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Extreme closeup: 'The Kid'
Director Nick Moran tells a distrurbing - and true - story
In "The Kid," Rupert Friend stars as Kevin Lewis

Come the 19th of November, Nick Moran will be on movie screens all over the world, playing Scabior the Snatcher — a bad, bad dude — in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

As an actor, Moran is well remembered as hapless Eddie the card sharp in Guy Ritchie’s ultra–vi Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

Directing, however, has become this veteran Londoner’s lock and stock–in–trade. He was at the Savannah Film Festival in 2009 with his directorial debut, Telstar: The Joe Meek Story, and this week he returns with his second feature, The Kid.

The Oct. 31 screening at the Trustees Theater will be the official U.S. premiere of the film, which has generated quite a buzz in Great Britain already.

That’s because The Kid is based on the bestselling memoir by Kevin Lewis. The book sold a million copies in the U.K.
Born into poverty in a state council home outside London, Lewis was physically and emotionally abused by his alcoholic parents, who literally kept him locked in his room – when they weren’t beating him.

Despite several successful stints in foster care, young Kevin was always sent back home, where things just got worse, and as he grew, his anger, hurt and explosive temper grew with him.

He took to drinking – a lot – and swallowing copious amounts of painkillers.

As a young adult, Lewis fell in with some unsavory characters, who exploited his rage by selling him as a street fighter – he’d meet some burly guy in a junkyard and, while other men cheered and made bets – knock him senseless.

The Kid, like Lewis’ book, is a violent film. And like the memoir, it’s riveting drama because – as Moran says in this interview – it’s all true. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

Rupert Friend (The Young Victoria), an actor with a slight build and a high, mousy voice, plays the grownup Kevin Lewis in Moran’s movie.

P.S. It all turns out OK. Today, Lewis is one of England’s most successful crime novelists.

Moran will be in attendance, for a Q&A session, following the second screening of The Kid the morning of Nov. 4.

Kevin Lewis’ life was pretty violent. Considering you’re going for a broader audience, did you have to tone things down for the film?

Nick Moran: The thing about the book is that it’s no punches pulled, if you’ll pardon the pun. As Kevin says, if he’d known the book was going to be published he would have toned it down. But because he wrote it for his wife, everything was in there. He had lots of discussions with his publishers saying “Can’t we tone this down, or take that out?” and their opinion was no, that’s what’s so good about it. Leave it in there. Let’s have a genuine account.

And I think they were right. Because what’s so unique about the book is that it is so candid. And that candor is coming from someone who’s writing something not because he wants to publish it.

We had to tone down the film a bit, because there were more instances, and we just picked the choice cuts. The film, I feel, is more about the genesis of the book than Kevin’s life. It’s about how this book came into being and all these things sort of made sense. And he got a sort of kismet payback on all the misery he’d suffered.

Perhaps because it all actually happened, I never could predict where it was going. Standard movie conventions don’t apply. When Kevin goes to the gangsters to get his money, in every other film those guys would’ve shot him in the back as he was leaving. But he just walks out the door.

Nick Moran: Journalists who saw the film have asked Kevin “Aren’t you afraid they’ll come after you now?” And Kevin says “Well, I only took what they owed me.” And I think that’s right. We sexed it up a little bit for the film, but the fact that he only took what was owed, I think there’s an element of they might leave him alone: It’s more trouble than it’s worth. He rumbled us, but all he took was what he was owed. And I think that’s why he didn’t get shot in the back on the way out.

Also, there’s a very different gun culture in the U.K. We are actually a much more violent country than the U.S., but with far less fatalities because people just tend to give each other a good kickin.’ Our police run ‘round with truncheons and bits of wood, and our kids all stab each other instead of shooting ‘em. It’s knives and sticks and a sort of thug culture, rather than a gun culture. So if someone buys a gun in this country, it’s a big deal. We’ve got such stringent laws. It’s impossible to own a firearm, and it’s very rare that anyone gets shot.

In the U.K., as I understand it, the police don’t carry guns.

