36-year-old Charlie Cox had the chance to work with some of Britain's best actors in the crime flick King of Thieves. I recently spoke to him about the experience...
Matt: Whether they’re based on actual events or purely a work of fiction, heist films been a staple of cinema for decades. Why do you think audiences enjoy them so much?
Charlie: I think they lend themselves to a two hour drama and it can be an easy structure in the way you set up a premise, introduce some characters who are a bit different and a bit quirky, and then watch them either succeed or fail in their chosen pursuit.
Matt: And how did you become involved with King of Thieves? What drew you into the project?
Charlie: I got a call on a Friday asking me to get on a plane and they needed me by Monday. Someone must have pulled out and I was lucky enough to be available.
Matt: So were you shooting on the Monday or just rehearsing?
Charlie: Rehearsing. I got off my overnight flight from America and I went straight into rehearsal with Michael Caine.
Matt: Well, let’s talk about the cast. Many actors would love the chance to work alongside Michael Caine, Jim Broadbent, Tom Courtenay, Michael Gambon and Ray Winstone and you get to do that in a single film. What was the experience like?
Charlie: It’s hard to find the words to describe it. These are some of my heroes from growing up, especially as a British actor. Just to meet these guys is a dream come true let alone being able to work with them and hear some of their anecdotes from working in the profession. It was mind blowing.
Matt: So are they quite open with you? Can you ask a lot of questions or do you get more out of it from just watching them act?
Charlie: They’re very nice and you can ask whatever you want but you just don’t want to be annoying. For me, I just wanted to soak up the experience. I also had a job to do and I wanted to trust what I was bringing to the film.
Matt: We all know he’s playing a character but when you put someone as likeable as Michael Caine in the lead role, you sort of feel yourself rooting for him and hoping he gets away with it. Is it right for me to think that way?
Charlie: I think so. You’re right that Michael has such a likeable presence on screen but that’s true of a lot of these heist films. You find yourself aligning with characters that you wouldn’t necessarily do in real life. We kind of like underdogs and people beating the system and people getting something for nothing. That doesn’t always mean we want that to happen in reality but it’s fun in the movie world.
Matt: One of the most interesting elements for me was how easy these characters thought they were going to get away with it despite all the CCTV and such. Were there parts of this story that surprised you when you first heard of it?
Charlie: Oh man, there’s so much of it that’s astonishing. I remember it being in the news and the press when it happened. I was astounded then but the audacity and the bravo to pulling something like this off. When they were caught and found, Scotland Yard described them as “analogue criminals in a digital world.” They were out of their depth with their lack of understanding about surveillance and tapping phones. They did pull off a miraculous heist and they caught people off guard by doing it in an old-fashioned away but they were always going to leave clues.
Matt: Your character is an interesting one and without giving too much away, I can’t figure out if he’s based on a real-life person or not. Do you form a view on that as part of your research and intel?
Charlie: He is based on a real person but he’s the one guy who was never caught and no one knows where he is. We don’t know too much about him including his age and how he got involved. The pieces of information we have come from police transcripts. The writer and director looked at what we had and tried to put together a character that made sense and was valuable to the story as well.
We knew Basil wasn’t his real name but when we were filming it, there was an understanding that he was called Basil because he was posh person like the cartoon character Basil Brush. When the film had almost finished being edited, someone suggested he might have been called that because it’s the acronym for “best alarm specialist in London”.
Matt: Did you get a chance to speak to any of the real-life people involved with perpetuating the crime or perhaps those investigating it?
Charlie: I did not but I think I’m right in saying that some of the actors did.
Matt: What are you working on at the moment? What will we see from your next?
Charlie: I’m doing a play in London on West End and it’s from writer Harold Pinter who is a well-known British playwright. It’s called Betrayal and it stars Zawe Ashton and Tom Hiddleston. We’re rehearsing that at the moment.