One of Ray's heroes is the Hollywood star of the '30s, '40s and 50,s James Cagney (see right), well known for his complex and often violent gangster characters. Ray mentions him a lot in interviews.
Ray said "James Cagney was my man..... Watching Cagney - that's where I learned how to play violence on the screen". ["Alan Clarke" edited by Richard Kelly, Faber & Faber 1998, p118]
Other critics have seen the comparison between Ray and James Cagney:
When Ray's debut television play, the powerful and controversial Scum was banned by the BBC from being transmitted, it was seen by a number of leading critics, among them Stephen Gilbert who wrote in The Observer: "Within the naturalistic framework there's a rattling good tale in the staunch tradition of Hollywood liberalism. The hero, a clear victim of injustice, overcomes the system, holds to his integrity, vanquishes the villains and establishes a new and, it's implied, more principled order... Another obvious parallel is the Warner Bros. cycle of the Thirties. Carlin (played by Ray Winstone) is no more heroicized than the figures Cagney played in, say, Angels with Dirty Faces or Each Dawn I Die".
Ray's other early acting heroes were apparently John Wayne (left), the all-American Western hero, and Edward G Robinson (right) who is most famous for his role as the gangster Rico in 'Little Caesar' in 1930. There's a nice website about him here.
"I think he's a genius. It's a word that's bounced around quite easily, but when I say the word 'genius', I mean I think he is a genius. His eye for a shot, his eye for a script, he knows the technique of it all. You just felt a buzz come from him, and you didn't have to work so hard. It was the most enjoyable experience I think I've had for a long, long time."
In the same interview Ray also had some interesting things to say about the film Raging Bull (1980) and its relation to Nil By Mouth:
"I'll tell you the only way I can really put it together. When Raging Bull first came out, I went to see it. It's not about boxing - it's about the way people live. Boxing just happens to be in it. I saw it cut on TV - they had cut all the swearing out of it, and it's a totally different film. It then becomes a film about boxing. But when you see it at the cinema uncut, it's actually about the language and the way these people live."
In a March 2002 interview with Surface Magazine, the story was told of how Ray would turn up for ballet classes at drama school in his Doc Martens and was considered so 'dangerous' that he was banned from the drama school Christmas party. He took revenge with a brilliant performance of a passage from Julius Caesar - in his best Cockney accent.:
"Well, Marlon Brando did Shakespeare. And Bob Hoskins.... he was Iago in Othello. So why not?" asks Ray, who would dearly love to play Hamlet, "I bloody love Shakespeare. The guy was a genius".
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