The British director and action star were in Dubai on Thursday for the world premiere of their film Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre at Reel Cinemas in The Dubai Mall. They were also joined by British rapper and actor Bugzy Malone, who also appears in the film.
“We've heard so much about Dubai in recent years and so we thought we'd make an effort to come over here and so far we are having a lovely time,” Ritchie said.
“You're more or less in the middle of the world here, too. We are big fans of the region generally so it just seems to make sense.”
Not just another typical spy film
Ritchie’s latest film, which doesn’t shy away from the style and formula that has made him a formidable director and writer, is positioned as more than just a cliche spy story.
The action comedy centres on special agent Orson Fortune (Statham) and his team of operative recruits, one of whom is played by Malone and the other by Aubrey Plaza. The team have been hired to carry out a tricky and sensitive undercover mission to stop the sale of deadly new weapons technology.
“Most spy movies are always based on the MI5 or CIA and its very tired and we didn’t want to do another one of those,” Statham said.
Ritchie added that he created this film "with the intention of pumping some new life into the spy genre.”
Why their working relationship is so successful
The director and actor have had a unique and solid creative relationship and personal friendship through the course of films they've worked on together, such as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch and, most recently, Wrath of Man.
Their personal and professional relationshipis built on trust, mutual understanding and banter. Not only does this reveal itself in the tone of the film but also in their interactions.
“He’s an on-the-day, make-it-up-as-you-go-along kind of director,” Statham said about working with Ritchie, who joked in response, “I’m sure there’s a compliment in there.”
Ritchie doesn’t like to stick to a script when filming, even if it's a script he’s written himself. More often than not, the director will completely change scenes and give actors new lines on set on the day of filming.
“For some people its quite disorientating,” Statham said. “There’s a comfort in knowing your lines and that you’re not going to mess everything up. Once that comfort is taken away from you, it can mess with your mind a little bit.”
However, Statham also said with a director like Richie, an actor will still feel safe and reassured that they are creating something interesting and entertaining.
“You know that the man is going to pull you out of the quicksand. You know he gives you good stuff to say so we are quite fortunate about some of the stuff we get to deliver.”
Unconventional ways of working
For Malone, who is a long-time fan of Ritchie’s work, it was exciting to finally be working with him.
“What you do is, you learn the script and then you get there and he throws it away and then makes it up as he goes along. I enjoyed it,” Malone said.
“I remember a day when I had to drive just behind the car and a guy was actually laying on the back seat give me my lines and I had to type on a laptop as well.”
While it may seem unconventional for some, Ritchie’s style works.
“I think what you do is you have a plan, and you try to stick to a plan but then within that, you shouldn’t let a better idea not take over what you have planned already,” Ritchie said.
“You can’t be too wedded to what you’ve got. Usually organically, you find yourself in certain environments and the environment itself can dictate what feels like trumping of what we’ve got on the page. I hope to remain open to new and fresh ideas.”
He further elaborated that it’s hard work making films and his approach to how he shoots and promotes them has changed during his career, and that it’s important for him now to make the experience as entertaining as possible for him and the rest of the cast and crew.
“It used to be that you’d come to a press conference and then you’d fly back home,” he said.
“We’ve changed our philosophy around that and we’ve come to places like Dubai and you want to drink up the culture and drink up the place and that’s why we want to stay here a bit longer and fill up our boots.”
Statham added that he would be staying in Dubai for a few more days, along with his son to see what the city has to offer.
“To be here, talking about the film, having a premiere here, is a great privilege,” Statham said.
“We were talking only this afternoon about the potential of coming here and making a movie which is very exciting to us. I hope that can manifest itself pretty soon. We would certainly love to be here. So far we've got nothing but warmth and love and want to give that back and show our appreciation.”