Vinnie Jones on X-Men disappointment, Guy Ritchie, and turning down Rambo

The 59-year-old sportsman looks back at the highs and lows of his acting career with Yahoo

Vinnie Jones looks back at the highs and lows of his career for Role Recall. (Fox/Netflix/PA Images)
Vinnie Jones looks back at the highs and lows of his career with Yahoo for Role Recall. (Fox/Netflix/PA Images)

Vinnie Jones' acting career was something of an accident, a nice surprise that came to pass simply because the footballer was offered a cameo in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels in 1998.

In the almost thirty years since that fateful role, the 59-year-old actor has worked on over 100 films and TV shows, the most recent of which is Netflix series The Gentlemen. In it he portrays Geoff Seacombe, the groundsman and honorary member of the Halstead family who is ready to lend Eddie (Theo James) a helping hand with the criminal empire he has inherited whenever he needs it.

Watch Vinnie Jones looks back at his career for Role Recall:

The TV series gave Jones the chance to reunite with Guy Ritchie, the person who helped kick-start his acting career all those years ago. Ready to look back at some of the highs and lows of his career, Jones sits down with Yahoo to do just that for Role Recall.

Vinnie Jones' acting career 'came out of nowhere'

Vinnie Jones Film: Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels (UK 1998) Characters: Big Chris  Director: Guy Ritchie 28 August 1998   **WARNING** This Photograph is for editorial use only and is the copyright of HANDMADE FILMS and/or the Photographer assigned by the Film or Production Company and can only be reproduced by publications in conjunction with the promotion of the above Film. A Mandatory Credit To HANDMADE FILMS is required. The Photographer should also be credited when known. No commercial use can be granted without written authority from the Film Company.
Vinnie Jones's career began with Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels in 1998 which the actor saw as being akin to opening a fish and chip shop initially. (PA Images)

Jones' first entered the spotlight as a professional footballer, playing between 1984 and 1999 for teams like Wimbledon and Chelsea. As he tells it, being an actor was never on the agenda for him, and his aspirations at the time were closer to his sporting career than it was the starry lights of Hollywood.

"It was the boys, Matthew [Vaughn, the film's executive producer] and Guy just arranged a meeting for me to meet them and said 'would you do a cameo role in this film?' So that's like how that came about, I was still playing when it came out a year later," he reveals.

"It was only until that movie came out and then I got a call from Jerry Bruckheimer to do Gone in Sixty Seconds, and then I decided to retire two or three years earlier. My aspirations were to be a manager, you know, not to go into acting. It just came from nowhere, really."

Even when he was making the film, Jones admits he "didn't think there was any future in it" and simply saw it as a one-time job rather than a career-changing moment: "I just went and done it and like going to open a fish and chip shop, you go up there and 'thanks very much, cut the ribbon and p**s off', and it was the same as that.

"I thought I'd turn up smash a geezer's head in the sunbed and then 'see you later'. Then suddenly it went, 'oh, hold on a minute. Come back, we wanna do some reshoots', then all of a sudden you win best British newcomer, and then it all starts going."

Vinnie Jones had a 'magical moment' with Brad Pitt during Snatch filming

Snatch  Tu braques ou tu raques Snatch 2000 Real Guy Ritchie Dennis Farina Vinnie Jones. Collection Christophel © Columbia Pictures / SKA Films
Vinnie Jones reunited with Guy Ritchie in 2000 film Snatch, by then his career as an actor was sky-rocketing. (Columbia Pictures)

Start going it did, and soon Jones was reuniting with Ritchie again for his 2000 hit film Snatch, which also starred Brad Pitt and Benicio del Toro. The experience on that film is one that Jones looks back on fondly, and also tongue-in-cheek humour.

"We were on such a high because of the names, obviously, Dennis Farina, Brad, Benicio, we were just all on a frenzy. I think we didn't really know what was going on, and then don't forget that Guy had just met Madonna then so that was a s**tshow with all the phone calls and everything else.

"It was just constant bombardment. We were filming Snatch at the same time, so with a young director in love and a load of actors having the time our lives, and we're all going round pinching ourselves being on the set with Brad Pitt."

SNATCH 2000 Columbia Pictures film with Brad Pitt at right and director Guy Ritchie
Brad Pitt with director Guy Ritchie on the set of Snatch, where Vinnie Jones shared a "magical moment" with him when he took the A-lister to Walthamstow Dogs. (Columbia Pictures)

Jones adds that he enjoyed spending time with Pitt off set too: "Brad was such a good lad as well off the screen. I took him to Walthamstow Dogs one night, he was bored, phoned me from the Grovenor and said 'I'm bored up here, what are you doing?' So I took him to Walthamstow Dogs, that ain't there no more.

