This week sees the release of British action sequel We Still Steal The Old Way on digital download, with DVD and Blu-ray following on 17th April. The film is a follow-up to the 2014 crime drama We Still Kill The Old Way and sees the return of the old-school Archer gang, led by the charismatic Richie Archer, who this time hatches a plan to pull off an audacious robbery. Halfway through the heist, the gang get caught, and they’re sent down. So far, so good – now they’re in prison they can put into motion their plot to spring fellow inmate George, who desperately needs to get out before his wife dies. Trouble arises when Richie’s arch enemy Vic Farrow gets himself transferred into the prison, wanting to settle some old scores.
We caught up with the film’s producer Jonathan Sothcott to talk about his new film, reuniting the cast, future projects, his love of horror movies and moving into television.
We Still Steal The Old Way is obviously the follow-up to We Still Kill The Old Way. What made you want to return to the world of these characters with this sequel?
I think it was a no-brainer really – we set it up for a sequel at the end of the first film and audiences responded so well to the themes and characters that it felt natural to make a sequel. The first film was very successful on DVD here and particularly on Sky, where it still gets good numbers. Sadly it hasn’t travelled very far beyond the UK yet, though I believe Sony are releasing it in the US next month. I had a drink with Nick Moran the other day and he said “why d’you keep making these We Still… movies” and I said “because I like working with Ian Ogilvy” and there’s quite a bit of truth in that.
Where do we find the characters in the new film?
It’s 6 months later and they are caught red handed raiding a wicked banker’s (Julian Glover) safety deposit box… but this is a ploy on Ogilvy’s part to get his gang into a prison where terminally ill old comrade Patrick Bergin is doing life with no chance of a reprieve…. So it switches gears early on to a prison break movie. The fly in their ointment is Billy Murray, who gives a wonderfully evil performance as Ogilvy’s nemesis from back in the day. Billy was very much on my list for the first film, he’s a fine actor when given good material, so it was great to get him in here in a significant part. The confrontations between him and Ogilvy are some of the best scenes in the film.
Was it easy in convincing the actors to come back on board?
Yes it really was – they all had a good time on the first one. Ogilvy, Lysette, Tony Denham and Burnside (as I always call Chris Ellison, much to his chagrin) all jumped on board, and Nick Henson. We toyed with the idea of trying to crowbar in Ali Doody just because she’s wonderful, but her policewoman character would’ve felt forced in a prison break movie. I can’t remember why James Cosmo didn’t come back, maybe he was working on something else… but adding Patrick Bergin sort of balanced that out and obviously we brought in some new faces such as my wonderful friend Deborah Moore who adds a real touch of class to the proceedings. I was so pleased that she came and did it. I was also pleased to bring in Vas Blackwood who is a mate and who I’ve been a fan of since Lock Stock (one of my favourite films) and give him something substantial as he’s such a great screen presence.
What does director Sacha Bennett on a number of your films now, and you clearly work well together. What does he bring to the table as a filmmaker?
I like Sacha. To be honest its very hard not to like Sacha – he’s awfully personable and warm and he has a lovely family – his wife Marina is a very successful novelist and they have the two most delightfully precocious children. We’ve had our disagreements about certain things over the two movies, but we’ve never fallen out over them – you know making these low budget films is hard enough without people being arseholes and I think Sacha knows that. But back to what he brings to the table, he’s very very good with actors. He was an actor himself in a previous life (and loves his little cameos) and he’s a very gentle, calm presence on set. To be honest I think he fell into making these gangster movies by accident – he’s a very erudite, intelligent man and I’m sure his future is in something quite different like period dramas. I think he’d be a wonderful stage director too.
I’m interested in how the sequel was conceived. Was it something the distributor wanted or was it pitched? Or was it completely independently produced and then picked up?
Platform (formerly Anchor Bay UK) had a decent result on We Still Kill The Old Way so asked about a sequel. Another vigilante revenge adventure for our heroes seemed a leap too far, so Sacha and I cooked up a prison break story which Age of Kill writer Simon Cluett worked up into a script. Simon is a very ambitious writer, he thinks big. You have to remember the original ‘We Still Kill’ concept (and title) actually came from Platform, so its their IP. They liked the idea and so they pre-bought and financed it, which was a wonderful position to be in. Since then Kaleidoscope have acquired Platform so the film sat on the shelf for a year while the corporate cogs ground on for that but the joy of a film set in a prison is that the clothes and the tech don’t really date!
You’ve covered a huge variety of genres over your career so far, and I know horror is a big love of yours. You have Eat Local on the way, which is directed by Lock Stock’s Jason Flemying. Can you give us an update on that and if there are any plans to go further and make more movies in the genre?
