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Friday, 1 September, 2000, 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK
Guy and Vinnie get flash
By BBC News Online's Rebecca Thomas
British director Guy Ritchie is riding high on the euphoria surrounding his second gangster movie Snatch.
But little more than two years ago, movie novice Ritchie, 32, could scarcely pitch a script idea let alone bank on box office success.
All that changed with his cinema debut Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
The British gangster movie made £11m in the UK alone - it only cost £1.6m to produce - and ensured Ritchie's arrival as a cinematic force.
His other new arrival caused a huge stir - pop queen Madonna, who he calls "the missus", recently had his baby.
Signs of his new status and LA lifestyle show in Ritchie's newly bleached hair and tanned, toned physique.
But dare to suggest that he is forsaking his British roots and Ritchie raises an eyebrow.
"There's nothing wrong with leaving your roots," he retorts with a mocking tone.
But, softening, he adds: "No, seriously, my lifestyle is not that different from the way it was before.
"We are not that flash, me or the missus. In fact, we are quite low maintenance.
"It's only the media interest that has changed, not the lifestyle and I am really looking forward to a pint of British beer," he insists.
Ritchie stresses that Snatch is not a sequel, or even a follow-up, to Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.
The short, snappy title was, says Ritchie, chosen as the antithesis of the rambling tag given to the first.
True, it is a another convoluted tale of ducking and diving in London's gangland with characters such as Franky Four Fingers, Boris the Blade and Bricktop.
But, with the action centred around an overseas diamond smuggler - Hollywood actor Brad Pitt stars as a roguish Irish gypsy - the feel is broader and more complete.
"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," says Ritchie.
"But this does have a different flavour. It has more sinister undertones and it is not quite as silly as Lock, Stock.
"That doesn't mean it's not silly but we wanted to bring in more broad humour and a bit of pathos, so I can't see it being like a sequel, although I can see it is related."
One thing that is instantly recognisable from the first movie is the return of hardman Vinnie Jones.
This time he is local heavy Bullet Tooth Tony, brought in to help recover the missing diamond at the centre of the film's confusion.
The former footballer is modest about his acting skills, and says his ultimate dream would be to play characters like William Wallace and James Bond.
But for now, he'll take the hardmen parts because "you can't run before you can walk".
Fantasies aside, Jones, 35, cannot praise his new guv'nor enough.
"He's a one-off. His beliefs are very strong and he believes in himself - there are no grey areas," he says of Ritchie.
"When he makes a decision he know it's the right one. He led me through Lock, Stock and he's leading me all through this. Any advice I need, I go to him."
Jones accompanies Ritchie like some kind of protector against unwelcome questions about his private life.
The respect is mutual since Jones and Ritchie have been virtually inseparable since those first days on Lock, Stock.
Ritchie explains: "We have been through the down side together.
"Vinnie hung in there when we never thought we would get Lock, Stock off the ground.
"He could have just dismissed me and producer Matthew Vaughn as a couple of twits like everyone else. When it did pay off, we felt extremely loyal to Vinnie."
'One of the lads'
Ritchie generally prizes on-set camaraderie highly, which shows on screen in the natural humour and banter of his film's characters.
"It's not only about getting the right face and personality to play the part, it's about creating a family. That's why casting takes so long," He points out.
"After a long day's shoot, I want to be able to have a pint with the lads."
Hollywood star Brad Pitt turned out to be the most down-to-earth of all.
He actually asked to be in Snatch because he had been so impressed by Lock, Stock.
"It's very flattering that a star such as Brad would be in our film," says Ritchie.
"He was one of the lads right from the start, a top boy who doesn't mince around.
Ritchie says Snatch marks the end of his gangster movie days, although he is coy about what comes next.
In contrast, Jones will happily talk about his new film with John Travolta - Swordfish - and finishing his own script.
But the duo aren't ruling out a future Ritchie/Jones collaboration.
"I am sure there are a whole array of characters that I could see Vinnie playing," says Ritchie looking at his friend.
"Particularly comedy. You might not realise but he's quite a funny bugger."
Snatch is now showing across the UK, and will open in the US later this year.
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