always felt appropriate that perhaps the highest profile event was staged during the eleven-day film festival, as just one example of how film seemed to take over the capitol for that week-and-a-bit of cinematic fun. Nevertheless, what might just be the final Jameson Cult Film Festival companion piece went down spectacularly well; with a screening of Guy Ritchie’s low-budget debut caper film, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

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A delight for the audience – those who had seen it and those who hadn’t – the screening was accompanied by an engaging (and occasionally quite candid) interview between veteran journalist Dave Fanning and star Nick Moran. Moran – a writer and director in his own right – was on fine form, regaling the audience with stories from the production of the film, along with his own anecdotes about fame and fortune. Eager to field questions from the audience, and impressed by the thoroughness of Fanning’s research, Moran proved a natural storyteller.

Witty and self-effacing, Moran was a perfect (and sporting guest) for what turned out to be a fascinating interview.

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Moran fondly recalled working on Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, acknowledging quite candidly the argument that always comes up about the relatively meager salaries afforded actors who star in these low-budget films that become such gigantic hits. “Lock, Stock was a low-budget film,” he insisted, explaining that there was a reason that the salaries were so low. “I don’t have a gripe. To be honest, I get a bit pissed with those who do.” Reflecting on the finished product, he confessed, “I’d have done it for nothing. I’d have paid to be in.”

Indeed, Moran reflected on his past as “an under-employed actor”, and acknowledged the process that led to him eventually getting the role. (“Ethan Hawke passed. The Stephen Dorff passed.”) After all, the success of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels was far from a sure thing. He recalled discussing the film with other people during production, being asked who he was working with. “Oh, Sting the musician and – you know – Vinnie the footballer. So, they’d asked, ‘Oh, how’s the career, then?'”

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In fact, the production of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels seems to have been just as chaotic as the film’s plot. He remembered Guy Ritchie having to scrounge together money for the film, even asking his godparents to chip in. (“He’s a bit posh, God bless him.”) Similarly, the film’s distinctive ending was an act of fevered desperation, with Ritchie improvising the conclusion pretty much on the spot. “He wrote the ending on the back of a fag pack!” Moran told the audience. “He literally just pulled it out of his arse.”

At the same time, while remaining thankful for all the opportunities that Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels had brought him, Moran admitted that it had been very difficult following that success. He referenced a conversation with Blur frontman Damian Alburn, who advised him, “It’s like you have to work so hard to get to the top, and you don’t realise you have to work five times as hard just to stay there.” Dealing with the issue quite directly, Moran joked that Fanning was helping him work through his issues. “Therapy in front of strangers!” he quipped.

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Moran reflected on his decision to pass on The Lord of the Rings, upon being told that he would be spending half-a-decade in New Zealand. “There’s only so much lamb I can eat!” he recalled thinking. At the same time, he remembered filming a commercial for Barclay’s in Las Vegas and discovering that he was nowhere near as adept at the card tables as he would have liked to have been. Joining the production team for good-natured gambling, he insisted, “I’m there in a pin-striped suit… and I was @#!$ing liability!”

Indeed, asked to repeat the best advice that he learned from making bad films, Moran replied without hesitation that he had learned a great deal from working with John Hurt on New Blood. Asking the veteran British performer for some profound insight, Hurt had offered some hard-earned pearls of wisdom. “Let me give you a piece of advice,” Hurt had offered the young up-and-coming actor. “Always get laundry in your contract. It’s a little thing, but it’s saved me thousands!”

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Moran reflected that his own work as a writer and director had been inspired by his experiences as an actor who was largely defined by his debut. “There is an element of being a one hit wonder that is a nightmare,” he confessed. “I want to do other stuff,” he admitted, explaining why he decided to return to his shelved attempt to write a play based on the life of producer Joe Meek. “I wanted to use that as a ramrod to break myself out of that.” He acknowledged that he felt some fascination and kinship with the troubled music producer.

Moran had actually begun writing the play – based on the “huge cornocopea of material” around the producer’s life – before he was cast in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. He returned to the play a few years later. “Took me years to work out, subconsciously, why I did it.” He then adapted his own play into a film, Telstar: The Joe Meeks Story, starring Kevin Spacey and James Corden. The film – which was also directed by Moran – was shown as part of the film festival only two nights later.

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Nevertheless, despite his own admissions about the difficulties of dealing with fame in the wake of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Nick Moran seemed to be on fine form. He shared a variety of anecdotes with the audience, from explaining “cockney sushi” to the audience (it’s “cockles and oysters”) to trading stories about how he met Hugh Hefner and the Dali Lama in the same day. Referencing the theory of six degrees of separation, Moran observed, “There is a connection between High Hefner and the Dali Lama, and it’s me!”

A wonderful evening, well organised with a great guest. A perfect celebration of a classic film, and perhaps an ending on a high note for the association between the Jameson Cult Film Club and the Dublin International Film Festival.

The Jameson Cult Film Club organise several cult screenings around Ireland every year – Dublin, Cork, Galway and beyond. Tickets are all given away for free, all you need to do is register via their website. The next screening is provisionally planned for May.

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