WELL, Steven Soderbergh, just why did you hit on the idea of making a movie about an angry cockney? We are speaking of Dave Wilson, a character played by Terence Stamp in film director Soderbergh's "The Limey" (see review on Page 53). Distraught over the death of his daughter, he jets fromLondon to Los Angeles in search of the people who had a hand in her death.
It's a fun movie and marks another in a series of great comeback roles for Stamp, stalwart of British pop cinema of the 1960s. But why an angry cockney?
"Well," deadpans Soderbergh, "there's so many of them."
Actually, Soderbergh says, it was scriptwriter Lem Dobbs's idea. Dobbs, an American who grew up in London, was strongly influenced by the brutal "Get Carter" (1971), featuring cockney actor Michael Caine. "Limey," which Dobbs wrote some time ago, says Soderbergh, is a sort of revisiting of "Get Carter" and its American counterpart, "Point Blank."
The movie's rife with time jumping -- flashforwards, repeated scenes and so forth. Soderbergh, who made the Cannes festival winner "sex, lies, and videotape," says he wanted a straightforward crime story like this "because I wanted to rip the narrative apart and not tell it in a forward fashion . . . to tell a very simple story in as compelling a fashion as I could muster."
Continues Soderbergh: "The crime genre's a good one to experiment with. There are so many elements to keep an audience engaged and allow you to indulge in your own preoccupations. So you can use the jazzy pillars of the crime genre to muck around a bit."
The movie originally had the central character avenging his brother, says Soderbergh. But in the rewrite, Dobbs and Soderbergh turned the brother into a daughter and decided to "infuse the film with '60s commentary or references."
That included casting Stamp, and pitting him against Peter Fonda (another 1960s hero -- or antihero); and also getting director Ken Loach to let them use footage from "Poor Cow," Loach's 1967 picture featuring a younger Stamp as a small-time hood.
"I was concerned that both actors' respective stoicisms would result in a film that was completely inert." But after he met Fonda, he realized the actor was far different from the ice-cool persona of his usual roles. "He's one of the most animated, talkative, gregarious people you'll ever meet . . . . My goal was to keep Peter in his own personality as much as possible. The result was a performance looser and funnier than anything he's ever done."