Posted February 28, 2012 by David Watson in Features
 
 

Actor Danny Dyer


“I’m quite a sensitive soul…”

“I’m quite a sensitive soul…”

With his new film Deviation just out on DVD, actor and
national treasure Danny Dyer talks
tough guys, aliens and being a gay icon with Cinema Editor David Watson.

Since his debut as a streetwise rent boy back in 1993’s Prime Suspect 3, Canning Town boy Danny
Dyer has practically never stopped working. On stage he worked with the late Harold Pinter who became both a mentor and a friend. On TV he’s been in everything from The Bill to Cadfael. He’s starred
in over 40 feature films and he’s worked with the cream of Britain’s acting
talent; Helen Mirren, Daniel Craig, Judi
Dench, Derek Jacobi, Sean Bean
and Steven
Berkoff
.

Admittedly, he’s also made a few films with Craig Fairbrass and Billy “Have you had an accident at work?”
Murray but hey, he was also Moff, the best thing in Human Traffic. So why,
oh why, do some people just hate Danny Dyer?

“I do get the fact that I divide people, especially as my
career’s gone on,” says Dyer “There is a certain community that will never
watch any of my movies, would never give me a chance, hate everything about
me.”

Maybe it’s the roles he plays; football hooligans, drug
dealers, gangsters, thugs, wide boys, geezers. Working class anti-heroes.

“I remember, I was trending on Twitter once and somebody
told me I should have a look. It
was the people that hate me hoping I was dead. “Please tell me he’s dead.” I mean, f*cking hell!
Whatever you think of me…”
A loving father of two daughters, Dyer shakes his head in disgust.

Maybe it’s the documentaries; The Real Football Factories, The
Real Football Factories International
, most damning of all, Danny Dyer’s Deadliest Men,
documentaries that have seen Dyer strut a thin line between exposing and
lionising a culture of violence and disaffected masculinity in UK society. He’s both poster boy and demagogue of
the New Lad culture.

“We are living in this generation now where all these people
want to sit behind their f*cking computer screens and want to be nasty, you
know? There’s just not much you
can do about that. But my fans,
they back me. They are so f*cking
loyal. And that’s what’s important
to me.”

It’s not hard to see why Dyer inspires both devotion and
enmity. A charismatic, instinctive
actor, in person Dyer is confident, funny and brutally honest. Self-deprecating and charming, he’s
nobody’s mug.

“I feel blessed the career I’ve had. It’s a tricky thing because you get a
niche in the market and people like to see you do a certain thing. For a certain film or role, I’ll be the
first one they consider.

“I went through a stage of just saying “Yeah, yeah,
yeah…” I mean, there was one year
I did eight movies. It’s
ridiculous. And, I’ll be the first
to admit some of the movies that I’ve had come out have been shit. My heart wasn’t in it. I needed to take some time out.”

After years of playing yobs and tough guys, Dyer’s ready for
a change, looking for the chance to play more sensitive, more vulnerable
roles. Like Frank, the serial
killing psychopath at the heart of his new film Deviation.

“I was waiting for a great script. This came along and I just loved the simplicity of it. Just the idea of two people, in a car,
you know? A victim, a predator,
the dynamic of that. And just how
brave it is to make a movie with no gimmicks and no big stunt sequences, just
two people talking. That’s what
appealed to me and there’s nowhere to hide in that. You gotta keep that interesting as an actor.”

Over the course of his career, Dyer’s played more than his
share of messed up characters; the conflicted avenging angels of Straightheads and Outlaw, the dodgy geezers of The
Business
and Dead Man Running,
the nascent thug of The Football Factory,
but last year saw him play his first out-and-out hero in World War 2, Boy’s Own
adventure, Age of Heroes.

“I was really excited about Age of Heroes. I was
really honoured that they came to me for that because, like I said, there’s
certain roles I’ll be considered for and others I’ll be the last on the
list.

“I did a war movie before called The Trench, William Boyd
movie, and that was in 2001. It
was a war movie but the idea of it was you are just in a trench, these poor
young guys just sitting around and doing nothing, with no training and then all
of a sudden going over the top.
They was lied to and it was such a sad thing that war.

“Whereas Age of
Heroes
was more about training up and being part of a commando elite
unit. That really appealed to
me. It was great to work with Sean
Bean again, I hadn’t seen him in a few years, and it was sort of my story and
told through my eyes. Again, I
don’t think it got the release it should’ve got.

“I know that cinema, British films, especially low budget,
independent films, are going through a mad stage at the moment. Just to get the money raised, there’s
no money around, to get them made and then to get them a theatrical
release. People just want to get
them out on DVD.

