Beowulf: The Ray Winstone Interview


Switching it up with from his scary gangster in Sexy Beast and The Departed, Brit Ray Winstone is now the scary Viking Beowulf on screen. Well, sorta. Minus about thirty years, slimmed down and bulked up with a whole load of six-packs lining his chest, the new and improved motion captured, digitally enhanced guy who confesses that he’d rather be kissing than punching somebody, is swooning about his great looks these days in the movie. He was also shamelessly flirty during this conversation with yours truly. Though he did have one feminist moment, see if you can catch it as you read on.

RAY WINSTONE: Awright, babe…

How are you liking New York City?

RW: Aw, you gotta be abrupt here. Like I was standing outside lighting a cigarette, and a bloke comes over and says, you got any change. I told him no, have a nice evening. And he said to me, oh f*** off. It was kinda like doing a Western! New York, I love it!

Was Anthony Hopkins jealous that you looked a lot better nude up on the screen, than he did?

RW: He mighta been. But you didn’t really see anything, because ‘it’ was all hidden behind things. And he mighta been like ‘that.’ Ha! [Ray makes a shape of an object that’s exceedingly small].The funny thing about it though, is that as soon as any object gets in the way of ‘it’ on the screen, all the heads go that way, to see what’s hiding. Yeah, all the bodies in the theaters sway to one side!

I bet yours did too.

RW: Yeah, sure. ! wanted to know what ‘it’ looked like too! Sure. Yeah…

The interesting thing about technology, is that you can enlarge stuff.

RW: I’ve never had that problem. To be perfectly honest with you! But if I got one of those, it would probably be about the right size!

So what was it like seeing your character Beowulf up on the screener looking so buff and brawny?

RW: It was fantastic. I didn’t have to eat the right foods, or stop drinking. Or go running. So my jaw hit the floor when I saw him. But it just makes your imagination explode, you know? Up there, looking like an eight pack naked warrior. But I never enjoyed a performance so much in my life.

What did you think about playing such a macho warrior, and the only one that you couldn’t defeat is a woman?

RW: Hmm, yeah. I think that’s great. I think a man’s brain goes from his head to there (Ray points to his crotch). But it’s funny the way Angelina is portrayed in the film, and this goes back through time immemorial. It’s kinda funny that women – especially sexy women, beautiful women, are always portrayed as a man’s downfall. They are, aren’t they?

You think so?

RW: Oh yeah, even with Adolph Hitler! You know, that Eva Braun. But there’s always been a way that your brain goes somewhere else, I guess. So women have got a lot to answer for!

What was the biggest challenge doing this guy Beowulf, besides warding off temptresses?

RW: That I had to move like I was a six foot six warrior, with that eight pack chest. Because if you walk like a fifty year old man, that’s what it’s gonna be. Or when I had to be a dragon flying. My arse had to be a talon, and away you go. So it was a good feeling, a good vibe. Yeah, this movie kinda blew me away.

But with this animation stuff, I could play Marilyn Monroe too. But if I was Marilyn Monroe, I’d never go out. I’d stay in all the time. With me-self! But you know, that face on Beowulf, that’s me at twenty. I’ve got pictures of me when I was boxing at twenty, and it’s the same face.

But not the body. Forget the body! i was a lot looser. I only had a three pack then!

How was it playing a romantic lead instead of just a tough guy for a change?

RW: Oh, I loved it. I’d rather be kissing someone than punching ’em. I’m getting too old for all that jumping about! And I kept getting that wrong on purpose. So they’d let me keep doing it!

Do you think you’re ready to give those younger actors some competition as a hunk?

RW: Yeah, well tough. Move over. Hot lips is back!

SDid you think Angelina was hot as your designated seductress?

RW: Wow, there’d be something wrong with you if you didn’t, you know? You’d have to be, you know, a funny person. I think she’s an absolutely stunning girl. Not only that, she’s a fantastic actress. She’s at the top of her game. Which makes her sexy!

But you know, it doesn’t matter what people look like. If they’re good at what they do, after a time they become sexy!

Is doing romantic easier than being thuggish?

RW: I’ve found it very easy being a cocky bastard, actually. It’s me just being nice, really!

What turned you on about doing Beowulf?

RW: I thought, I want to play a Viking. Like ever since I saw Tony Curtis and Kirk Douglas do it. You know, all that raping and pillaging. It’s part of our history. We are them, and they are us. And I’m sure we were involved in their bloody mess somewhere.

But this movie could have taken place anywhere, NY or London. It’s about greed and ambition, and all that kind of stuff. It could be about a corporation, you know? So this wasn’t just about Beowulf for me, it was quite a relevant story, about life.

So it was a fantastic thing. Being fmy age, in a regular movie, I dunno, I’d have played the Viking’s grandfather or something! Because I’m Ray Winstone, I’m fifty. And I’ve only got one pack!

Did you ever read Beowulf?

RW: We didn’t read him in my school.

Is there something you’d like to do in a movie that you haven’t gotten to do yet?

RW: Yeah, I’ve always wanted to be in a horror movie.

How come?

RW: Because you get scared, then you go have a drink and get over it.

I hear you love doing Shakespeare too.

RW: Yeah. especially being an Englishman, doing Shakespeare raises a passion in you. Theater’s great. But after two weeks I’m going, god, can’t I play somebody else? And in theater if they don’t like you, they boo you. And quite rightly so!

What’s next for you?

RW: I’m doing a film for the people who wrote Sexy Beast. I’m doing Forty Four Inch Chest. It’s about a man who loves his wife too much! And I’m doing another film, called Death Of A Ladies’ Man. It’s very dark and funny, but it’ll break your heart.

So that’s me. I’ll go back to work. That’s what I do.

[Ray’s cell phone rings]

RW: Hello Queenie. I’m doing an interview, I’ll ring you back later.

QUEENIE: Sorry, mate…

RW: That’s alright, darling. Bye…That’s the girl who played my wife in Sexy Beast. Yeah, good girl she is!

Are you ready for heavy duty fame after Beowulf?

RW: Yeah, as long as I don’t end up like Beowulf, you know, believing all that publicity, I’ll be alright. But I’ve been doing these interview for weeks, so I’m really, really tired. So I’m gonna go have me a sleep now.

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.