Page last updated at 15:13 GMT, Wednesday, 15 October 2008 16:13 UK

Guy Ritchie's rise to fame

Guy Ritchie
Ritchie started his career as a film runner
Guy Ritchie shot to fame after his film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels catapulted its way into cinemas in 1998.

Millions of people flocked to see his depiction of the dodgy dealings of London gangsters, and it went on to become a multi-award winner, grossing 11.7m at the UK box office.

His second film, Snatch, also did well, taking 3m in its first weekend in September 2000, a record opening for an 18-rated film.

During his initial flush of success, some critics branded the director, now 40, the British Quentin Tarantino.

Madonna and Guy Ritchie
The director has been with Madonna for ten years

But in recent years, Ritchie's film career has been eclipsed by his relationship with pop icon Madonna, whose lucrative world tours provided a stark contrast to her husband's box office struggles.

The couple have now announced they are to divorce, 10 years after they met at a dinner party thrown by pop star Sting's wife Trudie Styler.

Early days

Ritchie was born in Hatfield in Hertfordshire in 1968.

His parents divorced when he was five, and he went to live with his mother, Amber, who was a model, and her new husband, Sir Michael Leighton, until she divorced again when he was 12.

It is reported that his severe dyslexia meant he attended a total of 10 schools, and left with one GCE in film studies.

He started his entertainment career at Island Records, before pursuing his interest in film-making by accepting a position as a film runner in 1993, quickly progressing to directing music promos for bands and commercials.

The money he made from this enabled him to direct his first film - Hard Case, a 20-minute short.

And, after meeting his producing partner Matthew Vaughn, the two formed SKA Films and started work on the highly-stylised London gangster caper Lock Stock.

Guy Ritchie, Vinnie Jones and Matthew Vaughan
Ritchie, Vinnie Jones and Matthew Vaughan on the set of Lock, Stock
Speaking on Film 2000 with Jonathan Ross, Ritchie said he had chosen the gangster genre because "it was a market which I thought had not been exploited. So I wanted to go in there and exploit it".

"And you know... it sort of lent itself to my sort of personality at the time," he added.

Ritchie also spotted the acting potential in footballer Vinnie Jones, who terrified opponents on the field with his crunching tackles.

'More sinister'

Guy Ritchie
Guy Ritchie at the UK premiere of RockNRolla in September
The director and screenwriter won worldwide acclaim, and received Hollywood backing for his next film, Snatch.

This enabled him to secure the services of Brad Pitt, who turned in a career highlight performance as a roguish Irish-gypsy smuggler with a barely-comprehensible accent.

"It's a film made in the same vein as Lock, Stock and hopefully, those people who enjoyed the first will enjoy this one too," Ritchie said when the film was released.

"But this does have a different flavour. It has more sinister undertones and it is not quite as silly as Lock, Stock."

Snatch was Ritchie's first hit in the US, taking $30m (17m) against a budget of around $10m (5.7m).

The success was swiftly followed by the announcement that he was to be the father to Madonna's second child, Rocco, born in August 2000.

In December that year, the couple travelled to Scotland, where Rocco was christened a day before his parents tied the knot at the fairytale Skibo Castle.

In the early days, Ritchie described his marriage as "magnificent", and told the Mirror that he "couldn't be happier".

But the director was less enamoured with the press attention that accompanied his marriage, and called his new-found fame "a pain".

He director began to mock the media's idea that he was somehow subservient to Madonna, referring to her as his "missus" in public, and accepting her 2001 Brit award on film, while the pop icon made tea and polished furniture in the background.

The couple embarked on their first professional collaboration when Ritchie directed the promo video for Madonna's What It Feels Like For A Girl in 2001.

The clip, which showed the pop star stealing a car, blowing up a petrol station and crashing into a lamp post, broke sales records when it was released on DVD.

Swept Away
Swept away, in which Madonna played a spoilt American, was a box office flop
A film collaboration, Swept Away, was less well-received.

It took five Golden Raspberries - including worst actress and worst director - in 2003, and went straight to DVD in the UK.

While Madonna dusted herself off and started work on the critically-acclaimed Reinvention world tour, Ritchie struggled to recover from the flop.

His return to the gangster genre, 2005's Revolver, only made $6m (3.4m) at the global box office.

While the couple embarked on the adoption of Malawian orphan David Banda, the constant background hum of rumours about their marriage began to rise in volume.

A spate of reports earlier this year claimed Madonna had hired Paul McCartney's divorce lawyer Fiona Shackleton, and would announce the end of her marriage after completing her world tour in December.

The star's publicist, Liz Rosenburg, denied the speculation, adding that the marriage "does not need saving".

Ritchie later told People magazine: "My marriage is fine as far as I'm aware of."

The couple have made several public appearances since, notably at Madonna's 50th birthday party and the premiere of Ritchie's latest project, RockNRolla.

That film, a UK number one, has been hailed as a return to form, and will be followed next year by a Sherlock Holmes movie starring Robert Downey Jr.

Asked recently whether the marriage had made a difference to his career, Ritchie told the Wall Street Journal, "who knows?"

"It's obviously had an impact. I suspect that ultimately there would have been the same outcome in the end."

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific