Robert Carlyle &
Jonny Lee Miller

They're the dandy highwaymen who you're too scared to mention. They spend their cash on looking flash and grabbing your attention...

Marianne Gray meets the stars of Plunkett & Macleane
Selected from the May 1999
Film Review
Wanted: Plunkett & MacLeane

Director Jake Scott describes his $15 million début feature Plunkett & Macleane as an “anarchic buddy movie about two highwaymen”. He’s assembled an enticing cast top-lined by Robert Carlyle, Jonny Lee Miller and Liv Tyler and, despite the grimy locations, the film has a succulent visual style.

Set in the middle of the 18th Century and based on real-life characters, it’s the story of two notorious highwaymen – the rough Plunkett (Carlyle), a “bag of scum” with the brains and the know-how to be pretty good at his chosen profession, and the smooth Macleane (Miller), a “gambling, philandering drinker”, who has the social connections to make the rich pickings readily available. Together this unlikely couple infiltrate wealthy society, holding up the coaches of the aristocracy and ripping them off at their banquets or in their beds.

Daylight robberyFilm Review met Carlyle and Miller against the appropriate setting of London’s Armourers’ Hall, surrounded by authentic historical weapons and armour. “I wanted to do this film because it was subversive,” says Robert Carlyle in his broad brogue. “The period genre tends to be quite clinical and tends to come from a particular class point of view, so this was an opportunity to take that and subvert it in some way.

“Plunkett is a driven character, driven basically just by money,” he adds. “He wants to make enough money so he can escape to America, away from the grime and the poverty. It’s a very different piece for both Jonny and me because the analogy – if you read this film – is like it’s a moving train that you jump on and you jump off at the end. There’s not a lot of time for very deep character study. Although it’s not all just running around and jumping on horses. We got quite a lot of chances to do some acting!”

For Jonny Lee Miller one of the main attractions was working again with Trainspotting co-star Carlyle, who was the psychotic Begbie to his Connery-fixated Sick Boy. “When I heard that Bobby was already attached I wanted to do it! But I had to audition a million times! I got lucky. It fitted me to be Macleane,” he laughs. “He’s a real selfish guy who just wants to have a good time and ends up finding a bit of the hero inside himself.

So, for Miller, what were the benefits of having previously shared screen time with Carlyle? “It was really good that Bobby and I had worked together before because it cuts that ‘getting to know you’ stuff. You can save a lot of time and also, for Jake, it being his first feature film, we could help him because we worked with each other easily. Bobby had to slap me about quite a lot which could have been difficult with somebody you don’t know.”

“You have to build up trust,” adds Carlyle, grinning like a demon. “Trust is the main thing about actors anywhere in the world. You have to trust each other when you’re working close together and we certainly do...”

Images copyright: Visual Imagination
Read the full interview, with more from the stars plus their dubutant director Jake Scott and leading lady Liv Tyler and our Film of the Month review of Plunkett & MacLeane in this Film Review
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