Ray Winstone is no stranger to tough roles.
The British-born actor, 56, made a name for himself in the 1976 drama “Scum,” and has since landed many coveted supporting roles in flicks such as “The Departed” and “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”
He is back in the driver’s seat this weekend as Flying Squad officer Jack Regan in the British crime drama “The Sweeney.”
The film, which is based on a 1970s television series of the same name, follows old-school cop Regan, the head of a London undercover police unit that has no problem breaking the law in order to catch a criminal.
Regan lies, steals and cheats throughout the movie, but remains focused on one task: putting the real bad guys behind bars.
“The Sweeney,” which is available on March 1 in limited theatrical release and at home with XFINITY On Demand, also stars fellow Brits Ben Drew, Hayley Atwell and “Homeland” star Damian Lewis.
I recently spoke with Winstone about his role in “The Sweeney,” his favorite genre of film to appear in and what it was like working with Russell Crowe.
Laura Hibbs: Your first acting gig was on an episode of the television series “The Sweeney” in 1976. How does it feel to star in the movie so many years later?
Ray Winstone: It’s funny, I was 17 and went onto a show that was quite prominent and just worked for a few days on it. And more than thirty years later, after watching these icons on TV, big stars in our country, too, like Dennis Waterman, it’s great. To play the lead in the film makes you think a little bit and go “This is really strange.” You go full circle.
Hibbs: Did you watch any old episodes of “The Sweeney” to prepare for the movie?
Winstone: No, I kind of knew from the past. And though the film is certainly based on the TV series, we had to make it our own. I watched the show when it was on. That’s a great show.
Hibbs: What attracted you to the role of Jack Regan?
Winstone: I got to play the good guy and the bad guy and just mix them around a bit. The thing I love about Regan is that, at first, you don’t actually like him. Then you realize he is a man who actually works and wants to keep the streets clean, he wants to support your children. He actually wants to do the right thing. That’s Regan to me. He isn’t just a bad guy or a good guy, he could be one or the other.
Hibbs: Did you meet any real Flying Squad officers to prepare for the role?
Winstone: I did, yeah. A long, long time ago. But I was in the back of the car.
Hibbs: Do old school cops like Regan, who don’t mind breaking the law to catch a criminal, still exist?
Winstone: I think they do, but they are becoming a dying breed. Certainly some are still in the service, but it has become so politically correct, on the surface anyway, about certain things and certain ways that the police can go to work. Maybe at the moment it has changed because of terrorism, or because people in the police service always have to report back to somebody. And the media is screaming that they have to behave. I suppose the laws are there to abide because people can take liberties with them.
Hibbs: What was your all-time favorite film to make?
Winstone: I’ve got a few…“Sexy Beast,” I really like “Nil by Mouth” and “The War Zone.” I liked “Scum.” I really enjoyed making “Fool’s Gold,” because when you showed up on set the director was wearing pajamas. It was fun. But, really, I’ve enjoyed all the films I’ve made and I wouldn’t be doing it otherwise.
Hibbs: You are set to appear as Tubal-cain in the upcoming biblical epic “Noah,” alongside Russell Crowe. Can you give me any details on that movie?
Winstone: Working with Russell was tremendous. And Darren Aronofsky is a great filmmaker, I loved it. It was good stuff, I enjoyed it.
Hibbs: What draws you to these tough-guy roles?
Winstone: A lot of them are really good roles. But it’s really just because I’m really good-looking.
“The Sweeney” opens in theaters on March 1. Click here to order tickets through Fandango.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.