On December 6, 1995, three men were found shot dead in a Range Rover down a small farm track in the village of Rettendon in Essex.
The slain trio were identified as Tony Tucker, Craig Rolfe and Pat Tate – three notorious drug dealers operating in the Essex area during glory days of the 90s rave scene. It was a crime that became known as the Range Rover Murders and one that would capture the imagination of filmmakers in the 20+ years since.
Nine films covering various aspects of the story and the lives of Tate, Tucker and Rolfe have been made since, to varying degrees of success. Arguably the most memorable came via Carlton Leach, a surviving friend and colleague, who parlayed his experiences into the book Rise of the Footsoldier, which was eventually adapted into a film.
Now back for a third instalment, Rise of the Footsoldier 3: The Pat Tate Story focuses in on the most notorious of the Rettendon murder victims, played by Craig Fairbrass reprising his role from the first movie.
A bold and brutal prequel showcasing Tate’s rapid rise up the criminal food chain and descent into drug-addled madness, loaded got a chance to speak to Fairbrass ahead of the film’s released – and the encounter did not disappoint.
Check out an exclusive clip from the film below.
loaded: What convinced you to return to the role of Pat Tate?
Craig: Because it was the same people that were involved in the first film. I was first approached by Carnaby Films and Julian Gilbey about doing a prequel. I’d been offered most of the other ones but just wasn’t that impressed with the scripts. When I heard it was the original guys from the first film I decided I would have a look at the script and it went from there.
loaded: How do you prepare yourself to play this bloke?
Craig: I play what’s on the page. You learn your lines and you do your research. I’ve always tried to make that stuff as authentic and real as it can possibly be. The reason the character stood out in the first film is because of the way the move was put together and that includes my performance. There was an air of authenticity that resonated with audiences. It was disturbing and unsettling to them. It’s tough to find that line but when you do it works.
loaded: Tate has been described as the Scarface of Southend – is that fair?
Craig: Yeah, I suppose so. They were notorious in that small part of the world they were from back in the 1990s. There really wasn’t a lot of competition back then. Three guys who were behaving like they were were always bound to stand out.
loaded: Your character takes a lot of drugs in the film – was that true of the real Pat Tate?
Craig: When Pate Tate died, the autopsy showed he had 12 different kinds of drugs in his system. From steroids to coke to MDMA, puff and Charlie. You name it – appetite suppressants, fat-burners – he was on everything. It made him a giant tornado of a man, a lunatic, and I tried to get across in my performance.
Where I grew up in London, you used to meet people who you might say could ‘turn on a sixpence’ – violent, vicious blokes who would fly off the handle at the slightest thing. I tried to get some of that into the character.
loaded: Was this role as physically demanding as it looked on the screen?
Craig:I’m getting older but I can still do all that stuff fine. Because I was the lead character in this I felt like the onus was on me to set an example. Be on set every day, be on top of the material, that sort of thing.I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to that stuff. In anything, I found the emotional stuff more draining than the physical stuff on this. The ferocity of it all and the level of violence that runs throughout the story.
loaded: Which was the toughest scene to film?
Craig: The scene in the prison, with my character’s wife, Kate. [Tate takes drugs before having brief, animalistic, sex with his partner in a small storage room. It’s deliberately grim.] The drugs are taking their toll and he’s just got no shame and has become an animal. It’s the point you realise the type of human being he has become and it’s just horrible. But it’s one of those scenes that you have to make real. If you don’t, you fail. So it has to be horrible. You want audiences to feel uncomfortable with a scene like that.
loaded: How much of the film is based on real-life?
Craig: The storylines we followed were based on Pat Tate’s actual experience of going on the run in Spain, twice. He came back, went into prison and met certain individuals that led to him dealing drugs. All I know are the real facts and structure of the story is true. Whether they were embellished for the film, is another story. But that’s poetic license – otherwise you’d have a film of him sitting in a cell for an hour and a half.
loaded: What was it like working with Shaun Ryder?
Craig: I found him to be a really nice guy. It was hard for him at first because he came down to the set to do a couple of days filming and was flung in at the deep end. Being on a set, surrounded by 50 to 100 extras on a prison scene, filming for the first time it can be quite daunting. But the more he did it, the more he enjoyed it. I think that comes across in the film.
loaded: Paddy Doherty [a traveller and former bare knuckle boxer who was the focus of an episode of Danny Dyer’s Deadliest Men] also features – is he as intimidating as he looks?
Craig: Yeah. Very. He’s got that air about him. I loved him. He’s a really nice guy but he’s got that authenticity that I love. And he was a natural too. So good. It’s amazing when you find people that have that natural ability who can be real in front of the camera. Some actors make the mistake of going too big with this sort of stuff and can’t see they are overdoing it.
loaded: Why do filmmakers keep coming people keep coming back to the Rettendon murders?
Craig: I don’t know. There have been a lot of shit films made about the murders though. Literally unwatchable. I was lucky I was in the first one and this one. I was asked to do a few more and fortunately said no. There does seem to be a fascination with those murders and that part of the world. If you had said, all those years ago, that there would be this many films about it, you wouldn’t have believed it. But there is an audience.
loaded: What do you hope audiences take away from Rise of the Footsoldier 3?
Craig: I hope they appreciate it and that they realise this is the heart and soul of the first film – the team that were instrumental in the first movie. Rise Of The Footsoldier starts and ends the story. I’m hoping this film lives up to the original.
Footsoldier wasn’t necessarily ground-breaking but it has become something of a cult classic. I get people contacting me all the time telling me how much they loved the film. Julian Gilbey did a great job with it. It had this visceral violence and was shot in a way that was quite real. I think the third one has got the violence but it’s also got the same humour and drama. There’s a good mix. You can see that the three guys – Craig, Tony and Pat- were mates. I just hope people enjoy it for what it is.
loaded: Is that it for the Rise of the Footsoldier movies?
Craig: You never know. Let’s see how this one does first. I’d play Pat Tate again though. It’s one of the most enjoyable jobs I’ve ever done. You are going to work for four weeks with your mates. Everyone knows each other and has a laugh. By the same token, once the cameras are rolling everyone is on their A-game. I would always be up for more.
loaded: What it is about cockney gangster movies that is so appealing to audiences?
Craig: I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been in the best ones like Rise Of The Footsoldier, St George’s Day and London Heist. I’ve tried to maintain a level of quality where the films are well made and well directed with good actors and a good script. Get those ingredients each time and you can make something special. Some of these other films that are almost unwatchable. You put them on and after thirty seconds it’s chin in wheel barrow stuff – absolutely shocking.
loaded: What are you up to next?
Craig: I have been doing a lot of performance capture work on some games I can’t say too much about. I’ve worked on four Call of Duty games in the past– I do the voice on them. But I’ve got two games coming out where it’s actually me this time rather than just my voice.
I’ve signed on to star as the lead in Gerard Johnson’s new film. He directed Hyena which is great. This one is called Muscle. It’s a very, very dark thriller about a psychotic personal trainer who takes over someone’s life. And you know who that personal trainer is…