13 July 2000
Source: This is Essex
Essex Boys are back with a bang!
The Echo goes behind the scenes of the latest gangster blockbuster to talk to the director about how the film was made
Brought to you by the Evening Echo
Glitz, glamour and gangsters have been rife
in Southend with the gala premiere this week of Essex Boys - a
movie inspired by the Rettendon Range Rover murders. The film
tells the story of a group of Essex gangsters who fight to gain
control of the drugs trade and nightclub security contracts.
Sean Bean plays the lead "baddie". Directed and co-written by Terry Winsor, it looks destined to be a big hit. We find out why...
Jeff Pope, the producer-writer of a £3million
thriller movie due to open nationwide tomorrow, was in no doubt.
"The word Essex is going to be a selling point for Essex
Jeff was talking at the London press preview of the film. He and director Terry Winsor are hard-headed film-makers. And they feel that Essex equals big box office.
"There is a buzz about all things Essex," Jeff said. "The term has become fashionable in all sorts of areas. But nobody has really used Essex locations until now. Partly this is because the film industry, at the moment, is concentrated on the west side of London."
For Jeff and Terry, the road to Essex Boys began on the morning they picked up the newspaper and saw photographs of the Rettendon killings.
Jeff says: "I was caught up by this central image, of three ultra tough, very scary guys - but they were victims. They'd terrorised so many people, but they were the ones lying dead."
Jeff and Terry both knew the Estuary area as a result of childhood visits to Southend.
Terry, indeed, insisted on an obligatory Rossi ice-cream every shooting day. But they were struck by the changes that had taken place.
"Essex has a real sense of new identity," Terry says. "It's an impatient sort of place that doesn't have a sense of history like London. It only really came into its own in the Fifties and Sixties, and in many respects it's similar to Australia or America.
"It has these huge American-style malls, like Lakeside, and as in the States, the car is very important."
The style of Essex creates a unique landscape.
"There are roads everywhere, and you also get this strange awareness of brash new towns and buildings rising up out of old, green countryside," says Terry Winsor.
The unusual locations proved a selling point when Jeff and Pope sought funding. Pippa Cross, head of the backers Granada Films, said: "These are locations that we haven't really seen on film before.
"They provide a really striking backdrop, and really put the characters in context, so that you are completely absorbed by this world."
Despite the logistics of filming so far from studio bases, Terry and Jeff decided that the film would be shot entirely on location in the county. The one exception is the early, brief scene in London's Billingsgate fish market, in which Sean Bean's character beats up an informer.
Terry and Jeff drove round the county choosing sites that dovetailed with the mood of the story. "They weren't difficult to find," says Terry.
They also sat in restaurants, watching "the unique way that people in Essex walk, talk and move."
Having absorbed themselves in the county, they then set up their base at the old Bata shoe factory in East
Tilbury. This forms the setting for the interiors, notably the night-club scene where the Essex Boys are at their most outrageous.
The actual killings were filmed, not at Rettendon, but in Dedham Vale. The beach-house scenes, supposedly in Canvey, were filmed at Jaywick. For the rest, however, south Essex locations predominate.
Southend's Golden Mile is unmistakable, as is the shabbier end of the Pier, setting for a low-key but crucial scene between the central character, Billy, and Alex Kingston's memorable anti-heroine.
The final shoot-out (not to be confused with the Range Rover killings) takes place on the marshes in front of the Coryton refineries.
The Bulphan motel, scene of the final betrayal and twist, is transformed into the "Shangri La" by means of a garish neon sign specially made for the film.
The "Welcome Home Jason" party scene, which the script sets in a £500,000 Billericay house, was filmed around just such a property in Priest Lane, Brentwood.
"Although the story revolves around criminals, we don't think Essex people will feel we've shown them in a bad light," says Jeff Pope. "The film should go down well in the county."
Picture: LUAN MARSHALL
No, not Las Vegas but the Golden Mile - the gangsters gather for a seafront meet
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