Interview with Tamer Hassan (The Business, Kick-Ass)

You might not recognise Tamer Hassan’s name, but you’ll most certainly recognise his face – particularly if you live in England. He’s a pretty prolific actor, generally starring in British gangster movies like “Layer Cake” and “The Business” but he’s also been in a few Hollywood blockbusters like “Batman Begins” and “Unleashed”. He’s returned to the U.K for his latest film – “Bonded by Blood” – to retell the true story of the infamous Essex Boys murders of 1995. The story has been tackled by other movies such as “Essex Boys” with Sean Bean, and was touched upon in “Rise of the Footsoldier”, but “Bonded by Blood” pertains to be the most accurate depiction of the events.

The film is definitely worth a watch, and is full of impressive performances – including the always reliable Hassan. I was lucky enough to chat with Tamer while he was promoting the movie, here’s what he had to say about the film, but also about being typecast, and his other upcoming projects, including “Freerunner” with Sean Faris.

Gazz Ogden: Hi Tamer, how are you doing?

Tamer Hassan: Good, yeah, I feel better now! [He’d just finished having his lunch]

GO: So how did you come to get involved with “Bonded by Blood”?

TH: Well, I was approached by a friend of mine – Terry Stone – who actually played Tony Tucker in the film.  He also produced “Rise of the Footsoldier”, which was the story about Carlton Leach.  He approached me about the role, I read it, I liked it, I found it challenging and I thought ‘Yeah, I wanna do this.’

GO: How much did you know about the real life story of the Essex Boys murders beforehand?

TH: As much as anybody else – you know, there’s a lot of speculation about what really happened and I remember it like it was yesterday.  But I think that “Bonded by Blood” is the closest it’s gonna get because it’s funded by a bloke called Bernard O’Mahoney who was probably the closest associate to the boys, and he kind of knows what happened and was a consultant on the movie too.

GO: Did Bernard help you at all personally?

TH: Yeah absolutely, there wasn’t that much video footage out there of Pat Tate – there’s a lot more Tony Tucker [Tamer’s character] – so it was just kind of me speaking to people, looking at what I could find and speaking to Bernard.  You know, saying to Bernard after each take ‘How was it?’  In the end he was very happy, so I think I did a good job.

GO: Did you see any of the other related films like “Essex Boys” or “Rise of the Footsoldier”?

TH: Yeah I watched all of them.  “Essex Boys” was fiction wasn’t it?  “Rise of the Footsoldier” wasn’t about the Essex boys, it was about Carlton Leach, but I think this [“Bonded by Blood”] is the one that should put the lid on the Essex boys story.  Although it probably won’t because someone else will come out with something as they always do, but at the end of the day I think this is the closest one.

GO: With regards to the locations and wardrobe, were there any problems trying to make it look as though it was from the 90s?  Did you use the real locations?

TH: Yeah absolutely, we were in the forest and it was brilliant because we had the ‘set Gods’ on our side because when we were going to shoot the murder scene at the end it started snowing, and it was snowing in real life at that point in time.  But what I said to the boys regarding wardrobe; I said ‘Look I don’t wanna wear the muscle suit and the silly wigs like in “Rise of the Footsoldier” because I don’t think the film is about what the characters look like, it’s about what kind of people they were.” So I don’t know if the wardrobe was spot on for the 90s, but I think everything else was good.

GO: Did you meet up with the other cast before filming?

TH: I’ve been good friends with Terry for years, and I’ve worked with Vincent Regan before on “Danny the Dog” [“Unleashed”] with Jet Li, Morgan Freeman and Bob Hoskins. Adam [Deacon] I’d not worked with before, but I’m a big fan and I think he’s a fantastic young actor. Kierston [Wareing] I’d not worked with either but I think she’s phenomenal, so I think it all fell into place brilliantly.

GO: There’s quite often a lot of regular faces in your films.  Danny Dyer being the obvious one!  Are you all friends in real life?

TH: Me and Danny are very very close friends in real life – I could class him as one of my best friends.  Unfortunately I don’t see a lot of him now because I live in Los Angeles but we speak regularly on the phone, I’ve just read his book and I support him as much as I can.  I think we’ll always work together me and Danny.

GO: Do you two have any movies coming up?

TH: Well we’ve got “Dead Man Running 2” coming up and there’s also talk of “The Business 2”.  We’ve just been offered a few comedies here and there – you know, people writing stuff for us.  But what we don’t wanna do is saturate the market with Danny and Tamer movies!  I think if we do one every two or three years people will enjoy them more, so we’ve got to be careful of that.

