Interview with Craig Pearce and Thomas Brodie-Sangster: Pistol
FX Gun arrives May 31 on Hulu, and it will chronicle the triumphant rise of the Sex Pistols and the ensuing chaos of Britain’s 1970s punk rock scene. The 6-episode miniseries, based on the memoir of Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones, was directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting) and written by Craig Pearce (red Mill). Although the show follows the band members themselves, it also expands to cover various elements and figures from the era.
Among them is the impresario Malcolm McLaren, who has managed not only the Sex Pistols but also the New York Dolls. It is played in Gun by Thomas Brodie Sangster (The Queen’s Bet), and his girlfriend Vivienne Westwood – iconoclast and entrepreneur in her own right – is played by Talulah Riley.
Pearce and Brodie-Sangster spoke to Screen Rant How? ‘Or’ What Gun became a passion project and the responsibility of embodying a true figure in the punk rock scene like Malcolm McLaren.
Screen rate: Craig, I want to start with you, because you’re kind of the creator behind what feels like a passion project. Is this a story you’ve wanted to bring to life for a while?
Craig Pearce: Well, no. Oddly no, but it’s a passion project.
It became a passion project pretty quickly in the way that sometimes these projects work. A few years ago, Gail Lyon, one of our American producers, brought me the book. I was in Los Angeles; I was working on Elvis with Baz, and I drove a lot in LA. I listen to the audiobook and Steve Jones reads his memoir, Lonely Boy.
He’s the lead guitarist for the Six Pistols, of course, and I fell in love with Steve hearing him read his book because you get this whole other layer of his character beyond the writing. Her vulnerability, her shyness; his outrageous, self-deprecating sense of humor and his ability to ignore the really pretty bad things that happened to him in an unsentimental way.
But of course I was very aware of the fact that punk was growing and the influence it had on our culture, our music, our stories and our films. When I heard the book, I thought, “Well, this is a character that I really love and want to live with, and a world that I really want to dive into.” And as I did more and more research, I discovered a lot of things – a lot, a lot, a lot of things that I had no idea about. Especially the other characters, like Chrissie Hynde, Jordan, Vivienne Westwood – all these really, really rich characters, and I became very passionate about telling the story very quickly.
Thomas, Malcolm is such a fascinating character, but we don’t realize that so many of these now-iconic people were all hanging around and running in the same circles at the same time. Malcolm was sort of the epicenter of it. How is? Is there a particular pressure to play a character who is the hub of all these other well-known characters?
Thomas Brodie-Sangster: There’s a pressure to play someone who really existed and to do a good job. There’s a responsibility, and for a lot of people that’s how they’ll know Malcolm – through my performance. There’s a responsibility to try to make it as good as possible, I guess. For me, making it honest and truthful was the most important thing. But also… It’s really fun.
It’s restrictive because you have to be like them, so you can’t come up with an idea on your own and spread it around. But if I had to create this character on my own, I don’t think I would have had the balls to get on set and do that. The fact that he really existed – and he was like that – was wonderfully liberating because I could play this crazy, crazy, over-the-top, wonderful character that Malcolm McLaren was. [He] was so passionate about what he was doing and what he wanted to achieve, and how he was bringing people together.
Like you said, he was at the epicenter of this movement before it was even a movement. He seen him setting right there, and he went out and grabbed him and threw him out into the world.
I imagine it must be fun but also a little difficult, because his way of speaking is not that of a normal person. It’s so over the heads of most people he runs with, but you still have to be able to make him charming enough to be the commander of the troops that inspire those people to follow him. Is it hard to walk that fine line between pretentious and authentic?
Thomas Brodie-Sangster: Yes, that’s a very good point. He has to be liked because, as you said, people follow him and boys want him. They gladly accompany him, some more than others. But he is inspiring. When he picks one up, he’s so passionate and he goes for it. But it’s real, it’s true. That’s what he believes in, and I think that’s always an attractive thing. When someone is passionate about what they truly believe in, it’s contagious, and you follow along and want to see what happens next.
For me, it was very important to make sure that he was not a bad guy, the bad guy, but that he was a boy – really, a grown boy on his own journey. Wanting to shout and shout at the world and make your mark and say something that meant something; something authentic, something truthful, something real and something that resonated with young people at that time.
Craig Pearce: Yeah, and the only thing for me as a writer is to look behind what a character does, even if it’s an extreme character like Malcolm. [It’s not] what they do, but why do they do it? Psychologically for the character, you really have to look at how Malcolm was lost the same way Steve was lost.
The reason he spoke in such a haughty way – sometimes in such a working-class way, and sometimes a little American at times – was because he had this kind of changeable personality. Because he was looking for an identity, the same way Steve was looking for an identity. And he never really had a father either; Malcolm never really had a father, so maybe he was unconsciously becoming a Fagan-type father figure to replace the fact that he never really had a family when he was growing up. And he was actually quite an unreliable father, according to his sons, who I spoke to in the research.
Yeah, it’s just finding the real stuff under the addictions, that’s I think how you create a character that’s big but grounded.
FX’s Pistol is a six-episode limited series about a rock and roll revolution, available exclusively on Hulu. The furious, raging storm at the center of this revolution are the Sex Pistols – and at the center of this series is Sex Pistols founding member and guitarist Steve Jones. Jones’ hilarious, moving, and at times harrowing journey guides us through a kaleidoscopic tale of three of the most epic, chaotic, and mucus-splattered years in music history.
Based on the memoir Jones Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol, it’s the story of a spotty, loud, working-class group of kids with no “future”, who shook off the boring and corrupt establishment. , threatened to bring down the government and change music and culture forever.
Check out our interview with Gun stars Sydney Chandler, Maisie Williams and Talulah Riley, plus director Danny Boyle.
More: Movies & TV Shows Where You’ve Seen The Pistol Cast
FX Gun premieres Tuesday, May 31, 2022, exclusively on Hulu.
Prime Video: Every new movie and TV show coming in June 2022
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