Christopher Eccleston Legend Interview

Doctor Who star Christopher Eccleston talks about playing notorious policeman Nipper Read in the Krays biopic Legend starring Tom Hardy as both gangster twins Ronnie and Reggie. The film directed by Brian Helgeland charts the rise and fall of the  infamous London criminal brothers.

Q. When did you first hear about the Krays?

Who are the Krays? I heard about them when I was a teenage boy like Tom really. There’s a point where teenage boys get very interested in gothic violence and I remember going to the true crime section a lot around 14 I’d think. I have twin brothers so obviously I was particularly interested in it.

Q. How did you research the roles?

To quote David Bowie “ I threw my homework on the fire and took a car downton”. I think there’s a lot of bollocks spoken about research. I think that it’s make believe. I felt what Brian had written sent a very clear message on what he wanted. So I relied entirely on what Brian had written and wat happened on set. Me and Brian did have a number of conversations about what kind of a dog Nipper would have been. I think we decided on a Bloodhound. Because according to Brian, this may be complete fantasy, but he says a Bloodhound will run until it dies. It will chase a criminal or its prey until its heart bursts. I threw in Malvolio from Twelfth Night, because I saw Nipper as a man who was absolutely puritanical, a man of the fifties who did not want the sixties to happen. Did not want the Krays to have sex and fun. Did not want the Rolling Stones to have fun. He was the man form the previous 10-20 years. No homework, just drugs with Brian Helgeland.

Q. Why do you think Nipper became so obsessed with the Krays?

I seized on the class theme that Brian presented, in that he believed that they were from similar backgrounds and he felt a good deal of class shame about what they were doing. I think Nipper was obsessive generally I think you probably have to be. I think what’s interesting about Nipper was surviving as a northern copper in the metropolitan police department. That must have been difficult. I think he was a workaholic, I think he was obsessive. He was also humiliated as we show in the film on numerous occasions by Rona and Reg and he didn’t forget that. He got there in the end.

Q. Was it hard for you acting opposite Tom playing two roles?

It was a deeply humbling experience in stereo. I think I’m not sure I really experienced it, there’s one sequence where Nipper is jammed between Reg and Ronnie. But I don’t think we had time on the day. I didn’t have time for him to change so we did it with the stand in Jacob. I think 99% of my scenes were with Reg. I had one scene with Ron and that was a revelation. That was very interesting because I’d only ever met Tom as Reg then suddenly there was Ron. They were completely different and having twin brothers in real life that was very interesting to see what an actor was doing with both roles. I was very jealous.

Q. Did you enjoy the period costume?

I looked exactly like my paternal grandfather and he was a frightening man. I was struck by that when I put on the gear and looked at myself in the mirror. I actually based it on him. I based it on his effect on me as a child and his basic outlook as I imagined it. So it was helpful.

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