GO: In a lot of your films you quite often play the same type of character…

TH: The romantic lead you mean? [Laughs]

GO: Yeah!  I mean, have you ever wanted to do something completely out of the box or extreme?

TH: Listen, I’m an actor mate, and I love to be challenged.  I’ve just attached myself to a film called “Happy Bus” which is me in a wheelchair, an ex-Afghanistan soldier who’s had his legs blown off.  So I always drive myself to do stuff that isn’t what people expect, like I did a film called “City Rats” where I played a suicidal, manic depressive and people were like, ‘What was all that about?’  Nobody said they didn’t like it but I think it’s like, you know, people are going to have to start getting used to me doing diverse things because that’s where I want to go with my career now.  That’s not to say that I won’t come out and do the villain again because I love playing the villain, but if the opportunity arises where I can get something more challenging then I’m in, I’m ready to go.

GO: What about Hollywood?  You’ve been in a few American films like “Unleashed” and “Kick-Ass”?  Is there anyone you’d like to work with?

TH: I’d like to work with a host of stars – first and foremost I’d like to work with Guy Ritchie, and Scorsese, De Niro – I’d love to get in a room with him before he hangs his boots up!  Pesci, the usual suspects, you know – I love ’em. Dustin Hoffman, one of my favourites, Sean Penn, fantastic.

GO: How did you come to star in the Hollywood films like “Kick-Ass”?  Did you audition?

TH: Matthew [Vaughn]’s a friend of mine, so I didn’t audition for “Kick-Ass”.  The only film I did audition for Matthew was “Layer Cake”, which was a long time ago.  But for “Kick-Ass”, he called up and needed me to do it, and I did it!  It was brilliant – thank God I did it because it was a brilliant movie.  Matthew’s a good friend and I don’t turn my back on friends; although I’m not saying it was a charity case by any means because I’ve always wanted to be in his movies and I’ll always work with him.

I’ve also just done a film with Richard Gere and Martin Sheen called “The Double” which is a spy movie and is released next year, and I’ve also done one with Val Kilmer and 50 cent (again) called “Blood Out”, so yeah, I’m living the dream as they say!

GO: You’ve done some producing too, do you want to do any more?

TH: Yeah, I produced “Dead Man Running”.  I don’t like the physical, hands-on side of production, but I do enjoy raising money, I do enjoy being the glue, I do enjoy putting the line producer with the producer and then getting the director on board and helping the cast out – the whole process of filmmaking, I love it.  But the actual hands-on side of it – not for me, I’d rather be in front of the camera.

GO: What’s next then?

TH: Next for me is I’m actually going back to do an episode of “NCIS”.  I did one episode of that and they said they loved what I did and asked me to come back.  So I’m going to try and do a little bit of TV for a while and then I’m putting a film together that has just been greenlit called “Get Diamond” which is a comedy – it’s about the world’s most notorious hitman who’s never killed anybody (laughs), so it’s a “Lock, Stock” style black comedy. We’ve got Ade, who played Tyrone in “Snatch”, we’ve got Costas Mandylor, Danny might even pop his head in if he’s available.  We’ve got a great cast and that’ll probably start shooting early next year.

GO: What about “Freerunner”?  That sounds right up my street!

TH: “Freerunner” yeah, can you believe that I completely forgot about that, with the wonderful Sean Faris?  “Freerunner” was good, Danny was in that as well!  It’s basically a film like “The Fast and the Furious”, except with no cars, and free runners – the parkour guys, amazing they were, brilliant.   I don’t know when that’s going to be released because it’s one of those movies where you go in, shoot it, get paid, get out and then you let them get on with it.  Danny actually played the villain in this one and I didn’t, I played the straighter one and Danny’s the out and out ruthless villain!  I mean there’s a scene in it where he fucking puts the shits up me which was quite weird!  But we got through it and it was brilliant.

GO: Do you know if that’s getting a theatrical release?

TH: Umm, you know what, I think so…maybe Lions Gate’s got hold of it, but don’t quote me on it!  But you know what?  You never know with these movies – I’ve done some big budget movies and they’ve not had theatricals – it works so weird now.  The way it works now is that if it’s not viable for them, if it’s not cost-effective and it’s not good business then they won’t put it in the cinema, regardless of who’s in it.   So I don’t know, it’s a weird one.  Although nine times out of ten I think the Americans get it theatrically, even if it’s on a small release.

GO: Right, unfortunately I’ve run out of time now, so thank you very much for talking with me.

TH: Thank you. All the best.

GO: Good luck with your future projects.

TH: Cheers mate, bye.

“Bonded by Blood” is out on Region 2 DVD now from Revolver Entertainment.