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Guy Ritchie shows how it's done in new film

By Gene Triplett Modified: October 31, 2008 at 12:06 am •  Published: October 31, 2008
TORONTO — Guy Ritchie is armed with enough talent and the requisite rugged good looks to step in front of the camera, if ever he feels so inclined, and take over the lead in one of his own crime thrillers.

At least that’s what the stars of Ritchie’s "RocknRolla” were saying during a series of press news conferences touting the picture at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. They said he could easily add "actor” to his already impressive "writer-director” credentials, if he wanted to.

"I’ve never been around someone who knows what he wants more (than he does),” said Jeremy Piven, who plays a music industry manager in Ritchie’s new film. "I remember when he was directing ... it was almost as if he would act it out in commedia dell’arte style, like larger than life. But he was so dead on.”

For example, there’s a particularly hilarious, seemingly improvised dance scene in "RocknRolla” between Gerard Butler and Thandie Newton, who are wearing deadpan expressions as their bodies flail aimlessly like animated rag dolls in an outrageous spoof of John Travolta and Uma Thurman in "Pulp Fiction.”

"That wasn’t an accident,” said Newton, who plays a smart, sexy accountant with underworld ties. "That was very clearly in Guy’s head before we got to set. He said, ‘OK, this is what I want you to do,’ and he demonstrated the kind of dance he wanted. ... It was very loose, very funny.”

"I don’t think he even realizes it,” Piven said. "He’s kind of almost like a performer. His timing is impeccable, and he lays it all out for you.”

But Ritchie said he has no desire to have a lens trained on him. "I suspect I wouldn’t be any good at it, actually,” the British auteur said modestly. "And also I feel no attraction to being on the other side of the camera.”

Ritchie, 40, has derived plenty of creative satisfaction and success from the director’s chair, helming such left-of-center, cinematic crime thrill rides as his 1996 feature-length debut, "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” and the 2000 hit "Snatch,” which was loaded with hot Hollywood names such as Brad Pitt, Benicio Del Toro and Dennis Farina.

There have been a couple of critical and commercial failures such as "Swept Away” (2002), starring his soon-to-be ex-wife Madonna in a remake of a 1974 Italian classic from Lina Wertmuller, and the Jason Statham heist movie "Revolver” (2005), which stole very few hearts in its initial release but since has become a cult favorite.