“It’s the same with Deviation. It’s getting a small release so they can say it’s a
theatrical release and get it out on DVD ‘cause that’s where the money is. And let’s be honest, it’s all about the
money.”

Despite his tough guy image, Dyer’s always had a gift for
comedy, his natural charm allowing him to shine in films like Severance, Human Traffic and Malice In Wonderland. Soon we’ll be seeing him in Run For Your Wife, the film version of Ray Cooney’s classic play.

“They’re very rare, you know, scripts that come along that
are really funny, genuinely are funny.
Human Traffic was just
perfect. I’ve got a movie coming
out this year called Run For Your Wife. It’s a farce. I think that style of movie and acting, it’s not been done
in a long f*cking time. So I was
honoured they offered me the lead in that. I play John Smith, married to two people, Sarah Harding and Denise Van Outen, could be worse couldn’t it? The whole film is me trying to prevent
these two women from ever meeting and just trying to keep everything
sweet.”

The film’s all-star cast includes the great and the good
(and the not so good) of the British acting fraternity with cameos from the
likes of Dame Judi Dench, Cliff Richard,
Donald Sinden, Rolf Harris, Russ Abbott,
Bernard Cribbens, Andrew Sachs, Sue Pollard and Richard
Briers
.

“And they all come and done it for a bottle of wine,” laughs
Dyer “Dame Judi Dench has got three lines of dialogue in it. She plays a bag lady I meet at the
beginning. Just to be around these
sorta people who’ve had these amazing careers and longevity, you know, I just
loved it. It was great coming to
work and doing comedy.

“It’s great for me this year that I got two movies coming
out that are completely different.”

Possibly the closest thing Britain has had to a home-grown,
working class movie star since Sir
Michael Caine
, Dyer is a real advocate for UK cinema.

“Well, it’s been good to me as well to be fair and I think
I’ve had quite a rare career that I have just made movies. Like I said, I’ve made over 40 movies, and
a percentage of them are sh*t but…I like to give directors a chance. And if they write to me, send me a
letter or email and go “Listen, I got no money, I’ve got a script, I’d really
love you to be in it even if it’s for a couple of days…could you do me a
favour?” And if I see a passion in
someone, I’ll do it and try and give them a chance, you know?

“I think everybody deserves a chance. It’s a tough business and people have
took risks with me. Sometimes it
doesn’t work out. Sometimes people
aren’t meant to be directors. They
want it, they want it all their life but it’s just not meant to be. Others, it’s their calling. It’s a tough gig directing, being
leader of the pack, having a vision, getting everyone excited every day…It’s
tough. When you’re a first-time
director it can swallow you up a little bit.”

While some of his contemporaries have found success and fame
in the US, Danny Dyer’s still a London boy at heart, resisting the temptations
of Hollywood.

“I wouldn’t say I’m not ambitious enough but I had a child
at 19 years of age and I’ve got to commit to that. I can’t just f*ck off to America for three…four months,
which is what you got to do.

“I’ve always gone out there, had a couple of weeks, got the
agent and went “Yeah, yeah, I’ll be back,” and then didn’t come back for two
years. I didn’t commit to it
enough but I got a 15-year-old daughter who’s just taking her exams, I got a
4-year-old who’s just started school.
And for me to up sticks and take them away from what they know would be
very selfish of me.”

Particularly when his eldest daughter is following in her
father’s footsteps.

“She’s got an agent, she’s really talented. Thing is I called her Dani as well,
Dani Dyer, so she’s got a little bit of pressure on her I suppose. I’m really proud of her. She’s been for a few auditions, she’s
gotta work hard and she’s gotta understand that it’s a tough business and she’s
gotta learn the ropes like I did.
I’m there to advise her more than anything.

“I think for me though, the first audition I went for, I got
it. Literally, the first one,
which was Prime Suspect. So I went
straight in, auditioned with the other kids, sh*tting myself, going in there,
doing it, getting the lines out.
And I got a phone call saying I got it so it was just a beautiful
process for me.

“Next thing I know I’m up in Manchester, my dad chaperoning
me, on set with Helen Mirren and David Thewlis. I didn’t have a rejection until later
on. I was like “Wow! I can’t believe they’re paying me for
this.” I was on set and I wanted
to learn, just absorbing everything, watching Helen Mirren and definitely Thewlis. He was Method. He played my pimp. He didn’t talk to me. He was nasty to me. Until we did the scene. And then I realised why he was being
nasty to me. Because I was f*cking
sh*tting myself. It worked. I’ve seen him since, I’m quite pally
with him now Thewlis, he’s a great man, great actor. But what a way to start. Surely that’s better than any drama school.”

