In this honest interview, Dyer speaks candidly about his work – and describes some of the mistakes he feels he has made, and why he should be taken more seriously as an actor. He tells us why he likes to make films that you ‘f****** hate’, his work with Harold Pinter, and how he can’t seem to avoid calling actor Adam Woodyatt ‘Ian Beale’ since joining the cast of Eastenders…
Warning: This interview contains A LOT of swearing.
Your character Jimmy Vickers is on a revenge plot after his parents are brutally murdered, and though he takes the law in his hand to quite extreme measures – were you still able to relate to him and put yourself in his shoes, and think – what would I do in this situation?
I think that’s the point of the movie, it’s raising that question. You’ve got to think, you open a newspaper everyday and this shit happens. If someone you love with all your fucking heart, someone pure, someone that wouldn’t harm a fucking fly is taken from you by these nasty, scum of the earth, and then they’re walking around free and you are a trained fighting machine – would you go there? I know I fucking would. I tell you that now. Would it give me closure? Would it make me feel happy? No. But they do not deserve to be walking the streets after what they did. I think any man would feel that way. Any man, woman, it’s just a natural instinct to want to protect the things you love.
The character is quite pensive and there’s a lot going on inside his head – it’s quite different to what we usually see you doing, is it quite important for you to show off your range of acting and the variety of roles you can play?
He’s grieving, you know, he’s sad. But yeah, I’ve been really down and I’ve been beating myself up a bit. I’ve had a couple of years of negativity, negativity, negativity, wave after fucking wave of it – and you start to believe it a little bit, you know? I know I’m a serious fucking actor, and I know I’ve got this personality and I perhaps give too much away as a human being, and I’ve said some stupid fucking things. But it has always been about acting for me, I never wanted to be famous, it was never really about the money – it was always about being good at something and being able to express something that came very naturally to me, because this is the only shit thing I can do. I can’t do fuck all else. When it starts to be overshadowed by all the other bullshit, it really did start to affect me. My phone wasn’t ringing, I had bills that needed paying, I have children, I have a mortgage, and I started to panic a little bit, because the scripts that were being thrown at me were shit, but yet I had to pay bills. Of course they come out and they bite me on the arse and you’re only as good as your last job. I used to be able to green light films for three millions pounds, this film was made for a hundred grand, but it was a script that landed on my door and I though, thank the fucking lord, I can now pick up a script and show people what I can do with no 50 foot trailers, no airs and graces, getting changed in pub toilets, everyone coming together, and going right – it’s about the craft, it’s about the art, it’s about really selling this story, and really trying to get into people’s minds a little bit. For me, I like making films that raise debate. I like making films that either you fucking hate with a passion or you love, and it inspires you. Because that hate still means it’s raising a reaction, it’s still giving you something. My worst nightmare is making a film like Run For Your Wife where people have no emotion to it whatsoever, it was only the critics who said it was the worst British movie ever made, which I thought was a bit unfair, but it was just a bit wishy-washy and I don’t do wishy-washy. Don’t get me wrong, I got paid handsomely for that film, but it just didn’t really leave a mark on the world. Football Factory did, Human Traffic did, because whether it was right or wrong to make that kind of movie, it was real. It was honest. As is this. That’s why when it’s violent it needs to be fucking violent. It’s not violent constantly, it’s actually very rare that’s violent, but when it’s fucking violent it makes up for the parts where it’s not violent [laughs].
Talking of your career, you obviously worked with Harold Pinter – which people perhaps don’t associate you with. Is there a conscious decision now to turn around and change the public’s perceptions of you?
I hope so. But you can only do what is put in front of you. You sit around as an actor waiting, and waiting and waiting for the audition or the script to come along. It’s fine when you’ve got no children and you have no bills really because you can do that – but when you’ve got that pressure of having to live and survive you can’t wait around forever. The Pinter thing for me was a magical time, because he had faith in me and I was very close to him. He was the first man to tell me fucking straight, who respected me as an actor but also called me a cunt, you know. I remember one time when I was doing No Man’s Land at the National and I was late, I’d had a fucking bender the night before, and he sent his assistant round to my house and the cleaner let his assistant in and woke me up out of my bed, and I knew I was fucked and I knew I’d fucked it and I came in and he pulled me aside and he said, ‘Danny, if ever this was an ensemble piece, this is it – don’t ever let me down again!’ and I was like, fucking liven yourself up, you know, that’s all he needed to say. The only time I ever dried on stage it killed me, and that was on Broadway when I was doing Celebration. All the other actors were going, ‘it’s alright Danny’, but he just came up to me and looked me in the eye and that’s all he needed to do, because there was this reassurance that it was okay. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have had the career I’ve had. I learnt from that. Some of the prick critics who wanna fucking assassinate me and mock me and think I’m a fucking joke forget that I worked with him, one of our greatest ever playwrights who cast me in four of his plays. They like to forget that.
Johnny Vegas is releasing a book where he discusses how Johnny Vegas is a character he’s become synonymous with, and someone he can’t escape. Is that similar to ‘Danny Dyer’ – do you feel you’ve almost become entwined with this caricature of who you really are, with expectations to be that person?
It’s weird because I see people’s impressions of me, like Keith Lemon did one, Morgana Robinson did one, there’s been numerous impressions and I watch it and go, wow, fuck. I’m just me, Johnny Vegas is a stand-up comedian, so I think sometimes you get into the realm of maybe, when you become famous people have a perception of you, sometimes you play up to it a little bit – but no, it’s true, it’s from the heart, I am what I am. I’m not really good at the media thing, I do say cunt a bit, and I do walk like a duck – it takes a long time to get that down to a tee, walking like a duck. It’s weird, you know. At the end of the day I’m an actor and that’s my passion and that’s my trade, but unfortunately some of the other stuff does creep in, but I couldn’t all of a sudden come out and go, [in a posh accent] ‘I want to now be known as Daniel Dyer.’ I just want to work for as long as I can and feed my children and pay my fucking mortgage and be happy in life, that’s all I ask of, and hope that everybody who I love stays healthy. That’s it… just try not to upset too many people along the way.
If you try and take money out of the equation as much as you can, I know that’s not a reality perhaps, but where would you like to be in ten years time, and what sort of journey would you like to go on along the way?
I dunno man, I made a massive decision and signed up to Eastenders so this will be a long thing for me. I’ve done it the other way around. I’ve had the film career and the theatre career and then I’ve come into Eastenders as quite a high-profile person. Usually you go into Eastenders and nobody knows who you are and then you become famous then you come out and you’re fucked. I’ve done it the other way around. But i’d like to get more involved in theatre and I’d like to direct theatre. I’m not too interested in directing movies and the technical side of it, I just like to work with actors, young actors from working class backgrounds, get in their heads and give them confidence and bring out that fucking talent, you know? That’s what I’d like to go in to, whether or not that will be the case, I don’t know.
Do you think you might be able to do that concurrently with Eastenders?
I dunno, it would probably come after that because it will take up most of my time to do that because you’ve got to give everything, your whole devotion to it. But yeah, why not?
Have you started shooting Eastenders yet?
Yeah I’ve been doing it for a month. Opening episode Christmas day.
With all the other actors, are you calling them by their character names?
Yeah you have to really think before you say anything. Ian Beale is the worst one [laughs]. It’s Adam, Adam, Adam, Adam… So yeah it’s a bit weird that. But my character is called Mick Carter, so maybe I’ll become Mick to everyone. That would be fucking weird wouldn’t it?
Vendetta is released in cinemas on November 22, and comes to DVD/Blu-ray on December 23.