Craig Fairbrass On Cockney Gangster Movies, Call Of Duty And Game Of Thrones

The Godfather of the cockney gangster flick talks to loaded.

London Heist

Craig Fairbrass is a one-man crime wave.

In the wake of Danny Dyer’s move to Albert Square, he’s assumed the mantle as the UK’s go-to action star; a man that can be relied upon to deliver to an audience with an insatiable thirst for Cockney crime thrillers.

London Heist is his latest effort, with Fairbrass penning the script as well as starring in the film, and the action moving between the capital and Marbella. An enjoyable, action-packed thriller, it’s a film that delivers pretty much everything you would expect – if you liked either Rise of The Foot Soldier or the equally enjoyable St George’s Day then this is right up your street. 

loaded spoke to the man himself about script writing, the ingredients of a great London gangster movie and his return to the Rise of the Footsoldier franchise.

loaded: This is your second film as writer and your first screenplay – is writing something you’ve been looking to get into for a while?

Craig: Not really, no – you need patience and that’s one thing I lack. Writing is a long process and it has to be right even on the low budget indie film front. London Heist (originally titled Gunned Down) has been with me for over 25 yrs and has been constantly evolving to meet different budgets.

loaded: Why this story and why now?

Craig: The story came from my experience of being in Spain as a young lad in Marbella and some of the characters I have met down the years with my Dad.

To be honest, after Rise of the Footsoldier and St George’s Day I got sort of positioned in this genre and some distribution companies were interested in looking at similar stuff. That’s where London Heist came in. I was working with a director in Los Angeles at the time on the script who got sucked into all the bollocks that exists out there where he wouldn’t do his share of the script work without being paid silly money.

That ended up being a blessing in disguise though. I decided to send the script, as it was, to Mark McQueen who I had previously worked with on Devils Playground. Mark is hugely talented, very film literate but above all was quick and stylish and had a great cinematic eye, which is what you need on indie films. He absolutely loved it and that got me excited about the project because I knew how fussy he could be.

So we worked on it together. Mark would send notes and I would write and we adapted it along with my son Luke. He produced it and really made us brutally cut it down to stay on the budget, but still with the aim of making a great looking, quality, entertaining film.

loaded: What are the key ingredients in a top British gangster film?

Craig: A good script and solid story are crucial. You have to remember at this level most of the films in this genre are literally unwatchable. Secondly, the actors have to know that world, to come across believable. I’ve been lucky in that Rise Of The Footsoldier and St George’s Day are both proper films, that are cinematic with solid performances which really resonated well with our loyal audience.

loaded: You’re an absolute beast in London Heist – was it exhausting to film?

Craig: It was brutal. Especially when you are on tight schedule. It should have taken three times longer than we had but we smashed filming in Spain out in a week and then came back to London and smashed that in under three. It was tough at times but I loved it and am obsessed by it – the hard work, the reward, caring and generally trying to make a quality film. As this was my project and my script I also had a lot of control and me and Mark were on the same page regarding style and pace and the overall look.

loaded: What is it about London-set gangster movies that make it such an enduring sub-genre? 

Craig: Good question. There is something about London crime films I have always been obsessed with. When I was a kid, I used to watch everything from The Blue Lamp to the The Long Good Friday and The Italian Job, dreaming of one day of working on that type of film.

Now, I’m not kidding myself – by no means is our film in the same caliber as The Long Good Friday but I’ve always given it my heart and soul into my work and the fans love these films.

loaded: You’re a Londoner born and bred. What is it that makes London such a great city for you?

Craig: Yeah, I was born in Mile End. My Dad was docker and always had a keen eye for photography and used to take me out with him. I can remember standing as a boy in Greenwich Park looking down at the view and realising what a stunning city London is,  it lends itself to so many iconic, cinematic backdrops and always looks so impressive on film.

Craig Fairbrass in London Heist.
London Heist Bloody great fun

loaded: What do you hope audiences take away from this film?

Craig: To be entertained. It’s a gripping little film that really moves with a decent story. I’m really proud of it. Everyone involved worked really hard on it and got to say Luke and Mark really helped make it what is it.

loaded: You’ve done some voice work on Call of Duty recently, what was that like?

Craig: Fantastic. I’ve loved doing the games and have been lucky enough to have done four Call of Duty games, even though I have been killed off twice – they keep bringing me back!

Playing Lt. Simon “Ghost” Riley in Modern Warfare 2 was mind-blowing. I literally got thousand of email from gamers all around the world who were genuinely gutted and upset when my character was killed. It’s crazy how serious this shit is, This has all led on to me now working in motion capture games – I’ve just worked on Squadron 42 Star Citizen with Gary Oldman, Mark Strong and Gillian Anderson.

loaded: You star alongside Game of Thrones’ James Cosmo in this movie. Any chance of you heading over to Westeros for a stint on the show?

Craig: I’m obsessed with Game of Thrones, I absolutely love the show and would kill to be in it, like most actors – who knows? Stranger things have happened.

loaded: There’s a Rise of the Footsoldier 3 on the way – how on Earth is your character in that after what happened to him in the first film?

Craig:  It’s a prequel to the original that takes place before, when Pat was on the run in Spain and explains how they all ended up meeting that gruesome end. It’s seriously out there on the brutality front, uber violent. I’m excited because I know the fans of the franchise are gonna go mad for it, I’ve seen an early cut and it’s really coming together.

loaded: Does seeing Danny Dyer on Eastenders ever make you think about returning to the Square?

Craig: Obviously, I’m mates with Danny after we worked together on Devils Playground. He’s blinding in Eastenders and was just what the show needed. As far as Dan Sullivan [Fairbrass’ character on the show] goes, that’s another character who’s hiding in Spain.

loaded: One thing we’ve often wondered about is Cliffhanger – how did you get that gig and what was it like working with people like Sylvester Stallone, John Lithgow, and Michael Rooker?

Craig: I went out to Los Angeles for six weeks in 1992 , which seems like a lifetime ago now, after an agent saw me in Prime Suspect. I started auditioning and after being seen three times for the film secured the role in Cliffhanger [Fairbrass plays a henchman with a passion for ‘soccer’]. It was a massive deal for me and a huge personal achievement that I still reminisce about to this day. It changed my whole outlook on things and the business.

loaded: What have you got coming up next?

Craig: I’m currently working on a top secret motion capture game that I can’t talk about as all of these things now you have to sign an NDA agreement. Also really excited to start filming the role of the psychotic Terry, the personal trainer in Gerard Johnson’s new film Muscle. He directed Hyena, which is excellent and he is some I really admire. Onwards and upwards!

London Heist is out now on DVD and digital platforms.

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