Given his own sometimes…tempestuous relationship with our
tabloid press, what father wouldn’t worry about his daughter becoming an actress?

“I worry about her constantly, I worry about everything she
does at the moment. She’s very
hormonal. It’s her against the
world. She’s taking exams at the
moment, boy trouble, everything, I worry about everything.

“But she’s carving out a little career for herself already
before she’s leaving school. She’s
got an agent, nothing to do with me, she goes to drama school every Sunday and
they have workshops and agents came down and she got it off her own back. So she’s got an agent who’s working for
her. I can only be there for
her. She’ll get a part soon and
she’s going to crack on and she’s going to love it, relish it. Listen, I’m constantly worrying about
my daughters. It’s just life,
innit?”

As well as Deviation
and Run For Your Wife, Dyer recently
went back to TV, guesting in an episode of BBC1’s Casualty.

“It’s weird. I
always thought that if you make movies you’d automatically be accepted into TV,
you know? Movies are the highest
thing you can do as an actor… But
it closes a few doors. People
don’t consider you for TV ‘cause they don’t think you’ll do it. Which is bollocks, if it’s quality.

“I auditioned for a thing called Inside Men, BBC thing, and I didn’t get it…and it hurt. It was a kick up the bollocks, you
know? I’m always looking out for
stuff though. I think TV’s going
through a mad stage with this reality TV, isn’t it? Documentaries following
people around being themselves or things like The Only Way Is Essex where,
are
they being themselves? So,
actors are a bit redundant at the moment.

“The rare dramas that are around are things like Downton Abbey, Upstairs Downstairs…They
don’t consider me for stuff like that.
I don’t know why. But I
reckon I could do it standing on my head.
I understand that I’ve had a good career but it does frustrate me. Casualty
was just an odd thing. I’d took a
bit of time out and they wanted me to do it, they were really lovely about it
and cause it was a paramedic I thought yeah, I’ll do it. ‘Cause it was different and it was a
one-off. I went to Cardiff for a
week and it was a nice little experience.
I’m sure it surprised a few people.”

He also isn’t ruling out a return to the stage.

“You need to do it as an actor. It gives you a real kick up the bollocks. I was blessed to work with Pinter. He had a real bond with me. He saw something in me. I think because he was from Hackney
originally, he was an East London boy.
He was an education for me.
And he reined me in when I needed to be reined in. I was devastated when we lost him. We lost a great man there.

“But, I struggle with the six month run, eight shows a week,
one day off. Like I said, as a
father, you’re not seeing your family, you’re not putting the kids to bed,
you’re not sitting at the dinner table with them. You’re coming home, they’re all in bed, you’re eating on
your own. You get Sunday off. And on that Sunday you’re f*cked,
you’re shattered, you just want to lay around. But at the same time you gotta use that day to be with your
kids. And you’re constantly
thinking about the play, all the nerves.

“So the play has to be brilliant and it’s got to be a six to
eight week run and I’m totally up for it.
Anything longer than that, I really struggle with. “

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Dyer is the
diversity of his fan base. While
the core of his support is undoubtedly the Burberry-clad and the white van man,
Broken Britain’s disaffected working class, women love him and he’s also got a
sizable gay following.

“I made a decision…I did the documentaries about hooligans
and stuff like that…it wasn’t something…I didn’t really want to go down that
route but I did it for the money.

“I was promoting the documentary The Real Football Factories
which is me running around with f*cking hooligans, nasty f*ckers, men being men
and all that sorta stuff…and I wanted to put a spin on it so I went and done
Attitude mag.

“A lotta people were surprised at that, because of my
image. They thought I was gonna be
homophobic, you know, thick as sh*t, a lotta people think I’m really
thick…which is frustrating. Just
because of my accent maybe. So I
wanted to do Attitude and they gave me a four-page spread where I really spoke
my mind and I was really honest.

“And I think a lot of gay people maybe appreciated that and
thought “Oh, actually, he’s alright.
He’s not the sorta guy who wants to kick our f*cking heads in.” Because that just couldn’t be further
from the truth. I’m quite a
sensitive soul. I’m a father more
than anything. That’s my
priority. And I live in a house
full of girls. The hard man image,
there’s not much I can do about that.
I’m no thug but I’m not a pr*ck either that lets people take the piss
out of me.”

However there’s also a more spiritual side to Dyer as he
proved in one of the more bizarre and enjoyable documentaries of 2010, I Believe In UFOs: Danny Dyer which saw
him meeting astronomer Patrick Moore
and travelling to America in search of his own close encounter.

