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The Violent and Gun Loving World of Darren Ward: A Severed Cinema Interview Print E-mail
Written by Jay Creepy   
Wednesday, 07 September 2016

The Violent and Gun Loving World of Darren Ward: A Severed Cinema Interview.

I swear, if there's one man within the UK indie movie scene who's responsible for more blood, violence, torture and people getting shot, it's Darren Ward. He's the go-to man for a truly low budget crimson gore flicks with unapologetic loud guns and explosions. He's also the guy who (as a big fan of the true age of films) can bag a few legends in cameo roles. From David (The Beyond) Warbeck to Bobby (Demons) Rhodes, you can guarantee a great time whilst munching a pizza and sipping a beer. Yes, Darren's films aren't masterpieces, but they're made out of a love of violent flicks and are a gift to those who know the genre and its underground dwellers.

I originally got into contact with Darren after I did an article on the currently filming, Beyond Fury a year or so back. Plus I recently reviewed his gritty crime classic, Sudden Fury (see my review). Due to my laziness, this interview is long overdue so I thought I'd throw him a load of questions at random and have fun.

Now then. It's great you've taken time out from Beyond Fury and daily life to do this interview.

 Thank you for the opportunity Jamie, it’s a pleasure.

Beyond Fury isn't far away now. The third in your trilogy of gore and guns gangster films. I get the feeling everything we've seen from you before is going to be like a crimson drop in the River Styxx compared to what you have in store this time. Any cheeky plot leaks you could give me?

Beyond Fury, will indeed be a very violent and gory crime thriller, and if we can secure the finances we need to finish the film without compromise, then yes, it is certainly the most violent and brutal film I have ever made to date! What we have in store this time around is insane!

 Awesome. Oh, boy. Come on, how far into the film are you and your crew?

We have shot a third of the film and currently we have a 40-minute edit. We are shooting with a 2.5k RAW image on prime lenses so the film looks lovely and the grade just pops the details out beautifully. Very happy with it so far. The cast and crew have been fantastic as usual, and on this film along with my regulars, I am working with a lot of new people in front and behind the camera. Fun times.

It seems your CV of films are few and far between. Why is this? Is this due to finances, broken promises or that you're busy elsewhere?

The time between films is down to a number of reasons, though primarily it is finance. It really is easier squeezing blood from a stone than raising finance for these films, or at least it is for me! Once Sudden Fury was completed and released in 1998 I kinda kicked back for a couple of years and just wrote scripts which now sit in my office gathering dust. We came close to getting 2 million from an Australian deal for a zombie film I had written Insurrection, but needless to say that never happened. I even had meetings with Ian McCulloch (Zombie) to play a lead role, which he was more than happy to do if we made a couple of changes to the script. I worked 3 years on trying to get the film financed through various agents.

In 2003 I wrote and directed a short super 16 film called Nightmares, it was premiered at the Arclight in Hollywood 2004 at the LA International Short Film Festival. It went on the win various awards at festivals around the world and ended up being screened 50+ times on SKY, Propeller TV channel. Then my first daughter was born in 2006, which inspired me to write the script for A Day of Violence. Fatherhood made me think on what I wouldn’t do for my little girl. Not justifying Mitchell’s action in the film, however it did make me stop and think!

 We started shooting A Day of Violence in July 2007 and after shooting only 4 scenes I was introduced to Danny Dyer (Football Factory, Severance) at a celebrity football match in London. Danny was given the script and a week later I received a call from his agent saying they wanted me to stop filming, recast and they would get £3 million. So we stopped filming and waited, and waited, and waited! 3 months later I am told it fell at the last hurdle in being financed.

We recharged and began filming again in December 2007. The only good thing to come out of the delay is the fact I stumbled across the Myspace account of Giovanni Lombardo Radice, I thought at first it was a fan page, but when I sent a message it came back saying "No, it is really me!!!" I sent Giovanni the script and the rest they say is history! 2008 midway filming my second daughter was born. The film was completed in the summer of 2009 and screened for sales at the Cannes film festival in 2010. The first being the UK in Sept 2010.

A Day of Violence went on the win multiple awards across the world including Best Film, Best Director, Best Special Effects. I then spent 2 years going to festivals around the globe with the film.

Between 2010 I dug out my old script for Beyond Fury, which I had first written back in 2000. It has changed dramatically from its initial first draft and is a much more richer and mature script. It doesn’t shy from the brutality, in fact, I think that element is stronger in the final draft. It reflects the random and senseless violence we encounter in our current world climate, and that is what I find scary. The shit people are doing to each other, and the fact it is up there on the internet for everyone to see.

It's funny you mentioned Ian McCulloch, I spoke with him recently. He told me how he's been up and down struggling for years to get roles. He was messed about by the team behind the remake of Survivors, things like that. That brings me to my next question. I know there's a lot of mountains for UK filmmakers to climb. In recent times though, especially for the crime genre, it appears there's far more support than there used to be. Have you felt the love off the UK industry and public change? Your speciality is crime and gangsters, with a ton of gore, this has become England's prime output in the last half a decade.

