Terry Winsor's directorial debut was on the Daniel Peacock comedy Party, Party - a movie that has become a cult classic over the years and features the debuts of a host of now-established British talent. He followed this by writing and directing The Great Kandinsky which starred Richard Harris, directing the action television series Thief Takers and writing and directing The Magician, a television movie starring Clive Owen. Terry had also worked with Sean Bean previously on Fool's Gold, which won the Gold Medal at the New York International Film Festival.
Terry put a lot of thought into the psyche of Billy: "We decided that he should be a driver because, if you think about it, he goes through the whole film being pulled along by other forces. At first he likes and enjoys the romance of being a gangster, but he is very quickly immersed in the real underworld and realises that it is much more serious than he first imagined. He really gets in deep shit further down the line, and the story is told through his eyes. In essence it is a story about how he gets involved with these three other guys who end up dead. He survives, and comes out the other side, but it is at a huge cost to himself.
"The story also concerns the relationship between one of the gangsters and his wife, and the fact that he had been put away for fiveyears. It's a personal look at their lives through the eyes of the one guy who gets hooked up with them.
"What I found most interesting and unique was the way the county has changed. The people of the East End moved out to the new towns such as Harlow and Basildon to set up a new life. And they took their criminals with them. The gangsters we have now are the sons and daughters of those who moved out to Essex in the 60's. Partly also, the feeling is that they were kept in check by a community in the East End, whereas they had a much looser relationship out in the sprawling new towns. They just seemed to behave in a much bigger, brasher way, which makes them interesting to look at.
"Saying that, I think it is quite a dark film. The characters, even though they are extremely brash and lively, do have a doomed quality about them. Particularly the main character Reynolds. Even though he comes out the other side, he certainly goes through Hell for the duration of the film. I think what makes it a film noir is that it looks at the seedier side of life in Essex. Basically it involves a murder that the police are almost completely uninvolved in, and we are looking at the underbelly of that gangster society. Because of this I think the film fits in perfectly with the noir tradition of looking at crime and criminals.
"I have used a very restrictive palette whilst filming ESSEX BOYS. I filmed in dark colours and shadows, and have tried to avoid reds and greens, and deep saturated colours. You get quite a dark and shadowy feeling to a lot of the scenes.
"But I think this stark landscape is filled with a huge diversity of the characters. Perhaps a striking difference to something like Goodfellas (where the characters overlap) is that the characters in this film are all quite different. I think that this movie represents Essex pretty damn well in what those characters do, from the Tom Wilkinson character to the Sean Bean character, they do exist in the world together, as they do in the script.
"I think I possibly identify with Billy's character most - because I can see how I could fall into the same trap. By the end of the film, Billy's journey is one that nobody would want to take.
"The title just seemed obvious. We chucked quite a few around, and came up with ESSEX BOYS. There's a line at the end about the Essex Girl beating the Essex Boys - it all goes full circle, so seemed to fit.
"The violence is pretty real and it's not done for fun. It gives a realistic notion of what these guys are like; they are violent. They are high-octane characters. One moment they're calm and talking, and the next they explode. They're totally unpredictable, and what I've tried to do is get some of the unpredictability on film. Certainly the Sean Bean character is extremely violent. I can't pretend that I've tried to stylise the violence in any way. What I've tried to do is capture it, and show the reasons for it as well. So I'm showing what the character is like and, by living in this world, the circumstances that lead him to behave like that.
"When shooting I wasn't really concerned by the moral outrage factor. I was thinking along the lines that when you enter a cinema, you actually enter a world. Hopefully the audience will experience what it is like to be in that world, and reasons as to why people behave like that. The characters in ESSEX BOYS have to provide demonstrations of power, so people know what they are capable of. Once they have proved themselves, they can rest easy for a while. It's a bit like gunslingers in the Old West.
"It's funny, but I think the actual Essex gangsters will go for the movie - they'll think that it is one for them. People like the homegrown stuff. And the people will always think that they are bigger and badder and harder than anyone else.
"Most of the locals seemed to know who we were, and what we were about, so certainly the news travels fast there too! We did have a lot of Essex people as extras in the party scenes. They are a special brand of people. They are very showy; they do like to dress up and have flash cars and whatever. So using the locals certainly helped us in terms of the reality of the image.
"But for the rest out there I'd like people to take them on the journey of the Reynolds character. I want them to see what it's really like to be an Essex Boy."
Terry Winsor (Director & Co-Writer)
Jeff Pope (Producer & Co-Writer)
Pippa Cross (Executive Producer)
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