Brian Helgeland Legend Interview

Director Brian Helgeland talks about crime biopic Legend starring Tom Hardy as London’s infamous gangster twins Ronnie and Reggie Kray.

Q. When did you first hear about the Krays?

I can tell you it was in 1988. I had been asked to go on tour with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, I heard about them then form a guy who was involved with the ban. He told me some stories about them. I was very interested in them because when I first heard the name Krays I thought it was like a wild animal, I didn’t know what it was, but I quickly learned. It was just a fascinating thing it wasn’t’ like I knew I wanted to do a film about them until I was contacted by working title many years later.

Q. Does the connection between celebrity and organised crime still exist in that way?

I think you always meet people you could never meet otherwise. Usually in Hollywood they’re arms merchants who have a lot of money ad want to launder it. So usually yeah you meet interesting characters who you would never normally meet if you had a normal job.

Q. How much of the film is anecdotal and how much is fantasy?

I felt like, the book ‘profession of violence’ had been optioned. I felt obligated to try and cover as much as I could. I read a lot of books, met people they knew as adults. I read a lot of bad stuff and schlocky material.  What was interesting was how extreme it all was, between the accounts of them helping old ladies across the street or nailing people to the floor. I never came across people wo had such an extreme mythology behind them. I don’t know what the truth is but I thought trying to find something in the middle of all that would be the truest thing I could do. I was interested in humanizing them in a way.

Q. What was the toughest challenge of having Tom play both roles?

We tried to not make the camera to aware of what was going on, to not make it too aware of what he was doing. So it was a lot of little things really. There were some things we found were just untenable in terms of how much time they took up. Motion control shots and stuff like that. We wanted it to go away really, we had a couple of tricks and we used them over and over again without getting too fancy.

Q. The Krays mother has only a very small presence in the film despite being a big character in their lives. We’re you concerned about having her reduced to such a small role in the film?

We had Frances and her mom as a child and mother relationship and I thought that was kind of enough for the film. I mean so much has been done about the mom and the boys that I sort of wanted to stay away from it in a way. That’s really been done to death. We had a very interesting scene with the three of them. But also I didn’t really buy into it. I mean there’s been so much about it but every gangster story I know the boys are close with their mom, so I didn’t especially take it as something that was unique to the Krays. Maybe that’s not true and that’s just my own point of view, but I thought that Frances and her mom covered things in a way that meant I didn’t need to look into it with the boys and their mom.

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