Raymond's family was originally from Cirencester - half of them shifting to
London, the other half to Wales. Moving via Plaistow to Enfield when Ray
was 7, his father (also Raymond) ran a fruit and vegetable business (he's now a
black cab driver) while his mother, Margaret, had a job emptying fruit machines.
Ray recalls playing with his friends on bomb sites until "Moors Murderers"
Ian Brady and Myra Hindley were arrested after preying on children. Ray was
educated at Edmonton County, which had changed from a Grammar School to a
Comprehensive upon his arrival. He didn't take to school, eventually leaving
with a single CSE (Grade 2) in Drama.
Raymond had an early affinity for acting; his father would take him to the cinema every Wednesday afternoon, and Winstone later recalled seeing 101 Dalmatians and rushing towards the screen to berate Cruella de Vil. Later, he would witness Albert Finney in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and the bug would bite: "I thought 'I could be that geezer'" he said later. Other major influences included John Wayne, James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson. After borrowing extra tuition money from a friend's mother, a drama teacher, Ray Winstone took to the stage, appearing as a Cockney newspaper-seller in a production of Emile And The Detectives.
Ray was also a fan of boxing. Known to his friends as Winnie, at home he was called Little Sugs (his dad already being known as Sugar - after Sugar Ray Robinson). At age 12, Winstone joined the famous Repton Amateur boxing Club and, over the next 10 years, won 80 out of 88 bouts. At welterweight, he was London Schoolboy Champion of three occasions, fighting twice for England. The experience gave him a perspective on his later career: "If you can get in a ring with 2000 people watching and be smacked around by another guy, then walking onstage isn't hard."
Deciding to pursue drama, Ray enrolled at the Corona School in Hammersmith. At £900 a term, it was expensive, considering the average wage was some £36 a week. At the time, he was a skinhead, into ska and tonic suits. Once he turned up to ballet class in a leotard and bovver boots, and once he got a zero on an exam for reciting passages from Julius Caesar in ripe Cockney.
Ray Winstone landed his first major role in What A Crazy World at Theatre Royal Stratford East, but he danced and sang badly, leading his usually-supportive father to say "Give it up, while you're ahead." One of his first T.V. appearances came in the 1976 "Loving Arms" episode of the popular police series The Sweeney where he was credited as "Raymond Winstone" and played a minor part as an unnamed young thug.
Raymond was not popular with the school establishment, who considered him a bad influence. After some 12 months, he found that he was the only pupil not invited to the Christmas party and decided to take revenge for this slight. Hammering some tacks through a piece of wood, he placed it under the wheel of his headmistress's car and blew out the tire. For this, he was expelled. As a joke, he went up to the BBC, where his schoolmates were involved in an audition, and got one of his own by flirting with the secretary. The audition was for one of the most notorious plays in history - Alan Clarke's Scum - and, because Clarke liked Winstone's cocky, aggressive boxer's walk, he got the part, even though it had been written for a Glaswegian. The play, written by Roy Minton and directed by Clarke, was a brutal depiction of a young offenders institution. Ray was cast in the leading role of Carlin, a young offender who struggles against both his captors and his fellow cons in order to become the "Daddy" of the institution. Hard hitting and often violent (particularly during the infamous "billiards" scene in which Carlin uses two billiard balls stuffed in a sock in order to beat one of his fellow inmates over the head) the play was judged unsuitable for broadcast by the BBC, and was not finally shown until 1991. The banned television play was entirely re-filmed in 1979 for cinematic release with many of the original actors playing the same roles. In a recent director's commentary for the Scum DVD, Winstone cites Clarke as a major influence on his career, and laments the director's death in 1991 from cancer.
Ray's role in Scum seems to have set a mould for many of his other parts; he is frequently cast as a tough or violent man. He has also been cast against type, however, in films in which he reveals a softer side. He had a comedic part in Martha, Meet Frank, Daniel and Laurence, and played the romantic lead in Fanny and Elvis. Ray Winstone's favorite role was in the television biopic on the life of England's most notorious monarch, King Henry VIII. Helena Bonham Carter co-starred as Henry's most well-known queen, Anne Boleyn. Emilia Fox played Jane Seymour, Charles Dance played the Duke of Buckingham, Emily Blunt played Catherine Howard and David Suchet played Cardinal Wolsey. Joss Ackland and Sean Bean also starred.
After a short run in the TV series Fox, and a role in All Washed Up (alongside Diane Lane, Laura Dern and a host of real-life punks like Fee Waybill, Steve Jones, Paul Cook and Paul Simonon), Winstone got another big break, being cast as Will Scarlet in Robin Of Sherwood. He proved immensely popular and enjoyed the role, considering Scarlet to be "the first football hooligan" - though he was not fond of the dubbed German version, in which he said he sounded like a "psychotic mincer." But once the show was over, the parts dried up. He got involved in co-producing Tank Malling, starring Jason Connery, Amanda Donohoe and Maria Whittaker, and scored a few TV parts. Over the years, he's appeared in TV shows including The Sweeney, The Bill, Boon, Fairly Secret Army (as Stubby Collins), Ever Decreasing Circles, Murder Most Horrid, Birds of a Feather, Minder, Kavanagh QC, Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and Get Back (with the fledgling Kate Winslet.) During this period, he was increasingly drawn to the theatre, playing in Hinkemann in 1988, Some Voices in 1994 and Dealer's Choice and Pale Horse the following year.
