Now he’s the guy who made those frenetic Sherlock Holmes movies, turned Aladdin into a live-action film, and used to be married to Madonna. But Guy Ritchie was once the guy who made Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, a smash hit in England, a cult hit in the U.S., and the instigator of a new cycle of rough British crime comedies. Not bad for a guy’s first feature film. Grab a cup of tea (the entire British Empire was built on them, you know), and enjoy these tidbits about some of London’s most unsavory characters as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
1. Trudie Styler helped get it made.
Trudie Styler, a producer, actress, and wife of Sting, found the screenplay for Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels in the mid-1990s and basically loved it. What she didn’t love was the presentation: “It wasn’t an easy read,” she said. “It was a very long, rambling screenplay with terrible typos, and really poorly presented.” (Sounds like Guy Ritchie is even more similar to Quentin Tarantino than we realized.) Fortunately, the substance of what Ritchie was trying to achieve shone through his inelegant presentation. He’d also made a short film, The Hard Case, that showed Styler his potential.
2. Tom Cruise helped get it released in the U.S.
The film was having trouble finding an American distributor when Styler called an acquaintance of hers, a movie star named Tom Cruise. Would he be interested in attending a screening for potential buyers in Hollywood? Not to become a buyer himself, necessarily, but just to see the movie? Cruise went to the screening, surrounded by suits and number-crunchers, and was a vocal and enthusiastic viewer. Producer Matthew Vaughn later recalled, “It was hysterical. You had all these mid-level executives sitting there, and Cruise walked in. He saw them all sit up and pay attention, all getting on their phones, and suddenly all these senior executives joined the screening … At the end, Tom got up in front of everyone and said ‘This is the best movie I’ve seen in years, you guys would be fools not to buy it.’”
3. Brad Pitt was a fan, too—which is why he’s in Snatch.
When Brad Pitt sees a movie he loves, he’s been known to call the person who made it. That’s exactly what he did with Guy Ritchie. “He called me and told me that he wanted to be part of whatever I was doing next,” the director told Esquire. That turned out to be Snatch. Pitt and Ritchie remain friends to this day (or to the day of that 2013 Esquire interview, anyway).
4. The original budget was unrealistic for a first-timer.
The budget for Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels started out at £20 million (which would be nearly $45 million today) and was gradually reduced to a more reasonable £800,000 (or about $1.8 million). The initial budget was probably unrealistic for a first-time filmmaker anyway, though it’s indicative of how highly regarded Ritchie’s screenplay was (typos and all). After a flurry of excitement, and even some auditions and casting, much of the financing fell through and the project was postponed. Ritchie started making cuts (including everyone’s salary) and found new backers (including his own godparents), but it took a couple years. By that time, the slick production had become a scrappy, low-budget one, which probably better suited the underdog tone of the story anyway.
5. Ray Winstone was supposed to play Hatchet Harry.
The English character actor was originally cast in the role, but had to drop out when the aforementioned delays screwed up the schedule. He was replaced by P.H. Moriarty. Fittingly, Winstone went on to star in Sexy Beast (2000), a British gangster film clearly inspired by Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
6. The joke about someone forgetting to bring the guns was added because … someone forgot to bring the guns.
“Have you forgotten those guns, you dozy prat?” Bacon (Jason Statham) asks when the guys are preparing to rob the other gang of robbers, about 73 minutes into the film. As it turns out, someone had indeed neglected to bring the prop guns to the set that day. With no time to retrieve them, Ritchie had Statham make a joke out of it.
7. Jason Statham was selling fake perfume on the street when Guy Ritchie found him.
Statham was doing some modeling work in the mid-1990s, but to supplement his income he also sold fake jewelry and perfume on street corners—“hustling,” as he put it. (His dear old dad had done the same in his day.) It was in this capacity that he was introduced to Ritchie, who needed a con artist for Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and who’d already cast Statham’s friend, Vinnie Jones. It was the beginning of Statham’s acting career, and presumably the end of his fake-perfume-and-jewelry-vending career.
8. Of the 44 speaking roles, at least 17 were played by people who had never acted on film or TV before.
To get the film made, Ritchie called in favors and even put crew members to work in front of the camera. He also cast a lot of unknown (read: inexpensive) fledgling actors. A handful of them, like Statham and former soccer player Vinnie Jones, went on to have acting careers. Several others didn’t, either staying behind the scenes or leaving the business altogether.
9. Madonna liked the soundtrack so much, she released it on her label (then married the movie’s director).
The Queen of Pop was among the movie’s famous fans, and was particularly fond of its eclectic Brit-rock soundtrack. She contacted Ritchie and producer Matthew Vaughn and asked if her label, Maverick, could release the film’s soundtrack in the U.S. Ritchie said she “wined and dined” them in Hollywood a few times, but that it was Vaughn she was romantically interested in, not him. Madonna and Ritchie did start dating, though. They were married in 2000 (and divorced in 2008).
10. It got a new ending after test screenings.
The movie originally left things open-ended, with the four main characters walking off with the money and Big Chris (Vinnie Jones) and his son about to follow them to get it back. Test audiences didn’t care for it. Scrambling, Ritchie came up with the new, more elaborate finale (written “on the back of a [cigarette] packet,” according to star Nick Moran, who played Eddy), and the cast was reassembled to film it some months after the initial shoot had ended. One problem: Jason Flemyng, who plays Tom, had grown his hair out for another project and couldn’t cut it, which is why Tom wears a stocking cap in the last several minutes of the movie.
11. Supermodel Claudia Schiffer was left on the cutting room floor.
Claudia Schiffer played Eddy’s girlfriend, but was cut from the film entirely after test screenings. (The movie doesn’t have much use for female characters in general.) Happy ending, though: it was here that she met producer Matthew Vaughn, whom she later married.
12. It was turned into a TV show.
Lock, Stock… (as it was called) ran for seven episodes in the U.K. in the summer of 2000, centering on the occasionally criminal adventures of four friends who run a London pub called The Lock. None of the movie’s cast members were involved, and all of the characters except Bacon were renamed (or maybe it’s a different Bacon, who knows?). Guy Ritchie co-wrote the pilot but otherwise was not heavily involved.
The article originally ran in 2015.