Dexter fits the Bill

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AS an actor who has been a regular in Guy Ritchie mockney gangster movies, it’s no surprise to learn that Dexter Fletcher’s first film as director is set among criminals in East London.

But Wild Bill is a very different animal, he insists. “This film is about real people and relationships,” he says.

Dexter Fletcher directing Wild Bill

Dexter Fletcher directing Wild Bill

“The East End is a world we all know and I felt comfortable with but I felt there is so much more in the genre – if it is a genre film – than a load of blokes kicking the shit out of each other and saying stuff that doesn’t matter.

“I wanted everything in this film to matter. I think that played to our advantage because everyone could see the gangsters and think they know what they’re about and concentrate on the other characters.”

Wild Bill tells the story of an ex-con coming out of jail and trying to connect with his two young sons amid pressure from his old crime cohorts to repay some debts.

The story takes place against a backcloth of building work for Olympics 2012 but Fletcher says he hadn’t made the connection at first until he started scouting locations in East London.

“Newham Council showed me this tower block which had six empty flats on one floor and I looked out of the window and there was the Olympic village and the stadium and the velodrome being built.

“I thought this is just too good and I went back to the writer and we talked about what we could do about it, whether Dean, Bill’s son, could work on the building site and it started to become more and more integral and it was just one of those fortuitous things.

“It came together because we knew that environment and I went and spent a lot of time there and walked around and got to know it and it began to become a character in the story more and more.

“And it also reflected Bill’s journey, Here was a man who was supposedly one thing but going through this massive change and that to my mind reflects a lot of the story and means we don’t have to stick in big wordy scenes. It’s there, the audience can see in front of them – this change – hear the sounds of it and feel the vibrations of it “

Dexter Fletcher has had a busy acting career from childhood in the film Bugsy Malone and TV’s Press Gang (with Charlie Creed-Miles who plays Bill) to Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Hotel Babylon and Band of Brothers. After 35 years what made him switch to directing? “When you’ve been in acting as long as I have there are always aspirations to move across to the other side of the camera and it just became the right time, the right material and the right set of people,” he says. “It was a magical coming together of the right elements and the right opportunity”