 My films are released in the UK and we were met with favourable reviews, in fact some were fucking excellent, which makes all the hard work worth it, but in the long haul no. There are plenty of films being made and all that, but nobody has been kicking down my front door throwing money at me. It is a hard, hard slog making independent films, especially the type I make. We do much better in Germany/Austria where we seem to have a nice firm fan base. As I say, there are plenty of low budget movies coming out, but most rely on poor CGI and fake guns when it comes to action. I keep it real and it truly shows in the finished film. I am very lucky to have some great friends who work in the industry, who can provide me with top special effects and pyro’s etcetera…

Being a fan of the late David Warbeck, I have to ask how it was working with him? In fact, how did the approach first happen? His role in Sudden Fury is so out of the ordinary and he appears to be totally enjoying himself. Was he enthusiastic about Sudden Fury?

Well, I meet David at a marathon film screening of Italian and Euro horror films in early 1996. He happened to walk into the bar during a film break and I approached him and explained I was currently making my first feature Sudden Fury and that I had written the part of Pike especially for him. David was a little surprised and said, yes come up to the house next week and we can talk about it.

So, I go back over to my mates at another table and was like, “Shit, Warbeck said yes.” Now, the twist here is that I never had any scenes for the character of Pike. I just couldn’t miss the opportunity to talk to David and get him involved.

When I got back from London, I immediately started to reconstruct the script and create the character of Pike. Needless to say, I meet with David and he loved the script and the footage we had shot so far. He couldn’t wait to get working on the film. He based his look in the film on Charlie Kray. I had wanted him to play against type and be a real bastard. He absolutely relished it and originally he came up with a different version of the torture scene, but we just couldn’t do it. Anyway, I haven’t told this to anyone before, so here is an exclusive Warbeck story!

 

 Originally the scene was going to take place in a quarry. The camera would start in ultra close up on a stick of dynamite, slowly the camera would pull back to reveal the dynamite shoved up the asses of the two captured men. Pike would then taunt Randall and when things turn sour, he would shoot the dynamite blowing up the naked guy. It was going to be a cool reference to Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dynamite, of which Warbeck is in. It is a real shame we couldn’t do it, but we had no money. The whole movie cost just £15,500 to make.

David threw the best parties in his lavish Hampstead home. I had the pleasure to work with someone I had grown up watching in so many Italian movies. To actually have him in my film was amazing, he was a real Gent and is still terribly missed. Many a weekend in the 15 months I knew David was spent in London, meeting some great people and hearing countless stories and anecdotes from the sets of his movies.

Sadly David passed away from Cancer in July 1997 before he could see the completed film. However, he did see edits of his scenes and many others, always championing it to people he had at the house. He phoned me when he was very ill in hospital and said he had shown it to Sage Stallone when he recorded the commentary track to The Beyond. The last scene of Sudden Fury was shot the day after David’s funeral and involved blowing up the car and fire gag.

 He sounded like the ultimate chap to work with. You can clearly see him having the time of his life playing Pike. Great bloke. Speaking of legends in your movies, another man from that classic era appeared in your second big feature. Giovanni had a smaller role in A Day of Violence, plus he's returning for Beyond Fury. How is he to work with? Is he a laugh?

Like David Warbeck, Giovanni Lombardo Radice is a joy to work with. He brings so much to the set in terms of wisdom and great great screen presence. We had a great laugh on set and again Giovanni has some great tales to tell. He returns in a lead role for Beyond Fury. He plays a Russian drug lord Ivan Lenzivitch, who isn’t afraid to get damn right dirty!

Speaking more on talents you've worked with, Nick Rendell always seems happy to come back. I take it he's the go to man for you?

Nick and I are working on the 6th film together. We like to think it’s the indie equivalent to the De Niro\Scorsese partnership (laughs). Nick just gets better and better with each film. We started making films together back in 1993 with Blue Fear, a 70 minute shot on VHS gialli. He teaches psychiatry and has a young family, so it does prove a little hard to sometimes marry up the dates on any giving weekend when we film!

The cast for Beyond Fury is filled with so many genre names. I take it this is going to be the big explosive climax for your trilogy. For those who don't know, you've got Bobby Rhodes, Dan Van Hussen and so many on board. Where can you go next? What's the next chapter for Darren Ward?

 Yes, I want to finish the trilogy with an almighty bang. We are making this film in a much more cinematic style. A lot of dolly and steadicam shots that allow the images to breath. My trademark hand held will still be very prevalent in the action\gore scenes though, as it, I feel, brings a very ultra realistic look to the film. We are really going for a 70’s look and feel with the camera work on Beyond Fury. The graded footage so far just looks lovely.

We have some great genre names linked to the film. We have already completed scenes with Dan van Husen, who if you didn’t know did 26 spaghetti western in '60s/'70s and worked for directors like Sergio Corbucci, Duccio Tessari, Fellini, the list goes on. At 71, he is still working non-stop and again is such a humble and kind human being. We have also filmed a number of scenes with Giovanni, with another seven to go. Finance is preventing us from flying in a couple of the other actors presently, but hopefully that will change (anyone out there)! Barbara Cupisti and Bobby Rhodes are also onboard.

