Jonathan Sothcott is the producer behind recent gritty Brit action thriller Vendetta and the upcoming We Still Kill The Old Way which stars Ian Ogilvy, Alison Doody, Chris Ellison, James Cosmo, Lysette Anthony, Danny-Boy Hatchard, Red Madrell, Nicky Henson, Anouska Mond, Adele Silva, Tony Denham, Steven Berkoff, Johnny Palmiero and Dani Dyer.
The story is about a group of aging London gangsters who go on a vigilante killing spree when one of their number is murdered by a street gang.
Jonathan stopped by The Action Elite to talk about the project which you can read about below.
We Still Kill the Old Way is a hardcore revenge thriller in the vein of Harry Brown; can you tell us about how it all came together and how such a great cast got involved?
I made a picture called Vendetta which was released in the UK by Anchor Bay Entertainment to great success on DVD last Christmas. The head honchos there, Colin Lomax and Rod Smith asked if I’d be interested in making films for them – which is a very fortuitous position for a film producer because you’re not only guaranteed a release for your film but you’re essentially reverse engineering a product that a distributor specifically wants. They had a pretty cool concept – old school gangsters coming out of retirement to clean up the streets of these feral youth gangs. They also had a title – We Still Kill The Old Way, which I loved. I brought in a writer called Dougie Brimson who wrote a picture for me called Top Dog. He and his writing partner delivered the kind of tough, gritty thriller you’d expect from his pedigree (he wrote Green Street) and that was enough to get things moving.
Putting the cast together was more of a challenge – I’d have these terribly depressing casting meetings where everyone on our hit list – Lewis Collins, Edward Woodward etc – was dead. Chris Ellison was the first actor to read it and come on board and I always wanted him in it. There was then a few of my mates – Tony Denham, Berkoff, Adele Silva, Lysette Anthony etc – who kindly came in. It’s a thrill to do something with Lysette, I’ve had a crush on her since I was seven, she’s such a doll. Ali Doody too, I have known for years but she’s – rightly – very fussy, so her coming on board was a real endorsement of the project. James Cosmo had done a picture with Sacha and did it for him. Danny Dyer called me and recommended an actor called Danny-Boy Hatchard who became our lead villain (and gives a brilliant, break out performance). And I was really pleased to be able to offer Danny’s daughter, Dani Dyer, her first lead. She had a little part in Vendetta and blew us all away. I didn’t make that decision lightly – everyone on the picture knows I’m close to her family, so she had to meet Sacha and he loved her and offered her the part and of course she’s terrific in the movie so no egg on face for me!
What made Ian Ogilvy the right man for the lead?
Martin Kemp! Martin called me one night, knowing I was struggling to find a lead. He’d just watched Ian in a rerun of Ripping Yarns on TV and, knowing I was a Saint fan, suggested he’d be great for the part. Ian now lives in LA and took a bit of coaxing, but we could never have hoped for someone better. He’s been a favourite of mine going back to The Sorcerers and, particularly, Witchfinder General and I honestly think he gives the performance of his career in or movie. He’s just so damned cool. We went to Spain for location shooting and I just followed him around like a puppy trying to absorb a bit of his brilliance by osmosis. I had dinner with him and his wife in LA last month and he told me WSKTOW was the happiest professional experience of his career and that’s probably the best compliment I’ve ever had in this business. It was certainly the happiest job I’ve done.
Sacha Bennett co-wrote and directed the film; how did you guys meet and was he the first choice as director?
Well Sacha is a big reason for WSKTOW being such a happy shoot. He was absolutely the first choice: nobody else was ever in the frame. We had both been making movies here for Universal here and although we had met socially we didn’t really know each other. A very good mutual friend named Richard Thompson at Universal said we should get together and cook something up… and we ended up doing this picture for Anchor Bay instead! Every morning Sacha goes round the set and hugs every single member of the cast and crew. In anyone else this would be affected, but he’s such a naturally warm person that it gets everyone excited to be at work. I can’t wait to do another movie with him.
Every morning Sacha goes round the set and hugs every single member of the cast and crew
How would you describe his directorial style?
Sacha is very much an actors’s director – he loves them, they love him and he gets the best out of them. I’ve never heard him raise his voice – he gets what he wants with a quiet authority. He had a fantastic relationship with our brilliant cinematographer Ismael Issa, they are both a producer’s dream and the movie is a testament to what a talented creative partnership they are. Sacha also brought a real style and light touch to the script and to the film – the tone isn’t your typical ultra violent gangster movie, it plays with the genre in a very convincing way and that’s all down to Sacha.
