01/10/2014 13:25 BST | Updated 01/12/2014 05:59 GMT

Making a Killing... The Old Way


Around the beginning of the year I was, as one should be at the beginning of all showbusiness anecdotes, sat in a pub in Soho, talking about two films with two chaps after a few beers.

However, these particular chaps were high flying film distributors, the type red tops refer to as 'movie bosses' and they had come to ask me to make a movie for them. They had a title - We Still Kill The Old Way - and a concept, which was Krays-era London gangsters coming out of retirement to clean up the streets.

Having just made Vendetta, a sort of Death Wish in London, which had been very successful, but being forced to wait until its star (Danny Dyer) got a break in his Eastenders schedule to make Vendetta 2, making another revenge movie seemed like a great idea.

I had some reservations - how do you make this kind of un-PC gangster likeable - but once director Sacha Bennett came on board such doubts soon vanished and we started the most fun part of any movie: Casting.

Casting We Still Kill The Old Way was basically opening the toy box of my film and TV childhood and getting out all the best toys. The first actor on board was Chris Ellison - Frank Burnside in The Bill, surely in the running as TV's greatest cop.

Next up was 80s screen siren Lysette Anthony, just as sizzling today as when I first saw her opposite Michael Caine in Without A Clue in 1987. Sacha and I flew to Dublin to meet Indiana Jones goddess Alison Doody (my favourite Bond girl) who was an unexpected coup. Impossibly glamorous and sophisticated, Ali is famously picky about which jobs she takes so her coming on board felt like a real endorsement of the material.

Steven Berkoff, an old mate came and did us a favour. Danny Dyer called me from Eastenders - I should look at a young lad called Danny-Boy Hatchard who'd just been cast as his son. He was perfect for our villain and delivers a real breakout performance. We changed one of his footsoldiers from a boy to a girl just because I wanted to work with Kidulthood actress Red Madrell - again she was amazing.

And then I called Dyer and sounded him out about his daughter Dani playing the young female lead: she'd done a day on Vendettaand blown us all away. It was a gamble because all the crew knew he and I are close, but I'd never have taken it unless I knew she could pull it off and boy did she deliver.

So all this was endless joy but throughout the process Sacha and I faced one incredible obstacle. We couldn't find a leading man. Every idea we came up with seemed to end in "he's dead" - Lewis Collins, Edward Woodward, our ideas were all three years out of date.

Then Martin Kemp called me one night watching some old series on TV "what about Ian Ogilvy?" he asked. Eureka! Because he'd been based out of LA for 20 years he hadn't been on our radar. Of course there was no budget for flights but Sacha and I halved our white wine bill for a week and a deal was done... The Saint was on a plane (hmmm Saints On A Plane, there's a film idea there somewhere).

And Ogilvy was just majestic - we could never have hoped for better. Commanding, tough, debonair and incredibly charismatic, he gives the performance of his career. I went to Spain with him and his mate Nicky Henson for location filming and had the most wonderful three days, he's just utterly brilliant. I really didn't want him to go home.

They say that the jobs you have the most fun on are the ones the public enjoy the least but early word on WSKTOW is very positive and I have to say I'm incredibly proud of it.

Of course, making a good film isn't enough. The press usually give my films a mauling but then I don't make them for the press. I think this one's a bit different though - its certainly the classiest film I've ever made: I think the like of Ogilvy, Doody, Anthony, James Cosmo et al give it a veneer of respectability that your average geezer film lacks and it has a certain dark humour that I think audiences will find satisfying.

The cast add a real grit and realism too which balances it out nicely. I'm not a betting man by nature but I'd put a bullseye on a sequel being greenlit and we already have a concept.

We'll find out when its released in December.