It’s Friday and if you can’t afford a night on the tiles then why not head over to Manchester’s AMC Cinema and catch a film? In fact, we’ve got just the one for you – Brit-crime thriller Hard Boiled Sweets. Helmed by newcomer David L.G Hughes, this seedy story follows a corrupt group of gangsters and hard bastards who operate out of the Las Vegas of the third world, Southend-on-Sea. Expect plenty of backstabbing and violence , no one’s to be trusted in this home-spun gritty indie that keeps you guessing until its frictional final moments. We gave its director David L.G Hughes a call to discuss, heros, villains and his favourite sweets…
So, I’ve got to ask – What king of sweet would you be?
Well it’s a tricky one isn’t it? I’d probably be a Polo because everybody from the set knows I walk around with kilos and kilos of Polo’s in my pocket. I’m always giving them out. So I’m a Polo guy which isn’t technically a hard boiled sweet…
Where did the sweet motif stem from?
Well, to be honest the whole movie really is my love letter to hard-boiled American crime fiction, obviously people like Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett but especially people like Elmore Leonord and guys like that. I wanted to do a hard-boiled movie but with a very English, dry, witty sense of humour, therefore it’s hard-boiled sweets. That’s basically where it all stemmed from,
There’s a great death scene on the pier. How did the idea for that come about?
I guess it was just looking at Southend – It has the world’s longest pier. We were making a crime movie so we had to use the world’s longest pier for a death scene! We knew we had to use it for a major moment in the movie and tried to think what is the most interesting, original, funny and scary thing we could possibly do with this giant, enormous one-mile long pier? What could we do with it? And that’s where the idea came from and that’s what I came up with. It all kind of grew out of a short film I made which was set down there. Originally in the short film we were going to have this scene set on the pier but just a few days before we went down to film it the pier was closed because there was an arson attempt on it! So it all tied up nicely, obvisoulsy that was put to bed by the time we came back to shoot the feature.
Did you feel Southend was a place where all these seedy and colourful characters could co-exist and get away with the things they do?
Yeah absolutely, I mean the first thing to point out is that Southend isn’t like this at all. It’s Southend reimagined comepletely, it’s a really nice place and they were lovely to us when we went down there but it was like, if we could turn somewhere into a kind of low-rent Vegas of the third world and I just thought Southend would be perfect for that. The idea was if Elmore Leonard was in Southend and had to come up with a crime story then it would be something like this.
Watching the movie it struck me that there’s no real hero. Was this intentional?
They’re all baddies. Yeah, watching so many movies today you’re struck by the hero, particularly when you think of crime movies. Normally you’ve got the hero then you’ve got three, four, five, six villains floating around them and so often the most interesting, fascinating, really fun characters are the bad guys! The heroes; yeah they’re good and they’re tricked into doing something they don’t want to do but they’re often a bit weak in comparison to the really fun, outrageous bad guys. So I thought lets go for it, let’s get rid of the good guy altogether and fill the movie with really fun, really exciting, really dangerous bad guys from top to bottom.
Who do you sympathise with the most?
I love them all! I want them all to win, they’re all my guys so I love them all.
How was it working with such a big, varied cast?
Well it was very, very intimidating because I’d never done anything before. I’ve made one little short movie that I did for five days but I haven’t really done anything so it was very scary. Basically I kept handing out Polos to people so they had something to suck on and wouldn’t ask me so many questions!
Was there any improvising on set?
To be honest we did a few read throughs but we stuck to the script. Due to the nature of it in terms of there being so many characters and so many diverse story lines that all come together, I think all the actors felt that they needed to stick to the script for it to work and everybody else respected everybody else so nobody was trying to inflate their roles which was lovely because there was a great respect for all the other actors and the importance of the other roles which meant we stuck to the script.
You have to bare in mind that everyone was there because they liked the script, they weren’t there because I had some incredible directing career and they wanted to jump onboard. What that meant was that we essentially shot the script. I think we gave them so uniquely fun dialogue and they certainly seemed to be enjoying the hell out of delivering it and I hope that shows on the screen, I really think it does.
Obviously these crime movies don’t shy away from violence. How did you decide on how much gore should be in the movie?
Well it was one of the trickier things in terms of getting the balance right because I didn’t want to make a splatter fest in any kind of way and I wanted the violence to have a genuine impact and I think if you drench something in blood it tends to lose its impact. So it was a case of getting making sure everyone was invested in the characters. Maybe you don’t like them all but you certainly know them and understand them and get to understand their reasoning so you can feel their pain and if somebody tops it you feel it and I think that’s the kind of balance we were going for. So it wasn’t an attempt to glorify the violence but rather it was an attempt to make you feel the pain in a way and that was more of it rather than making a splatter fest. I don’t think we have made a splatter fest to be honest, I think it’s quite measured.
What’s next on the agenda?
Well I’ve got a few little bits and bobs that I’m floating around with. I’m in a strange situation now where after years of scribbling my own stuff and trying to get it off the ground I’m now being sent a few scripts so that’s really flattering! There’s absolutely a few things I’ve been looking at.
Words and interview by Simon Bland.