After I finish the trilogy I would like to do a full blown horror or giallo but no more action films…unless I can get a decent budget that allows me to shoot in a normal 4-6 week block. It literally kills me a little each time we finish a scene because I know it is at least a month or more before we will shoot again. This is all down to lack of finance. Any investors get in touch, become part of the trilogy!!


I've noticed possible influences from the '70s Italian gangster and probably horror epics, and a few from earlier Hong Kong heroic bloodshed movies. Is this true? Have they played a part in forming your visions? Who or what else has helped?

 I would be lying if I said no! My films are influenced by many factors. I grew up in the video nasty age and had watched most of the famous 39 titles before they were pulled. Dario Argento had a huge influence on me. His style, approach and camerawork were second to none, also Fulci, Lenzi, Deodato they have all heavily influenced me. People have compared the tone and feel of Sudden Fury and A Day of Violence to that of Fulci’s Contraband. Even the Sitges film festival back in 2000 screened Sudden Fury with the tagline comparing it to Fulci, Jackson & Tarantino.

I love Contraband, it does indeed just ooze a gritty and grubby tone, which fits in nicely to my own style. In fact the biggest homage I have yet done to Contraband appears in Beyond Fury… Believe me, you can’t miss it! John Woo certainly plays a part, I loved his heroic bloodshed films and would watch them in the action scenes frame by frame to work out the logistics for staging my own scenes like these. Other directors that play a part in forming my style would be Peckinpah, DePalma, Scorsese and most importantly Sergio Leone.

By the way, if you had to sit for a year in a room with the choice of decades -- '50s, '60s, '70s, and so on, could only watch horror films, which decade would you pick and why? (If he says anything like the 2000s, I think I'll have to terminate this interview and vomit in a bucket. Don't tell him, OK?)

I am going to cheat here and take '75/'85 as my favourite decade for anything gory and great. Where would we start! Profondo Rosso, Suspiria, Zombie Flesh-Eaters, Cannibal Holocaust, The Beyond, Cannibal Ferox, Inferno, Tenebre, Day of the Dead. I could go on and on!

Not cheating, man, that's like the answer I would have given. I was raised by video tapes and late night repeats from that era. So if you had been the right age in the 70s and had the chance at a budget and a chance to be a big shot, which country would you have preferred to live in? Plus who would be your three central stars?

 I would love to have been living and working in Italy. You had so many genres to play. I would have been able to make a spaghetti western. Clint Eastwood, Lee van Cleef and Claudia Cardinale.

In a previous interview you stated you never actually studied filmmaking, this whole adventure has been your own hard work and a lot of trail and errors. How much of the former and latter?

Yeah, I have never taken any formal studies in film. I had watched thousands of films by the time I was a teenager, what with the home video boom in the early '80s. I didn’t want to come out a clone of the next student and be made to work in a certain way or style. So my love for Italian cinema made me pick up a camera (my first was a Panasonic M7 VHS Camera -- my first 3 shorts were filmed on this Paura il Diavolo, Blue Fear and Bitter Vengeance) when I was 16. I learnt the hard way, you tried something, it either worked or it didn’t and you moved on. Something Warbeck told me. He was working on Trog when the shooting schedule was thrown out by rain. Joan Crawford went up to David and said ‘It’s all about turning shit into gold my darling,’ meaning, if something goes wrong, rather than panic, look at what you have and turn it around into something that does work. I have been lucky so far things have always worked out in the end. My fingers are crossed that Beyond Fury can be completed and out by 2018, which is Sudden Fury’s 20th anniversary!!

Please tell us about Three Tickets to Hell and how bloody hard it is to find them!

Three tickets to hell came about after I had interest from a German video company who wanted to finance the completion for Sudden Fury. I had done an interview in Doom magazine in Germany and we received an offer so we could complete the film. Anyway, while they were waiting for me to finish Sudden Fury, they asked if I had any other films they could release. I had my 3 shorts (Paura il Diavolo, Blue Fear and Bitter Vengeance), so they released them as Darren Ward’s Three Tickets to Hell and apparently they sold like hot cakes. The video was only released in Germany and advertised that Sudden Fury was coming soon on the back. I have been told by people online that the tape is a real collectors item now. I only have two in my possession. If somebody wants to re-release them then get in contact, we can add Nightmares and make it Four Tickets to Hell.

 Darren, do you get time to attend many conventions? Do you spread your love publicly on a regular?

I have only done a couple in the UK. It’s not something I get asked to do, but would love to do more.

Back onto Spaghetti Westerns. They're obviously a great passion of yours.

I adore Spaghetti Westerns and my dream would to be film a western in Almeria. It is an amazing place and I have been lucky enough to go several times and walk round the great sets left by the masters.

Lastly, who's been the best interviewer ever? I'm kidding, honestly I am. If I'd never seen any of your films and knew nothing about you, which one would you lend me that sums up your world?

A Day of Violence

Thanks Darren, been a solid pleasure. You are truly a cult movie hero behind the lenses. Long may people be left picking their jaws up off the floor after watching your stuff.

Many thanks indeed Jay and to everyone at Severed Cinema.

 

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