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The Sweeney - Hayley Atwell and Damian Lewis interview

The Sweeney

Interview by Rob Carnevale

HAYLEY Atwell and Damian Lewis talk about some of the challenges of bringing The Sweeney to the big screen.

Hayley also discusses what makes a man sexy and performing the Trafalgar Square shootout while Damian discusses the appeal of his role and the newfound pressure of Homeland. They were speaking at the UK press conference for the film…

Q. What was your memory of The Sweeney?
Hayley Atwell: I’d never seen it. I was too young. But I knew it was iconic. And when I started to tell people I was in it, they started to tell me the catchphrases. We created our own a little bit in this. But I knew it had a huge impact at the time it broke through. But the great thing about this was that it felt like something completely new and fresh for now. It wasn’t trying to remake anything. It had a different interpretation of what this branch was about.

Q. And Damian?
Damian Lewis: We’re all measuring ourselves by whether we were old enough to see it first time around [laughs]! I got some early ‘80s re-runs! I certainly didn’t make an effort to watch it before I accepted this because I wanted to come to it fresh. This, as you know, is a different thing anyway. So, I avoided it mostly, to be honest with you.

Q. Hayley, you share some intimate scenes with Ray Winstone. What’s your take on what makes men sexy, particularly someone like Ray who has candidly described himself as ‘a 55-year-old fat man’?
Hayley Atwell: Well, as a lady I have to say that charisma and presence and good manners and a great sense of humour goes a long way… more than a six pack does anyway. And more than Aramis does! But it’s true, I do think that I’m much more attracted to someone who just naturally carries himself with confidence… but a genuine confidence. It’s not based on trying to impress anyone, or insecurity, or trying to be something that you’re not. It comes from something far deeper. If you know yourself, I think that becomes instantly very attractive and I think that’s across the board for women. I think there’s also a way that women carry themselves that makes them feel that they’re womanly, rather than trying to impress the lads with a short skirt.

Q. How was being a part of the big Trafalgar Square shoot-out?
Hayley Atwell: Ray and I went to a shooting range in Stoke Poges and we had a go on the guns and we spotted each other to know how to look after each other and work as a team. So, when it came to Trafalgar Square there was a kind of choreographed dance almost in terms of what goes where. We were always aware of where each other was. But because there was no sound to the guns, I did find myself doing the oddest things [gestures making a shooting noise]. Nick took so many pictures of me with this awful gun look which, luckily, have all been cut from the film.

The Sweeney

Q. Damian, you missed out on the big Trafalgar Square sequence…
Damian Lewis: No, I wasn’t allowed out. I think he was learning some Samba moves somewhere on his own [laughs], passing the time of day with a banana dacquari on the corner. It was a shame but when I took on the role I just wanted to be in The Sweeney. I just thought it sounded like a right laugh – and it turned out to be! It was a treat. For me, as you know, I got to spend a couple of weeks hanging out with this lot, working with Ray who I hadn’t worked with before.

: We met at the races, didn’t we?

Damian Lewis: We got off our tits [laughs]! We were chucking money away on the G&T’s. It was a very expensive day!

Ray: We spent 30 bob!

Damian Lewis: But coming back to the film, it almost happened by accident because it all happened so quickly. A couple of conversations happened, Nick saw me down and said ‘this is my vision for it’ and I said: “That sounds fantastic.” We’ve got some mutual friends…

Q. There’s always the sequel…
Damian Lewis: I could be on the phone in the office talking to them about it [laughs]. I could have one of those novelty gun phones!

Q. Do you find there’s much difference working over here rather than in the States, apart from maybe the catering? Or is the process pretty much the same?
Damian Lewis: The process is pretty much the same. There’s been a lot of talk in the last six or seven years about how TV is the new independent film market, or at least cable TV is. So, locations and page count that you’re shooting each day is fairly similar. If you’re doing Captain America or something like that then you’re shooting a page a day. But we’re all doing the same sort of thing. Yeah, catering is a bit better over there but only marginally. We did have to get quite a lot of sushi in on this. It wasn’t pie, mash and beer on The Sweeney, it was sushi and saki, which was very in keeping with the modern Sweeney. But otherwise, it’s very similar. The set-up is the same, the crew are all doing the same thing, British crews just have it over American crews in my view and we work shorter hours here.

Q. Obviously, when Homeland started there were no expectations. Now, we have the new series looming, are you feeling under pressure to deliver?
Damian Lewis: Yes, there is less anonymity compared to when we were filming the first time. I think the pressure comes from the writers down to deliver as highly as you did the first time and not to disappoint. Do, you’re in a bit of a goldfish bowl this time.

Read our review

Read our interview with Ray Winstone