“Another aspect of it is people paying price for celebrity. If the obscure photographer can shout out something terrible enough and make the woman cry it makes a good picture. And in a way it makes him feel good as well. Because he’s gotten a leg over, he’s made a celebrity notice him.”
Some may like their gangster films more formulaic, but I can't recall a recent film that entertained me or made me laugh half as much as London Boulevard did. What’s truly impressive is how believable Monahan’s characters are.
“I’ve never known a gangster by sight any time in my entire life. You hear about them. Growing up in Boston you know which boroughs to get out of instantly, but that’s about it,” says Monahan.
“You just put yourself into the world and be one of the characters yourself, which I hope I don’t do much of in civilian life.”
After the Oscar win for The Departed, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg, Monahan was getting offered every gangster film in Boston, but he decided to break out of that and go and do a film out of the country.
“I’ve been travelling back and forth to London since I was 18 and I’m as familiar with it as I am with anywhere else,” says Monahan.
But trust him to make the process more complex. He puts it down to his Irish background.
“I have an Irish background. It’s dark, bleak and rain stormy. I believe we’re all pretty much f***ed. There’s a certain fatalism in my outlook and I approach it with humor.
“We’re all going to die, probably too soon and probably in ridiculous pain with plenty of things left undone, so we might as well have a good time.”
Unlike other writers and directors working in crime films, Monahan never falls for the all-too-easy clichés of the genre.
“If you know Britain you’ll know that London Boulevard is a little subversive. No one in it sticks to the behavior you expect from people in their class. It violates a lot of the rules of the more recent British gangster films,” he says.
That’s true, there are no diamond geezers or pearly queens in London Boulevard, and the working class isn’t portrayed as a kind of species of animal. That may have led to the film causing some controversy when it was released in Britain.
“I sometimes wonder if the British response to the film was because I’m an American and Colin’s Irish. There was a pro forma criticism of his accent when he’s absolutely bang on,” says Monahan.
“I think character is approached in movies very mechanically these days. What characters do is who they are. But I think if we are entirely made from our own circumstances than we are very poor creatures. The one thing that unites all of my films to date is that all of them are pretty paradoxical.”
Below, catch the trailer for London Boulevard: