2016 was a great year for Zackary Adler. The New York born director has become a sort of a cult figure amongst fans of gritty British gangster movies; a genre which despite racking up hit after hit has until now remained on the fringes of the British film industry.
After the record-breaking success of his recently released films Rise of Krays (2015) and The Fall of The Krays (2016), Adler has also just finished directing the third instalment and prequel to Rise of the Footsoldier , a franchise based on real life events surrounding the Rettendon Triple Murders, better known as The “Range Rover murders”. The film will be released by Signature Entertainment later this year. And if that wasn’t enough, Adler is also about to start shooting the third instalment of his Krays franchise, titled The Krays And The Mafia.
Last month, I had the chance to meet Adler for an interview to talk about his journey so far and his future projects and aspirations. We meet on a cold January morning at the Ham Yard Hotel in the heart of Soho in London. Zackary arrives right on time, but this doesn’t stop him from apologising for running late – I jokingly reassure him that he isn’t late, yet. Born in New York to an American Mother and a British father, the first thing I notice about Adler is his softly spoken New York drawl and general demeanour, which both seem a million miles away from the gritty gangster milieu he chooses to depict in his films.
I start by asking him about his influences and who are the people he looked up to when he was growing up.
Z.A: “I grew up on the usual – Scorsese, Coppola, Spielberg etc, but my personal influences came from an internship in London for a music video company at the height of their game, they made iconic videos for U2, Sinead O’Connor and so on.”
I ask him, why London? Why not Hollywood?
Z.A: “I had made a comedy in America about internet dating called Casual Encounters , starring David Arquette, which was taken on by Carnaby Films in London [a production and distribution company specialising in genre and indie films]. At the time, I had just moved to Europe from L.A., and found myself at Carnaby’s offices where I went to look at a trailer for the film, and it was at that meeting that I found out that they were looking for a director for The Rise Of The Krays, so they asked and I said yes.”
Had he been a fan of British gangster movies?
ZA: “I had, yes. I have always loved British gangster movies. I was a big fan of Gangster Number 1, Get Carter, The Long Good Friday or even up to Lock Stock and Snatch, but also alongside of Tarantino…. the sort of films that were crime films but had a sort of creativity and energy behind them.”
Is he bothered at all that the films he finds himself involved with, despite their popularity amongst a certain working class demographic, remain ignored by the mainstream.
ZA: “I think it’s interesting, certainly with Rise of The Foot Soldier…. It’s a film which I had seen and loved before I got involved with it. I’d noticed that whenever I mentioned it to somebody, they either seemed to either hate it or love it like… in a crazed fan sort of love. For instance, my wife was in a taxi in Scotland when she got chatting with the driver. She ended up telling him that I was filming Rise Of The Foot Soldier III to which he replied that the first film was one of his favourite films of all time. So yeah, these films have certainly tapped into something which seems to resonate with people.”
So does he think that there is a kind of snobbery aimed at these types of films?
Z.A: “I’m sure there is. I think I’m a little bit lucky because I worked in LA as an assistant and then as a creative executive within a studio setting at Warner Brothers… so I think in America things are a little bit different. My interpretation of it is that there is the award system, then there is success. So if a film wins awards and is financially successful, then that’s the dream scenario… but then you could have a film which does well at Tribeca and Sundance but fails to make its money back and vice versa. Because I’m new to the British film industry, I have a less of a natural awareness of that sort of thing over here.”
Adler is right – it sometimes feels as though in Hollywood people are under very little illusion about their standing in the film industry hierarchy, and refreshingly everyone seems to be fine about the way things are. It is interesting to see how the popularity of these films, which let’s face it, are made with home consumption in mind, very seldom have any presence within the awards system in the UK and maybe that is just fine. There does however seem to be a huge amount of snobbery directed towards not only these films, but also towards the people who consume them.
I ask him if he sees these films as being B-movies, with all the baggage which comes with that particular label.
Z.A: “For me the line between B-movies and independent movies is sort of slippery….in the sense that distribution outlets seem to be changing… so more and more films are being seen that wouldn’t have been otherwise. The important thing for me is to make films and tell stories. I think any artist, whether they admit it or not, they want to reach people, they want to hit an audience and want their voice to be heard. I don’t particularly think that there is merit in trying to chase approval, critical or otherwise.”
I ask Adler about his experiences working with well known faces in the British gangster film genre and whether there’s anyone in particular he would love to work with in the future.
ZA: “It’s tempting to say Tom Hardy [Hardy who also starred as the Kray twins in Legend which came out around the same time as Adler’s film], I think he is a genuinely talented actor, so yeah… I also just got to work with Jamie Foreman whom I have been almost stalking for years and trying to find a thing we could work together on, it was a great experience to also work with Larry Lamb.”
I finish by asking him about his immediate future projects and what he hopes to achieve in the next year.
ZA: “We start shooting the third Krays movie soon, the film centres around the Krays and the American Mafia. Having a third film is a great opportunity to highlight all the things we weren’t able to cover in the first two films…… there are literally hundreds of stories relating to the Krays. And we know that Ronnie was obsessed with mob and American gangster movies. As for the future, I think I definitely want to make more films that are gritty and dark – it’s what I’m drawn to. I think being in this industry you are constantly growing and trying to take risks.”
Adler’s films may not appeal to a mainstream audience, nor can they be considered to be groundbreaking by any measure, nevertheless these films have a huge appeal and like it or not, they create huge revenue for the people who make and distribute them. Rise of the Footsoldier: The Beginning will be released later in the year. Adler will also soon be Executive Producing football thriller, Final Score, which will star Pierce Brosnan.
The Krays And The Mafia will start shooting soon.