Gangs of London centres around the power struggles of the prolific international families that make up London’s underbelly. The kind of families that will punish you when you buy Instagram automatic likes.
Released by Umbrella Entertainment this March on both DVD and Blu-ray, four of Gangs of London’s first season’s 10 episodes, including the finale, were directed by Corin Hardy, award-winning filmmaker of The Nun – the top-grossing film in The Conjuring franchise.
Had you been involved in television before this?
“I had not. In the old days of television, pre the last 10 years, I was always sort of a bit wary of television – just more of a cinema purist, I suppose. [I] had only been working on my own features, and on other people’s, waiting for a time where I could apply what I [knew] to TV.
“[It] was always like, ‘can we bring cinema to TV? How can we pull that off and what would it be?’ I have had some ideas for my own shows building up, [then] I chatted with Gareth [Evans, show creator] a few years ago when I was making a film called The Crow – a new version of The Crow – and I wanted to talk to [him] about action, knowing what a master he is. While I was chatting to him about that, he told me about Gangs of London and asked me if I’d be interested in directing an episode. At the time I didn’t think I’d be able to do it, [but] the opportunity came up, and then one episode turned into three and three turned into four.
“It was kind of nerve-wracking, actually, because it was [my] first step into TV. I didn’t know what that would be like. It was a different process to filmmaking in a lot of ways, but we really went all-out. It helped that Gareth also hadn’t done television and Xavier [Gens], the third director, had only done a little. We all kind of had this ambition [to bring] heavy-genre cinema into this grounded, contemporary series – it wasn’t like normal TV.”
How did you know Gareth before this?
“I was a fan of his movies. I saw The Raid and The Raid 2 and instantly clocked him: ‘OK, that guy’s super talented and must be [into] the kind of movies I like.’ At some point, as it seems to happen these days, there was some social media [connection]. I think the best part of social media is when you align with someone, [where] you love their work or they love yours, and you end up becoming friends. I think [on] Instagram, I’d followed him, he followed me, and we’d both post pictures of horror movies or 1970s crime movies and pictures of our latest Blu-rays we’d bought – like nerds. So, we’re chatting, and one thing leads to another. It was a mutual appreciation, I think.
How was the experience, directing a crime series off the back of horror films?
“It was half terrifying and half refreshing and enlightening. I’ve always loved the crime genre and movies, particular the sort of ‘70s era: William Freidkin’s The French Connection, The Godfathers, Michael Mann’s Heat, and Korean thrillers like Old Boy, Memories of Murder and I Saw the Devil. It was something I’m a fan of, but I’ve concentrated a lot on horror and fantastical, supernatural, creature-based stuff, which is what I love. So, when I say it was terrifying, it was a little bit like me working without my protective shields of slightly more imaginative genre areas that I can rely on. It was a bit like walking in naked – I didn’t do that by the way! – but it was like, ‘am I going to be exposed as not being able to do this stuff?’
“I think the combination of great series and great scripts [helped]. Knowing that Gareth was behind them, and knowing what his aesthetic was, [created] this balance of authentic family-based emotion crime drama – which if it had been just that, I don’t think it would be my thing – with this heightened genre-version of London. So, you could get away with these insane action sequences and heightened elements.
“One of the inspirations for me – or certainly a film that made a lot of impact – was David Michôd’s Animal Kingdom, the original movie. When I saw that I thought [it] seemed super real, almost like a documentary, and it’s got this family breakdown at the core of it. But it had this really wild, exciting, slightly more heightened world about it.”
Did you play the video game, Gangs of London?
“I did ages ago! Pulse Films bought the rights to the video game a long time ago, like 10 years ago, and they were figuring out what to do with it. I think the game was a moderate hit – it wasn’t Grand Theft Auto. When Gareth came into it […], it wasn’t like we were trying to match elements of the game so much as trying to [create] an intricate web of London, driven [by] the families.”
What was your favourite moment of the show or of production?
“I was really blown away [by] the cast. Although I’d done some movies like The Nun, which hopefully feels like a big movie, it didn’t actually have a huge cast; it centres around three main [characters] and some others. So, it was a little bit of a shock when I [was] feeding into casting and [realised] there’s about 60 or 70 main characters through the show, and then the crew as well.
“It was a real rollercoaster ride because I also had to direct three episodes at the same time. It was like doing two feature films back to back, but with less time, and then also having to come back to do the final episode. [It] meant I was editing episodes two, three, four, and then doing the post on them, and then prepping the ninth episode and shooting and editing four episodes. It was quite a mad juggle.
“But the cast and the crew, and the opportunity to do some really cool action, was nice as a director – to keep testing yourself and not feel too comfortable.”
Will you be involved in the next season?
“I’ve been doing it for a year. I’m about to shoot the next season in a few months’ time.”
What can fans expect?
“I don’t know what I’m allowed to say… Let’s not answer that one right now, haha!”
How does it feel that the second season is going to reach a wider American audience now that AMC is involved?
“Great! Really, really cool. This first season, when you’re making it, you’re confident with the story and what you’re doing but it’s a bit of an experiment. You hope that you’re going to find that audience – it could go one way or the other. I think the response to the first season, from around the world, feels unanimously exciting – that people really got the show. AMC release it in America, with Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, so it’s a really great home [for it] to have.