JOHN: You were saying you are interested in true crime.
TERRY: Yes. In Rise of the Footsoldier, although there’s a lot in there that was made up, all the Essex Boys stuff was true. I’ve got a friend who’s on the Murder Squad so I know for a fact what stuff happened.
The conspiracy theories at the end are open to interpretation, but I know for a fact that all the Essex Boys stuff is 100% true. I look at that film and I’m proud of it.
TERRY: Once Upon a Time in America was one of my favourite movies. If you were to ask me what film Once Upon a Time in London is most like, it would be the British version of that. We were not trying to copy it, but we went: What stories haven’t been told in this country?
JOHN: And Once Upon a Time in America was vaguely based on the truth – the early days of organised crime in the US.
TERRY: In Once Upon a Time in London, everything in that happened. There’s nothing made up. The only scene that may have been changed slightly was the darts scene. That may not have happened. But the guy was getting tortured and, instead of having darts thrown at him, he might have had bits of his ear being cut off. But we thought: That’s too much like Reservoir Dogs, so why don’t we just do the darts cos it’s funny and no-one’s ever done it. It’s just fucking terrifying.
JOHN: It is. And it’s in character. ‘Mad Frank’ Fraser would do that.
TERRY: He would. He’d be pulling your teeth out with pliers or he’d be cutting bits off you. He was a fucking lunatic. That’s why I liked him as a character. He’s so fucking off-key. He spent possibly 60% of his life in jail. He just liked violence. He didn’t care about money; he just wanted to hurt people. Maybe he wasn’t wired-up right; I dunno. If you said to him “Go and kill that guy” he would just do it and then worry about it when he was in jail and then kill someone else and think: Oh well, I might as well kill him as well because I’ll be in jail anyway. That was how his thought process worked.
JOHN: He once offered to do free dental work for me if I ever needed it done. I wasn’t quite sure how to take that. I presume he meant dental work on other people; not on me. I think he was just trying to live up to his legend.
TERRY: When I met him, I was shocked. What shocked me about all of the people from that era was how fucking small they were. You meet them all now and they’re these tiny little fellers. Maybe we’ve just become bigger through genetics or food or whatever
JOHN: How tall are the Adamses?
TERRY: I dunno. All the people that I’ve met now all seem bigger. When you meet someone who is part of a firm or someone who’s heavy-duty nowadays, they look the part. They don’t have to be six foot high and twenty stone, but they look the part. With the old ones, because they’re now in their 70s and 80s, they’re lovely little old men and you think: Did he really go round pulling people’s teeth out? He seems such a nice guy.
JOHN: All the really violent people I’ve met have been very quiet and polite. The SAS men I’ve met have been terribly polite and quiet. I guess, if you move in certain circles – certainly criminal circles – it’s best to be polite to strangers in case they turn out to be homicidal maniacs living on a hair-trigger.
TERRY: There’s a old saying: Walk softly but carry a big stick.
JOHN: Well, if you really are dangerous, you don’t have to ‘big it up’ to prove it to yourself… Anyway… There are obvious sequels to Once Upon a Time in London. The continuation of the Billy Hill story and the whole of the ‘Mad Frank’ Fraser story.
TERRY: We’ll see what happens with this one and if it goes the way we think it’s gonna go – worldwide with someone like Netflix or Amazon – then, if they think they want some spin-offs or more films – then happy days.
A lot of people from that era have now retired or are dead. But we have access to Frank’s surviving family, access to the Sabinis – all of the people. So we have access to all the stories.
JOHN: The Godfather had real criminals in small parts. Was Once Upon a Time in London the same?
TERRY: There’s a few. And we used a few fighters. There’s a few people in there, if you’re into fighters or underworld figures. But we didn’t cast any villains in big parts.
JOHN: Real dodgy people often don’t look dodgy. I always thought Johnny Bindon looked a bit wimpish on screen. Though I wouldn’t have said that to his face.
TERRY: That’s a good story, that is. John Bindon. The only problem is, when I’ve talked to people about it, they’ve all gone: “Well, he was sort of an actor/villain. But he didn’t really do anything.” His selling point was shagging Princess Margaret and smoking weed with her. He was in the Sixties set, but with all the people I’ve mentioned it to, no-one really bit on it and I don’t know why.
JOHN: It’s psychologically fascinating. The end is a bit of a downer, but that could be handled.
TERRY: I would fucking love to play John Bindon. That would be a great part.
JOHN: That’s what they all said he had.
TERRY: The problem, being a working class London lad with my sort of build is you get regularly asked to be the henchman or the murderer. Do you wanna clump someone? I don’t mind doing that, but I actually want some substance to it.
The part I play in Once Upon a Time in London was interesting because it had range – there was a family involved. I hope when people see the film, people will react: Oh! Actually, he can be more than just the guy who says “I’m gonna do you in” and all that shit.
If you haven’t got the material to show what you can do, nobody will give you the chance as an actor. Sometimes people are lucky: they get a part and shine.
JOHN: Sylvester Stallone held out and wouldn’t sell the Rocky script to anyone unless he was cast as Rocky.
TERRY: And he was absolutely on his arse. He was waiting on tables, doing anything, living in a fucking bedsit and they were offering “Here’s a million dollars for your script” – which is probably $5 million now – and he was unknown. And then he went and won a fucking Oscar and the rest is history. But a film about John Bindon… Everyone I talked to about it said: “There’s not really a story.”
JOHN: A massive rise and fall. Fleeing to Ireland at the climax; all that.
TERRY: But think about the kids now, right? They go and watch Legend because it’s Tom Hardy. They watch Footsoldier because it’s people getting bashed-up and carved-up and thrown through windows and girls with their tits out. If you say there’s a film about John Bindon, they’d say: “Who’s that?”
JOHN: But people don’t know about Jack Spot and Billy Hill.
TERRY: They know it’s the ones before the Krays. That’s the hook.
JOHN: And the Krays are in the trailer, which is great.
TERRY: But you look at John Bindon, what would you say?
JOHN: They made The Bank Job about robbing the bank to get the compromising photos of Princess Margaret, though she was never named. Do you think that story is true?
TERRY: Well, if you were the government or the Queen, you’d be going: “I wanna get them fucking pictures!” And you would probably reach out to…
I know a friend of mine who is… y’know… a villain.
And the government have actually said to him: “If you do this, then…” … just like they went to the Mob and asked them to kill Castro. There are things the government can’t do and, if a gangster does it for them, they’ll do him some favours or they’ll overlook things. That’s how the world works.
JOHN: Wasn’t it Lucky Luciano who helped the Americans invade Sicily in the Second World War? Local knowledge and local contacts. Anyway… So what’s next for you?
TERRY: I wrote a book about the club scene (King of Clubs – Sex, Drugs & Thugs) and we have just-about signed a deal with a big TV company to turn it into a TV series. And I’ve just done two documentaries about the birth of drum & bass and the birth of garage music. It’s me and the DJs and the MCs talking about it and how big the brands were.
I’ve also got a feminist horror film. I’ve got a couple of business partners – Richard Turner and Chris Howard.
We’re always trying to do something new. We’re developing a lot of TV stuff and animated stuff.