Life & Culture

Amy would've liked my rebellious roles

Reg Traviss talks the release of his film, Anti-Social, the Hatton Garden heist and Amy Winehouse


Passover 2015 will not be remembered as a good one for jewellers in Hatton Garden. While they were off celebrating the festival, which coincided with Easter, thieves drilled their way into the street's main vault and stole £60 million worth of goods from 72 safe deposit boxes. It was the stuff of cinema and left the traders reeling.

But for director Reg Traviss it was PR gold, quite literally. With only weeks to go until the release of Anti-Social, his film about a London gang of smash-and-grab thieves, the timeliness of the heist couldn't have been better if Reg had planned it himself. He didn't of course, but as a Mission Impossible-style robbery of a Hampstead antique dealer followed swiftly on April 12, even Reg was unsettled by the frequency.

"These big, audacious jewellery thefts were the inspiration for my story, but I assumed they would stop once we went into production," says the Stepney-born director. "But in January and February there were more and then Hatton Garden happened which couldn't have been better - but only in the context of releasing the film, you understand."

Fortunately Anti-Social's London premiere went off without a hitch or a heist on Tuesday, much to the delight of actor Josh Myers who shares top-billing with Greg Sulkin, another young Jewish actor who made his debut in 2006 as the unlucky barmitzvah boy in the film Sixty Six.

In Reg's film, Greg plays a gifted graffiti artist who is making waves as the new Banksy, but his spray-can fuelled future is thrown into jeopardy when he discovers his brother, Marcus (Josh) is the leader of a criminal gang with plans to rob the most prestigious jewellery stores.

Remember the motor-bike raid in Brent Cross in 2012? Well, it's recreated brilliantly in Anti-Social, along with the Graff diamond robbery of 2006 and the memorable broad daylight raid at Selfridges in 2013, when thieves in burkas armed with sledgehammers stole designer watches to the value of £1.5 million. Reg, who was Amy Winehouse's partner until her death four years ago, had already written his script when the ''burka'' heist happened, but he couldn't resist including it and Josh was happy to slip one on.

The actor from Edgware who attended Sylvia Young's acting school is unashamedly devoted to Reg whom he credits with launching his career in the film, Psychosis in 2010 before moving on to other roles in such films as Green Street 3 and I Am Soldier.

Muscular and mean-looking on screen, Josh, 28, welcomes the Jason Statham/Vinnie Jones comparisons. "I'm happy to be type-cast as the tough villain if it gets me work," he says, though in real life he couldn't be sweeter. "I'm learning all the time and networking furiously but it feels as though I'm on my way now."

It certainly seems like it. He has a cameo as Frankie Fraser alongside Tom Hardy in the upcoming The Fall of the Krays and a big "hush hush'' role in a film being shot in South Africa this summer. You could say cinema in some form was his destiny as his grandfather Michael Myers was a major film distributor and the man responsible for bringing director John Carpenter to the UK.

"Weirdly, Carpenter showed his appreciation by naming the serial killer in the horror classic Halloween after my grandpa," says Josh, who understandably dines out on the chilling connection.

With his father Martin Myers of Miracle Communications responsible for the distribution of Anti-Social, Josh and Reg know their film is in good hands, though Josh has still yet to give up his other job as a barber in Edgware.

"I've got a very understanding boss - Craig Morris - and the customers are really supportive and enjoy seeing me in the films," he adds. "I'm waiting for that big moment, but Reg who is a longstanding friend of the family wrote this part for me and has boosted my confidence."

Watching Reg cope after Amy's death is something Josh won't forget and notes that -"He really loved her" - but the director has resisted talking about the acclaimed singer when promoting his films.

"I don't want people thinking I'm cashing in on the connection," he says. "Newspapers need an angle and I get that, but she was too important to me and I was making films long before we met."

Reg was however very involved in the setting up of the Amy Winehouse Foundation and the fact that he and her father Mitch are still close speaks volumes.

"He is an amazing guy and having gone with him on behalf of the charity to visit a children's hospice, I don't know how he keeps doing it," reflects Reg.

Just as the timing of the Hatton Garden heist has proved so fortuitous, a documentary about Amy, which her father has described as "tainted" is now set to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival, but Reg has no plan to make his own. "I would never do it, because one needs to have separation."

Yet Amy is often in his thoughts and he thinks she would have liked Anti-Social. "At least I hope so," he smiles. "She had very broad taste in film and I think she would have got into the rebellious spirit of the characters for sure." The same may not be true for Hatton Garden's jewellery fraternity.

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