Nick Moran: The only people that do any shooting are the Armed Response Teams of the police. I talk to coppers in New York and they’re saying you can go eight, nine years without un–holstering your weapon. The idea is that you’ve got it, not that you need to use it.

Whereas in the U.K., because the only police that do have guns are the Armed Response Teams, they just turn up and shoot people.

Anyway, you have to remember that Kevin’s still got a gun when he walks out, and they haven’t.

Nobody knows that when he gets outside, he throws up in the dumpster, then throws the gun in there.

The great thing about writing something that’s based on reality, there’s sense behind it. Because it happened.

What was your first impression of Kevin when you met him?

Nick Moran: One of the many things I liked about the idea of making the film was when I met Kevin, and he doesn’t look like Jason Statham, or Stone Cold Steve Austin, you know? He doesn’t look like a bare–knuckle boxer. He’s just a normal guy, and he’s a little bit fey.

And that’s the reality. Those are the real guys that go around doing this. It’s not the guys that are doing it professionally, the WWF, it’s just people that are desperate. It’s not sportsmen, it’s alcoholics and people that are in extreme debt that end up doing these things.

I thought that was far more interesting. If I’dve met Kevin and he looked like Stone Cold Steve Austin, I would’ve thought “Well, this’ll be a really boring, predictable film about a tough guy.”

He’s like Peter Parker – Spider–man – or the Incredible Hulk. He’s just this normal guy who’s so full of rage, and so used to violence, that when he does get angry he doesn’t have a fear factor. There’s an ocean of violence in him.

I think you see that when he beats up the school bully. He doesn’t do it conventionally – he bites him and stabs him until he stops moving.

He was this desperate sort of camp fella who nobody wanted to fight because he’s insane. I thought that was far more interesting than the conventional movie idea that it’s a big guy. And because it’s based on real life, I think every movie convention gets thrown out the window.

Natascha McElhone is one of England’s most beautiful actresses. In your film, she plays Kevin’s abusive monster of a mother, with horrible teeth. How was she with the thought of getting all uglied up for the part?

Nick Moran: We tried to do like a Charlize Theron in Monster. The idea was, instead of getting somebody who could actually play that part, let’s get someone from the Brit Hollywood list and see if they want to ugly up for this role. You know who’s on the list.

And Natascha said yes. And she didn’t say yes, but, I want my hair to look like this, or can I have a nicer dressing gown? Or I think this jewelry’s a bit gaudy. She really went for it. I think given more time she would’ve gone for it more.

It’s not a flattering role, and most people don’t recognize her for the first few minutes. I joked that that’s what she looked like first thing in the morning!

How was Kevin as far as the locations you used, the way things looked?

Nick Moran: Me and Kevin went off and wrote the script. Kevin had written a first draft, which was very good, and then we spent three weeks together writing another draft – just changed things around a little. But we went everywhere – drove around to the estate, drove around to the real houses, and met a load of the real people. And then, to be honest, he just sort of walked away and let us get on with it. He’d come on set mostly just as a visitor, with friends and family. If the actors wanted to, he’d go off and have a chat with them.

He had a little bit of a panic once the film was finished. He saw it, and halfway through the film he was like “I don’t talk like that! That’s not my voice! Why’s he talking like that?”

And at the end, where you see the real Kevin, he suddenly realized – My God, I do talk like that! Rupert’s impersonation is very, very accurate.

That’s a big payoff, where you see and hear the real Kevin ...

Nick Moran: When you see the big reveal at the end, suddenly you realize, that’s why Rupert speaks and sounds and acts like this. Because a lot of people were confused – “Why have you employed a geek to play this role?”

Once you see it, it’s “Oh, that’s quite interesting. He’s some geeky bloke, he’s quite good at boxing, and comes from a hideous background and has got this insane pain tolerance and anger level. But really, he’s a bit of a school geek.”

And that doesn’t make sense until you see the last minute of the film.

The Kid screens at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 31 and 11:30 a.m. Nov. 4, at Trustees Theater
Q&A with director Nick Moran on Nov. 4