Speaking to us last year on set at the formidable, but sadly slowly eroding, Battersea Power Station Isaac’s humble passion for his first film was infectious. It was that passion which brought about a fine cast including Gabriel Byrne starring alongside Toby Stephens and Rufus Sewell in the battle between a crime boss and a police officer with the lines which separate them blurring throughout.
In tempting Gabriel Bryne back to the crime genre Isaac evokes the spirit of Tom Reagan and Dean Keaton and we spoke to the actor about how Isaac’s vision convinced the actor to return to a genre which brought him his greatest successes along with the trappings of being stereotyped.
“I’ve worked with loads of first time directors before, he’s enthusiastic and he know his movies. In the discussions we had the films he referenced were films I admired, Prince of the City, Marathon Man, Bullitt, The French Connection – all those 70s films. I like working with young directors. When you work with a young director who knows what they want, and are passionate about it, that’s very seductive. George is the only director I’ve worked with in thirty years who had a back story for every character in the film. You have to go with somebody’s passion.
“Bryan Singer was a first time director and The Usual Suspects was a small crime film which no-one knew would go anywhere. Those films become part of the young directors’ education. For me it’s about what the script is trying to say, and it’s a long time since I’ve played a gangster in a film. Doing Miller’s Crossing with The Coen Brothers resulted in about four or five years of ‘Will you do another gangster film?’ and at the end of that was The Usual Suspects. Then it was another five years of ‘Will you do a gangster film?’, so it’s nice to come back.
Miller’s Crossing is example of a completely assured film, and it’s a period drama, and Byrne talked about the accomplishment of the young directors and how they took the genre and made it their own.
“You’re so right, it is such an assured film. The language in that film is the most sophisticated of any film in the ‘90s expect perhaps Tarantino. The way The Coen Brothers took those paperback novels of the ‘40s and ‘50s, and referred back to movies like The Glass Key… Gangster films have been around for years, no-one is going to come up with a new genre unless they criss-cross, like with science fiction and gangster films, and they’ve tried those and they don’t seem to work because people seem to want to be comfortable with a genre. Sometimes the dialogue can be a very thin pen underlining the action, Miller’s Crossing and Tarantino’s films are the exception in that the action and the dialogue work together. With film you remember the images, but it’s like a great song when the lyrics are so much part of the music.”
If you’re unsure about All Things to All Men, my advice is take a chance on it. It is another London based crime film and we are in no short supply of those but George Isaac can convince Gabriel Byrne to pull on the comfortable, and sometimes confining, trousers of the gangster one more time then that should be enough to convince you.