Director Brian Helgeland has an impressive filmography, writing films such as Robin Hood, 42 and a Knight’s Tale. He also won the Oscar for best screenplay for L.A. Confidential, and was nominated for his adapted screenplay for Mystic River. The Edge spoke to Helgeland about his new film depicting the infamous Kray twins, Legend.
When did you first hear of the Krays?
I can tell you it was 1988, ’cause I had been asked to go on tour with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, and I’d heard about them then with a guy who was involved with the band…he told me some stories about them.
So were you very interested?
Yeah, when I first heard of the Krays I thought it was like a wild animal. I didn’t know what it was, but I quickly learned and it was just a fascinating thing. I didn’t wanna do a film about it until many years later, but that’s the first time I’d ever heard of them.
Why did you choose the book that you chose to adapt?
There was a book, ‘The Profession of Violence’, it was at auction which I looked at which was great, and I felt obligated to try to cover as much of everything as I could. So I read a lot of books, met people that they knew when they were adults, read a lot of bad stuff, and I thought what was interesting was it was so extreme, whether they were helping old ladies across the street or nailing people to the floor.
How much of the film is anecdotal, and how much is fantasy?
I came across people that had such an extreme mythology behind them, so I thought I’d try to find something in the middle, I don’t know what the truth is but I thought trying to find something in the middle of all that was truest thing I could do , and I was interested in humanising them in a way.
Was there any particular shot which was a challenge when shooting two Tom Hardys and if so how did you work along it?
We tried to not make the camera too aware of what was going on, so to try and draw attention to what he was doing. So it was a lot of little things really, there were some things we found were just untenable as far as how much time they took up…we had a couple of tricks and we used them over and over again without getting too fancy.
Were you concerned about the Krays mother having quite a small role in this film?
Yeah I thought that we had Frances and her mum as a child and a mother relationship and I thought that was kind of enough for the film, and so much has been done about the mum and the boys that I wanted to stay away from it in a way, because that’s the thing that’s really been done to death…every gangster story I know, the boys are close with their mum so I didn’t especially take it as a thing that is unique to them. Maybe that’s not true and that’s my own point of view but I thought that Frances and her mum covered mums and their kids in the film in a way that I didn’t need to look into with them and their mum.
Legend is in cinemas now.