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Welcome To The Punch - Ben Pugh (producer) interview

Welcome To The Punch

Interview by Rob Carnevale

PRODUCER Ben Pugh talks about some of the challenges of making Welcome To The Punch with director Eran Creevy, including getting to use such iconic London locations for action sequences.

Q. How much of a challenge was it as a producer to get access to some of the places featured in the film and make London look the way it does? Was it a big undertaking, especially when it came to the financial district?
Ben Pugh: Well, I guess quite a lot of it came down to Canary Wharf and that was quite involved. They were very supportive but what they – you know, it’s not budgetary, it’s not a huge thing in the context of movies – they wanted stuff from us on a social level. So Eran [Creevy, director] worked with some kids that they have kids’ schemes with, and we’d maybe screen the film down there, that sort of thing, but once we’d agreed all that with them they were incredibly supportive and we had the run of Canary Wharf. And I think the big decision that Eran made was that it needed to be at night. I think that’s what makes all the difference from shooting London in the day and it’s all a bit grey, and the light’s not amazing and that maybe holds you back. In terms of when you think about the Michael Mann movies like Collateral and there’s a lot of night stuff, I think that’s what really lifts it. The city’s amazing at night.

Q. Is it true that Boba Fett was one of your stuntmen?
Ben Pugh: Yes, the stunt co-ordinator was Boba Fett in Return Of The Jedi, which was obviously an amazing bit of information. When James fires… there’s a bit at the end where he fires through the window of a car when the guy’s on the other side and that’s Boba Fett. His name is Dickey Beer.

Q. When you’re prepping a genre piece like this are you living in fear of other movies stealing, quite inadvertently, some of the ideas that you’ve come up with? Some of the locations you share with The Sweeney, and newspaper headlines have overtaken you to a certain extent, so is that something that goes through your mind in the process?
Ben Pugh: Well, we know those guys at Vertigo quite well, so we knew what was in the script. So, we kind of knew that they were different movies and for me, hopefully, the film does well when it comes out, touch wood, and The Sweeney’s proven that there is an audience for British genre films. So, it’s a good thing, I think. I think it just shows the kind of directors who are directing now who have grown up on ‘70s American cinema and that kind of genre stuff and that they want to make these films. I think there are more of them to come amongst that group of directors, so I see it as a good thing, really.

Q. How did Ridley Scott become involved?
Ben Pugh: We’d made Shifty and we knew we needed to cast a big actor like James and Mark, so we thought that ultimately it’d be best to see if we could try and get someone else in to give a stamp of quality to Eran, because for those kind of actors, they’re taking a risk on someone who’s just made a £100,000 film. However good the acting, they’re not sure when they’re worrying about their career and where it might go. So, Ridley’s executive in London, Eliza Marshall, is a brilliant executive for him and read the script and loved it, and then we met her and then ultimately they said they’d like to be a part of the project. So, he came on to exec it and he was really involved. He did a lot of script meetings with Eran and edit meetings at the end. And then Eliza was involved the whole way through which couldn’t have been better really.

Q. What is it about the British film industry that means that films like this are so rare?
Ben Pugh: Well, it’s quite sort of dry… sort of financing things a lot of the time. To get a movie to the budget we made it for, you need a James McAvoy to do it. Then there’s the question of films with British accents, are they then going to come out wide in America? That’s where there’s a potential big upside for financiers and are they going to travel in the same way when the American film business is sort of worldwide? Our films travel but the films that can traditionally travel are films like The King’s Speech, so there’s like this aversion to this kind of film… to taking a financial punt for financiers. And the film’s going to come out in America, and it’s going to come out pretty wide, but there’s just questions every time over whether British films will.

And then in the process you go through, you kind of understand… Tony and Ridley Scott interestingly are Brits that made these kind of films, but they went to America to make them. And when you go through this process of financing this sort of movie, you understand why they did that. But having said that, with the soft money we’ve got here and in Germany, there’s a chance. I think there’s a group of people in the UK who’ll make more films like this, probably with some American leads but from British directors and rounded out with a British cast. But I think it’s going to change a little bit, you might see a few more.

Q. Picking up on world-wide audiences and their reactions and attitudes to things, do you think British audiences are ready for this… where the action is stylised and bullets tend to miss their targets?
Ben Pugh: [Laughs] Well, I think The Sweeney is a good reference for that. They did really well. They marketed that as a British action film. I feel like the ambition for the film and the way that Eran directed it feels like a movie, rather than a small screen story. I think people only want to go to the cinema to see things they don’t see on TV, so they need a good reason.

Read our review of Welcome To The Punch

Read our interview with Eran Creevy