Keeping Up With Vinnie Jones

Four friends try to escape a viral pandemic in the American West. They ultimately discover that they are more dangerous to each other. went behind the scenes of the movie with Hollywood bad boy Vinnie Jones and Irish director Mark Mahon..

Q. Vinnie, you first came to public attention as a footballer. It’s ten years since you played professional football. Do you feel people still associate you with football?

Jones: I never let the grass grow around my feet. I’m always moving on. It’s the same in the movies. I do a movie, I move on to the next one but certainly from football, I feel I’ve moved on. 

Q. Are you ever afraid of being type cast in these roles?

Jones: You are worried because it limits you to certain roles but what you have to make sure is that you stay at what you’re good at and go and do other things too. Show them that there is more to you.  I’ve done two horror movies now and two or three comedies. I’m also a major player in a comedy with Jack Black next year called ‘Year On’e. My CV is getting bigger. 

Q. Tell us about the character of Smasher O’Driscoll.

Jones: Smasher, for me, was a funny character. He is the sort of guy you’d love having around for the craic but you’ll never know when he’ll turn on you.  

Mahon: That was the thing about Smasher, which is great. He starts off as somewhat of a loveable rogue, like in the bar scene there is a cheeky element to him. It’s only when he goes to his only people, his senior people, you realise that this guy is dangerous.  

Jones:  It’s one of my favourite roles I’ve played. I honestly believe I’ve played a role here that not everybody could. Not only to act with Madsen, Chamerberlain and Bergin, and to pull it off, but to do an accent as well.

Q. Did you have training for the Irish accent?

Jones: Well, this is my second time doing an accent for a film; the first was an American accent and now Irish. It’s terrifying.  I spoke to Travellers for the role, so my training came from life. The only thing that got me through it was, when I came out of my trailer, I was Smasher. I had to be Smasher and stay in character all day.


Q. Did you have physical training for the film?

Jones:  When I was a lad, I boxed in a club near Watford. I did six weeks of training for this, just to get the moves back. I actually think boxing is the hardest sport. The other thing is throwing punches for the camera is very different, as is reacting to them. My wife actually thought that the punches were real, but they are obviously exaggerated for the camera.

Q. Mark, how did you go about funding the film?

Mahon: It was a struggle. The best thing was after I picked up an award for one of my other projects in Hollywood. I was being courted by the studios but nothing had happened, so we just decided to do it ourselves. I had a library of works and we looked for what was the most viable movie to make at the time and that movie was ‘Strength and Honour’. 

Q. The cast of the film is a mix of old and new Hollywood well as native Irish actors. How did you go about casting for the film?

Mahon: Well there was an interesting story about casting Chamerberlain because he had been retired for years. I bumped into him and recognised him because my grandmother had loved to watch ‘The Thorn Birds’. He was a big actor in his day. He asked me what I was doing and I gave him my card. He read the script and a week later I got a call from his manager who said he was interested. Of course that was fine, opportunity knocks. Originally the character Denis O’Leary was small and bald and I was thinking what can I give Richard Chamberlain. Immediately Denis became slim and good looking for his age. I told his manager I was going to be very honest with him, we had no money and he turned around and said ‘you’re not listening to me, he loves the script.’  

Jones: Michael Madsen and I came on board for the some reason, this film wasn’t about paying the mortgage; it was about the script.  

Mahon: To be honest, that’s the one thing I was delighted about as a scriptwriter. You always hear people say it’s not true, but it is- actors respond to what they classify as good work. If you have something good, money doesn’t even come into the equation. It’s hope for any scriptwriter out there; you can attract A-list Hollywood actors.

Q. Vinnie, how did you find working on this film, compared to other high budget films you’ve worked on, for instance ‘X-Men’?

Jones: Well, one actor in ‘X-Men’ was on more money than this film cost in total, which just blows your mind away. You’ve got to be honest with yourself. Yes, you do have to pay your mortgage, so certainly you have to earn money, but I think most of the actors out there, probably all of them, are looking for that little gem. That’s why Michael and I did this. 

Q. This was Mark’s directorial debut. How did you find working with him compared to some of the other directors you’ve worked for?  

Jones: Mark brought a lot of passion to the project. With some directors you can’t see the wood for the trees; they are too close to the project. That wasn’t the case with Mark. The main thing with this film was the prep for it. We all got in the car and we knew who was driving. He had storyboarded everything. In that sense, it was very easy and to be honest, that’s how you want to come to work.  

Mahon: I knew this was effectively my shot at the title and there was no way I was going to miss it. I knew that Vinnie, Michael and everyone were giving themselves to me for nothing and they trusted me. I wasn’t going to blow that. 

Q. What are your plans after you finish this project?

Mahon: We’re working together again on another project called ‘Freedom within the Heart’. It’s the story of Brian Boru. It’s being shot in Cork.

Q. What character will you be playing Vinnie?

Jones: I’m playing Ivor of Limerick

Mahon: He’s the central antagonist.  

Jones: What do you mean by antagonist?

Mahon: I mean bad ass!  

Jones : *laughs* Nice way of putting it.