Eat Local is a really fun movie. I love Jason Flemyng, he’s a great guy and I have known him for ages – he’s come and done little cameos in a couple of my movies. He’s one of those actors who really gives back to the industry. Anyway, that project had been around a while, thankfully the title was changed from Reign of Blood. Rod Smith, ex-Anchor Bay, now Evolution Films, wanted to do it and Jason very kindly said he’d only do it if I came on as a producer. I really didn’t have much to do on it – It really was Rod and Jason’s show – he got in some amazing actors like Charlie Cox and even got Jason Statham to come and co-ordinate the fights. It was a very happy, lovely shoot and I think the horror fans will really enjoy it – its sort of Dog Soldiers with vampires. Lovely cast too – I especially loved working with Eve Myles and Freema Ageyman who were wonderful. Moran did a bit. So did Dexter Fletcher. Al Petrie. And Vince Regan is fantastic as a very old school vampire.
As to horror going forward – yes, it very much figures in my company Hereford Films’ plans going forward. Late spring we shoot our first US movie, a super creepy sleep paralysis movie called Tormented, which is an American co-production. My business partner Damien Morley and I are back and forth to LA a lot at the moment working on these international deals. We’re developing a couple of other horrors too, with a writer I really like called Matthew McGuchan – Aura is about kirlian photography and Pentagram is a super high concept contained horror movie set in a Dennis Wheatley style pentacle – those inside are like swimmers stranded on rocks with hungry sharks circling waiting to pick them off… except rather than sharks the menace is something very old and very evil indeed.
You’ve been linked to a rebirth of the Carry On films. How’s that all going?
Not well! What an absolute waste of time that was. Every few years there’s talk of a new Carry On film that comes to nothing. I honestly thought that I was the guy to give it a kick up the arse and get it going. The rights are an utter nightmare and trying to line up all of the relevant parties is like herding cats. I spent 9 months trying to drive this through and there was a wonderful moment in time when we were really close – I had a great writing team (Susan Nickson and Tim Dawson) who’d created something wonderful with Carry On Doctors. I was talking to Ed Bye to direct. There were casting ideas floating around like Sheridan Smith, David Tennant and Brian Blessed. I had a distributor looking at funding. But then everything went wonky. Eventually I just had to walk away. It’s a shame: I think it could’ve worked. But the ideas I was fighting on a daily basis you wouldn’t believe – digitally recreating Sid James, spending £10 million on a Carry On film (on a Carry On film!!!), Carry On Brexit, Carry On Bollywood, Carry On Up The Motorway. Honestly it really did my head in. The saddest thing is that I really, truly love the old Carry On movies – they were a staple of my childhood and I really wanted to do them proud. But there’s no use crying over spilled milk – you can only go forwards in life, never backwards.
Again, that’s such a departure from anything else you’ve done, and there’s such a variety of platforms to release content these days. Is TV something that you’d look to move into at all?
Yes we have set up Hereford Television to do just that. It was always a tougher nut to crack than film – I’ve twice been really, really close with a Martin Kemp show, but the closed shop is slowly opening with all these wonderful new platforms like Netflix and Amazon. So yes we’re very much open for business as a TV production company too and looking for great formats. We’re also ultimately hoping to open an office in LA by the end of the year.
If you had carte blanche to remake anything, or even tackle any subject or genre, what would you go after?
I love making the horror films, they are so much fun. I have looked at quite a few remakes over the years – there’s an old Boris Karloff movie called The Sorcerers I’m trying to do a deal on at the minute. His younger co-star was Ian Ogilvy who I’d have in the Karloff role if we remake it. It’s a great movie about old people living vicariously through the young. Really creepy. There are certain horror characters I think we could hear more from – Professor Quatermass, Count Yorga, Dr Phibes. Not remakes, just new adventures. We’re always researching remake rights.
I’d love to do some big budget American action movies now. I’m quite besotted with comic book things like Avengers Assemble and The Dark Knight Rises. That’s what I’d love to be doing in 20 years time. But I’ll always make the low budget British films while there’s a market for them because they’ve been good to me and I love them.
After doing a little research, I can see we’ve got We Still Die The Old Way on the way? Where does that take the series without giving away any big spoilers?
Well it goes back to the darker tone of the first one – I’m putting together a new creative team to give it a harder edge than ‘Steal’. Ultimately the father of Danny Boy-Hatchard’s character, who is a kind of Essex Boys type uber gangster, pops up and starts killing the Archer gang. Ogilvy bites off a bit more than he can chew and Burnside’s character starts to get cold feet and they have to band together to meet this threat head on whilst also accepting that this is probably going to be their last stand. I think Ian and Chris are such wonderful actors and I wanted to give them a showcase to demonstrate that so there’s a lot about friendship, loyalty, getting old and trying to adapt to the world we now live in. We’ll shoot that this Summer – I’m very much looking forward to it.
We Still Steal The Old Way is available from the 10th April, 2017 on digital download and 17th April 2017 on DVD and Blu-ray.