ACTOR of the moment, Henry Golding is on a roll as he charms his way into the hearts of moviegoers around the world.
After the breakout success of Crazy Rich Asians, the 33-year-old Malaysian-English hunk starred in Simple Favor and Last Christmas.
Now the Sarawak-born actor is going to show a different side of himself onscreen in the new Guy Ritchie film, The Gentlemen.
The English director, who also wrote and produced the film, is famous for his brand of comedic gangster movies such as Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, as well as Snatch and RocknRolla.
The Gentlemen is about a retiring American expatriate in London who made a fortune by selling marijuana.
Things get interesting when other seedy factions in the city get wind that he’s planning to cash in his illegal empire.
The many eventual schemes to steal his domain then triggers bloody consequences leading to an unexpected resolution.
Below, Golding talks about his fresh role in the entertaining gangster flick that also stars Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Michelle Dockery, Jeremy Strong, Eddie Marsan, Colin Farrell and Hugh Grant.
HOW IS THIS DIFFERENT FROM ANYTHING YOU HAVE DONE BEFORE?
I play a character called Dry Eye. He is young, couth, very hungry gangster who’s vying for McConaughey’s business. He’s unpredictable, pretty much the opposite of what people have seen me in so far. So it was a joy.
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INVOLVED IN THIS MOVIE?
I was doing press for Crazy Rich Asians and Guy’s team reached out. He was looking for someone to fill in the role of Dry Eye. So I met him and talked about movies. He’s really intuitive when it comes to choosing the actors. After the meeting, I was on board.
WERE YOU A GUY RITCHIE FAN? WHAT RESEARCH DID YOU DO BEFORE PLAYING THIS ROLE?
I am a huge Guy Ritchie fan! I grew up watching Lock, Stock and Snatch, Revolver, RocknRolla... those films. Growing up in the UK in the late 1990s and early 2000s, he was the director that everyone wanted to work with. He doesn’t have to give me the script. I just know that I’ll be on board. I did some research on Asian gangs in the UK, their ferocity and how they had to adapt to the cultures they were living in. Dry Eye being from the younger generation, I knew he’d have a New Age feel to him. He doesn’t necessarily have to be brash, just a bit suave and slicker than your average thug.
WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE IN PLAYING A VILLAIN?
It was really interesting when my wife would leave the room and I’d be reading through the script, and when she came back, she would sense the change of my mood and feel a thick atmosphere. The very dark, heavy vibe kicks in. My wife could barely recognise me when I was getting into the script.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE WORKING WITH MCCONAUGHEY? AFTER ALL, HE WAS A METHOD ACTOR
I have never experienced that kind of working style and it really took me by surprise. I went in thinking we’d be best friends but it was all business. He really stayed in character and I respected that. But once the camera stopped rolling, he was the nicest guy.
WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER CAST MEMBERS?
The working crew was phenomenal. Jeremy Strong was hilarious, Charlie Hunnam was amazing. We did a big scene with Michelle Dockery and it was amazing. We had a good time.
IT’S AMAZING WHAT YOU ARE DOING FOR ASIA REPRESENTATION IN HOLLYWOOD. IS THIS IMPORTANT TO YOU? OR ARE YOU NOT REALLY THINKING ABOUT IT?
I think it’s important. I have a very different view of what being Asian means for a lot of people who have grown up outside of Asia. Their representation on screen is quite limited.
But I grew up in Malaysia and Singapore, and I spent the last sort of my ‘adult life’ in Asia, so it really means something a little different.
It’s about making the right choices in films I work on, making people proud and derive inspiration from seeing Asian actors doing well.
I don’t want to concentrate on being an Asian actor. I want to focus on being an actor as well. A leading man, colour-blind roles and characters are what’s important. Not taking who I am at face value.
ON SCRIPT CHANGES AND GUY RITCHIE’S WORKFLOW...
I think Ritchie is quite notorious with his work, especially a script that he has written and is directing.
If you go on set thinking you know what you’re going to do and that you know all your lines — that would be your first mistake.
I remember walking into a set thinking I was going to do an awesome job and he would go ‘forget the script, this is what you are going to do. You are going to walk over and say this, do that, get into the tent and figure out what you going to say’. I was like… ‘all right, let’s go’.
You have to be flexible and be able to collaborate. That’s what I think is the most fantastic thing about Ritchie. He’s open to new ideas on the spot.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE STRONG LANGUAGE OF YOUR CHARACTER?
Just being able to reel off as many profanities as you can possibly think of in the most creative ways was immense fun. That’s what Ritchie’s films are about. They are about insulting the other person in funny ways.
It’s what I grew up with watching Snatch and Lock, Stock... they have got so many one liners that we can quote to this day.
TWO YEARS AGO, PEOPLE HAD NOT BEEN INTRODUCED TO YOU YET. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THIS CRAZY RISE?
I don’t know how to explain it. But it feels earned. I can safely say that I’ve worked so hard at doing my best and adapting as quickly as possible to this. People often don’t realise how much work goes into making a movie. It’s not only the production part but flying 12 hours, getting zero sleep, promoting a movie for three consecutive days. They see the clips and interviews and maybe they think it looks easy. It’s not. You not only have to be able to do your job in front of the camera. You also need to be able to function inside a marketing machine.
— Courtesy of TGV Pictures
The Gentlemen is currently showing in cinemas nationwide.