“I’m a bit of a sci-fi geek. I love all that sh*t.
I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of it. And because the only documentaries I ever made have been Deadliest Men and people chopping f*cking
people’s earholes off and all that stuff, I wanted to go off and do something
completely in the opposite direction.

“The BBC had read in an interview that I was quite obsessed
with the idea of aliens and they came to me and said “Listen, we’d love to do
something with you,” I said “Sweet!”
And they took me to America.
And I got on a real spiritual one.
I wanted to show that side to me.
It’s important that I do show different sides. I mean, Harry Hill
assassinated me but I took that as a compliment.

“I f*cking know there’s sh*t out there. I saw some mad sh*t on that
documentary. Things that freaked
me the f*ck out! The idea that
we’re the only things living in the Universe is f*cking ridiculous.

“Whether or not they’re coming here and chucking things up
our a*se and f*cking off, I don’t know.
But there’s sh*t going on and I wanted to explore that. As much as I could on a BBC3
budget. I get lots of letters now
from UFO enthusiasts, sending me pictures and stuff, drawings of sh*t they’ve
seen, wanting me to be honorary member of their different societies…I love it,
I love it. And I’ll never stop
believing.”

Deviation was
released in UK cinemas on 24 February and DVD on 27 February from
Revolver. Run For Your Wife is
scheduled for release in 2012.

Steve Coogan stars in Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief as Hades, God
of
the Underworld.

Q. Hades has a rock star element to him – was
that intentional?

A. I knew it was going to be a generic rock star look
but I didn’t want to
link it to anyone specific. It’s definitely a British
rock star look, as
opposed to an American one because they’re a bit too
macho.

Q. Were you aware of Clash of the Titans also coming out this
year, which
has a lot of the same characters?
A. I heard that Ralph
Fiennes is playing Hades so I thought: “well, I’ll go
in a different
direction”. I think I’ve done that quite well.

Q. Hades’ Underworld lair
lies beneath the Hollywood sign – do you think
Hollywood is hellish?
A.
You know, if you commit to the wrong people, it can be Hell, but if you
are
recreative and use your good judgment, it can be Heaven, so it’s
your
choice.

Q. How much time do you spend in LA?
A. I spend a
quarter of the year there, all told. Most years I have to go
over there for
some reason or another. I’ve done a few things that have
taken me back and
forth so I’m kind of familiar with it now. The longest
I’ve been there is
three months in one stretch, but I’m usually back and
forth.

Q. Do
you get recognised in the US?
A. Yeah, I was in New York recently doing a
film there and I get recognised
for my ‘arty’ movies with Michael
Winterbottom. Cinema ushers and theatre
ushers and people in second-hand
record stores – all the ‘cool’ people who
go and see arthouse movies – they
recognise me.

Q. How do you balance the ‘arty’ movies with the bigger
films?
A. It’s great to be part of a big Hollywood blockbuster movie and then
when
they give you a nice big bag of money, then that’s the tipping point for
me.
It’s often an inverse thing where the harder the work, the less you get
paid
and the easier the work, the more you get paid, so it’s good to get
a
balance.

Q. There’s talk of an Alan Partridge movie…
A. I’ll
know in a couple of months – I’m sort of working on it next to see
whether
it’s viable. In about a month, it’ll be clear whether we’re going to
do it or
not. It’ll be decided then one way or the other and then we’ll just
explore
the possibilities of what we could do. But we’re not going to do it
unless we
think we can make it work.

Q. Have you always been a performer?
A. I
was never really the ‘performing monkey’ at school – I had one of those
guys
in my class and I thought he was a dick. I had my own little coterie
of
friends – we were kind of intellectual, like cultural snobs. We didn’t
like
mainstream comedy on TV, we liked underground stuff, and we liked the
Indie
bands that weren’t on Top of the Pops. In another world, I probably
would
have been one of those nerdy guys that does a Columbine massacre
of
something.

Q. When did you realise you wanted to make people
laugh?
A. I just found out I could. I always knew I was good at it but I was
always
slightly semi-reluctant. I could do impersonations – I don’t why
people
laugh at impersonations, but they did, and that got me off to a start
in the
biz. I just knew I wanted to do acting or comedy or anything really. I
went
to drama school, but I kind of got side-tracked into comedy.

Q.
What was the last impersonation you did?
A. It would have been on Spitting
Image, which I stopped doing 17-18 years
ago. The last onscreen impersonation
I did was probably Terry Wogan. All the
impersonations I can do are all
people who are no longer in the public eye.
Although, I still do them at
parties, when I’m drunk.


David Watson

 
David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com