Did you have any input into the script while shooting, like what would work better in a scene?
I might have told them to cut down on locations and extras but not really, no. My producing partner Neil Jones and I play good cop/bad cop – directors go to Neil and ask for more money and he says no then they come to me and I give them a cuddle and tell them it will be alright. We try and give directors as much freedom as we can within our budgetary parameters – look at what Stephen Reynolds achieved for about £500 on Vendetta and he’s deservedly just bagged a big action movie in the States. We don’t have huge budgets but we value talented film-makers.
With so many family oriented films these days was the title ‘We Still Kill the Old Way’ a deliberate marketing decision to grab the attention of older audiences and traditional action movie fans?
As I said it was Anchor Bay’s idea, I can’t take the credit but I think these blokey action movies can’t sit on the fence – we’re setting out our stall upfront saying this is a certain type of genre movie, it will be well made and have a great cast and it will deliver on what you would hope/expect. There’s no real deep social commentary here but you certainly won’t regret spending $15 on a DVD. That was always my ambition for my company Richwater – solid, quality home entertainment genre movies that people enjoy.
Red Madrell plays one of the film’s leading antagonists DK; the character was originally written for a male; what prompted making the character female?
The gang was originally all male as is standard in these movies. I was thinking that a girl in this horrible, awful hoodrat gang – who was complicit with what they were doing – would seem even more horrible. I voiced this to Sacha and he’d already had the same idea. “Who would you like to play that part in an ideal world?” asked my handsome and talented director. “Red Madrell” I replied. He agreed (told you he was talented), a call was made to her agent and we were set. I was so happy to work with Red, she’s a brilliant young actress with a really unique look. Like Sacha she’s big on the hugs and – don’t tell anyone – but I preferred hers to his. Seriously though she’s a phenomenal talent and another person I can’t wait to work with again.
Were there any films that you’d consider an inspiration for this one?
For me – and this is a bit obscure – but I’d say Death Wish 5. Bronson was really old in it, like 72, but you know he was still Bronson and because he’s so iconic and old school you just really get behind him. Sacha has much posher points of reference and of course its his movie but there’s an old school boys-will-be-boys humour in it that echoes those great ensemble action movies like The Wild Geese and The Sea Wolves. I’d like to think that in 30 years time this will be considered a Dad Movie classic like they are!
How do you select your projects and what has to jump off a script for you to be interested in it?
Looking ahead to 2015/2016 I am looking for action scripts that will work internationally. Take Vendetta – the biggest UK DTV of 2013 but it has been buried internationally because it is ‘too British’. Its like horror movies – a horror movie set in the UK rarely makes a splash internationally. But make the same movie in the US and it sells to every country in the world. So we’re talking to a number of US coproduction partners – and looking for more – about movies that use American cast or are set in the UK and the US or are even shot here but set in the US. I could have made The Purge here easily with a couple of location days in the US for wide exteriors. Other than that its all about concept – bring me a well written action script that has a unique concept and won’t cost $10 million and chances are I’ll probably make it!
Is the crowdfunding model something you’d be interested in for future projects?
I’m not against it at all but once you become established – even if its only in your own country – there’s that danger that if it doesn’t work out you end up looking like a goon and with a project tainted by the fact that it didn’t get funded – and of course this is public knowledge. And I couldn’t, say, raise $50,000 of a $500,000 target and just keep the $50k. I’m not sure that’s particularly ethical. So I’m cautious but for the right project – and with the right platform – I certainly wouldn’t rule it out.
What else do you have coming up next?
We’ve just wrapped a spy thriller called Age of Kill which will be out next year. Written by Simon Cluett and directed by Neil Jones it’s a tight, fast paced action movie. Martin Kemp’s the lead and the supporting cast includes Patrick Bergin, Dexter Fletcher, Phil Davis, April Pearson, Nick Moran, Anouska Mond and Bruce Payne. I’m very much looking forward to that being cut together. We’re making a true crime movie in January, then a vampire comedy/horror in February (one of the best genre scripts I’ve ever read), I have a couple of projects I’m developing with Stephen Reynolds, who I love working with (including Vendetta 2 of course) and the same with Sacha Bennett. We are also lining up our first two American co-productions which I’m seriously excited about. Essentially, if you like Vendetta and We Still Kill The Old Way, keep your eyes peeled because we’re moving up to the next level in 2015 – it’s time to shake things up a bit in London!
Thanks very much for chatting with us once again and have a happy and successful 2015.
Thank you for having me – I appreciate it!
We Still Kill The Old Way hits DVD and Blu-ray in the UK on December 26th.