Ray was asked to appear in Mr Thomas, a play written by his friend and fellow-Londoner Kathy Burke. The reviews were good, and led to Winstone being cast, alongside Burke, in Gary Oldman's drama Nil By Mouth. As an alcoholic wife-batterer, he was lauded across the board, receiving a BAFTA nomination (17 years after his Best Newcomer award for That Summer). He continued to play tough guy roles in the likes of Face and The War Zone — the latter especially controversial, as he played a father who rapes his teenage daughter — but that obvious toughness would also allow him to play decent men softened by love in romantic comedies like Fanny And Elvis and There's Only One Jimmy Grimble. In Last Christmas, he played a dead father, now a trainee angel, who returns from Heaven to help his young son cope with his bereavement, written by Tony Grounds who Ray worked with again on 'Births Marriages & Deaths' and 'Our Boy' winning Ray the Royal Televison Society Best Actor Award. They worked together again in 2006 on 'All in the Game' where Ray gives a virtuoso performance as a football manager. He did a series of Holsten Pils ads where he played upon the phrase "Who's the Daddy," coined in the film Scum.
In 2000 Ray snagged a role, as Gary 'Gal' Dove in S--y Beast, that brought him great acclaim from UK and international audiences, and brought him to the attention of the American film industry. Ray plays a retired and happily married former thief, living off of his spoils in Spain, dragged back into London's underworld by two psychopathic former associates (played by Ian McShane and Ben Kingsley, who received an Oscar nomination for his performance.) In many ways, Gal represents Winstone's finest depiction of "the tough guy with heart" he has played in many other films, plays and TV shows. His layered and restrained performance transforms the film from a two-dimensional, psuedo-Tarantino crime flick, into a powerful and intense battle for his new life and loved ones.
After a brief role alongside Burke again in the tragi-comic The Martins, he appeared in Last Orders, directed by Fred Schepisi (of Roxanne fame), where he starred alongside the weighty likes of Michael Caine, Helen Mirren, David Hemmings and Tom Courtenay. Before shooting began, he was fearful that meeting these actor-heroes (he loved the likes of Zulu and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner) might turn out to be disappointing. He later said his co-stars were as impressive as he'd hoped, however.
Next Ray Winstone would nab a prime part in Ripley's Game, the sequel to The Talented Mr. Ripley, in which he once again played a cold-bloodedly violent gangster. He followed up with Lenny Blue, the sequel to Tough Love, and the short The Bouncer.
In 2000, Ray Winstone starred in To The Green Fields Beyond at the Donmar Warehouse (directed by Sam Mendes, the man behind American Beauty). 2002 would see him at the Royal Court, as Griffin in The Night Heron. Two years later, he joined Kevin Spacey for 24 Hour Plays at the Old Vic, a series of productions that were written, rehearsed and performed in a single day. Now internationally known, Winstone was next chosen by Anthony Minghella to play Teague, a sinister Home Guard boss, in the Civil War drama Cold Mountain.
Perhaps inspired by Burke and Oldman, Raymond has now decided to direct and produce his own movies, setting up Size 9 and Flicks production companies with his long-time agent Michael Wiggs. The first effort was She's Gone, in which he plays a businessman whose young daughter disappears in Istanbul (filming was held up by unrest in the Middle East.) He followed it up with Jerusalem in which he played poet and visionary William Blake.
Winstone made his action movie debut in King Arthur, starring Clive Owen, directed by Antoine Fuqua, and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. In that film, Fuqua proclaimed him as "the British De Niro." He then provided the voice of Soldier Sam in the long-awaited screen version of The Magic Roundabout.
In 2005, he appeared opposite Suranne Jones in ITV drama Vincent about a team of private detectives. He returned to the role in 2006 and was awarded an International Emmy. In 2005 he also portrayed a 19th century English policeman trying to tame the Australian outback in The Proposition.
A complete change of pace for Ray was providing the voice for the plucky Mr. Beaver in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, also in 2005.
Winstone appears in the 2006 crime thriller by Martin Scorsese, The Departed as Mr. French, an enforcer to Jack Nicholson's Boston mob boss.
Ray met his wife, Elaine, while filming That Summer in 1979. They have three daughters and his two eldest Lois and Jamie are both actors. Raymond was bankrupted by the Inland Revenue before his marriage, and again soon afterwards, but his near-religious refusal to worry saw him through, as it would his occasional run-ins with the police. While returning from filming an episode of Bergerac on Jersey, he was stopped on suspicion of gun-running. And, a couple of years after that, he spent 72 hours in a Leeds jail cell, having been "identified" by a member of the public who'd seen an identikit picture of a criminal on Crimewatch UK.
Raymond lives with his wife in Roydon, Ess--, still supports West Ham United, and keeps up the physical training, being a regular at Ricky English's gym in Watford. He is a huge fan of crooners, as well as Motown, Al Green, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Paul Weller, Madness, and Ian Dury.
Film List for Ray Winstone
Breaking and Entering (2006)
The Departed (2006)
Sweeney Todd (2006)
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) (voice)*
The Magic Roundabout (2005) (voice)
The Proposition (2005)
King Arthur (2004)
Cold Mountain (2003)
Henry VIII (2003) (TV series)
Ripley's Game (2002)
Love, Honour and Obey (2000)
S--y Beast (2000)
There's only one Jimmy Grimble (1999)
Martha, Meet Frank, Daniel and Laurence (1998)
Nil by Mouth (1997)
Robin of Sherwood (1984) (TV series)
The Sweeney (1976) (TV series - 1 minor role)
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