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Gangster No 1

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Gangster No 1 tells the story of the emblematically named Gangster, who rises through the London underworld to usurp his mentor Freddie Mays (David Thewlis). But director Paul McGuigan sees it as much more than a genre crime film. "It's like a Greek tragedy, about a man who is propelled not so much by hatred but by obsession," he says.

"Because it's a simple, character-driven story we could put a lot of thought into the whole style of the film," explains McGuigan. The stylish surface is appropriate for the story of a man obsessed by the glamour of gangland life.

Production designer Richard Bridgland, who had the task of recreating 1960s London for the substantial portion of the film that takes place in flashback, says he responded to what he describes as the "mythic quality" of the script. "The gold, mirrors and glitter play a part because it's all empty, like the hollow victory Gangster scores," Bridgland explains. He and McGuigan searched for "1960s modern" locations in hotels, clubs and flats around London, while costume designer Jany Temime dressed the men in sharp suits from tailors such as Mark Powell and Ozwald Boateng. Paul Bettany, who plays young Gangster in the flashback scenes (Malcolm McDowell is the older, present-day Gangster) saw the image as essential to his character: "When you're standing there in a pure silk suit by Mark Powell... well, half your job's done for you."

McGuigan was drawn to the "powerful and unusual" script with its "poetic" voice-over, as were the actors; Thewlis describes the language as "stylised and eloquent, straight out of left field".

McGuigan's first full-length feature after his award-winning trilogy of shorts The Acid House, Gangster No 1 was released in the UK in June, to critical acclaim.


Type of film
Paul McGuigan
John Dankworth.
Paul McGuigan.
Exec prod
Peter Bowles.
Norma Heyman, Jonathan Cavendish.
Nicky Kentish Barnes, Ulrich Felsberg.
Johnny Ferguson, based on the play by Louis Mellis and David Scinto.
Peter Sova.
Prod des
Richard Bridgland.
Andrew Hulme.
Main cast
Malcolm McDowell, David Thewlis, Paul Bettany, Saffron Burrows, Kenneth Cranham.
British Screen, BSkyB, Filmboard Berlin Brandenburg.


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Last updated 24th June 2005

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