"He reminded me of that a little while ago, Brad, when I saw him. So, it was a magical moment of life, it really was."

He hoped Mean Machine was bigger

Vinnie Jones' first lead role was in Mean Machine in 2001, which he starred in with Danny Dyer and Jason Statham. (PA Images)

Jones was able to put his football skills to good use in Mean Machine, his first lead role in which he played a jailed footballer who helps put on a match between the inmates and the prison guards. While the actor enjoyed his time on the film, which was his third time on-screen with longtime friend Jason Statham, he had hoped it would be bigger.

"That was my first lead, my first lead role," he reflects. "Matthew Vaughn was director, Guy was exec[utive] producer on that and it was good. It was a good little movie. It was Sony, I thought it was gonna be bigger than what it was, and I think they decided to do it just domestic which was a bit of a shame at the time."

Of reuniting with Statham, he adds: "It was great, we just have a laugh, we literally have a laugh. We don't take the work too serious and we have a laugh. When they said [Jason was cast], I said 'well what am I going to do with him? and I said. 'Well, just put him in goal'."

Vinnie Jones criticises X-Men: The Last Stand as a "shambles"

Vinnie Jones as Juggernaut (Credit: Fox)
Vinnie Jones as Juggernaut in X-Men: The Last Stand, an experience that the actor passionately critcised. (Credit: Fox)

The most difficult experience that Jones has had in his acting career came in 2006 when he played Juggernaut in X-Men: The Last Stand, calling the film a "shambles" and passionately speaking out against how he was treated by director Brett Ratner, who had replaced friend Matthew Vaughn.

Jones reflects: "Matthew was the director on that, and then he bailed on it and he rang me and he said, 'have you signed a contract yet?' I said 'no, why?' and he said 'I'm not going to do it, they're going to bring a new director.'

"So the new director came on and it was not the same role as I had signed on to do, they diluted it, the dialogue. It was a bigger role... the director brought in so many other moving parts and so many other actors that mine was the one that got diluted.

"I lost all interest quite early because I knew they were just ticking me along, you know what I mean? I was very upset, really, because it was such a movie, such a big stage and [I] became an extra, that's what happened."

Prod DB © 20th Century Fox / DR X-MEN: L'AFFRONTEMENT FINAL (X-MEN: THE LAST STAND) de Brett Ratner 2006 USA avec Ken Leung, Aaron Stanford, Ian McKellen, Vinnie Jones et Dania Ramirez sequelle, autres titres: x-men 3
Vinnie Jones said when director Brett Ratner took over the movie he 'brought in so many other moving parts and so many other actors that mine was the one that got diluted'. (20th Century Fox)

Jones' most memorable moment in the film is his delivery of the line "I'm the Juggernaut, b***h' but the actor reveals that was a late addition by Ratner: "That was afterwards, they came to the Elstree [Studios, in the UK] to film that.

"We did the movie in Vancouver and then Brett Ratner phoned me and he said, 'oh, I want you to do this line'. He'd seen it online, I think, and so he said, 'I want you to do it' so we had to go to Elstree for the day and we did that one line. But, I was very disappointed with that."

Jones adds that because his family were with him on set he "didn't get involved with any of the politics" when filming was taking place, but now he is adamant about speaking out and sharing his side of the story.

Vinnie Jones admits he's still 'very upset' with what happened on X-Men: The Last Stand. (20TH Century Fox)

"I was going in [saying] 'where's all my dialogue? Where's the storyline?' And Brett had different directors directing, and he would sit there as the big director," he says. "For me it was a shambles and it was a shame —I had a fantastic experience on Gone in Sixty Seconds, I knew what my role was and I really got on well with everyone— but I was upset with the X-Men, very upset.

"I snapped about a year ago and I actually said my side of it —cause I hadn't said my side of it—and I said, 'I got dumped on, my character got dumped on.'"

Vinnie Jones once turned down a role in Rambo

ESCAPE PLAN, (aka THE TOMB), Vinnie Jones, 2013. ph: Steve Dietl/©Summit Entertainment/courtesy Everett Collection
Vinnie Jones starred in The Escape Plan opposite Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwazenegger, where they bonded over golf and football. (Summit Entertainment)

In 2013 Jones had the chance to work with two of the greats of the action genre, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, in Escape Plan. Unlike X-Men, this big budget blockbuster was an experience that Jones says was highly enjoyable, but not for the reason you may expect.

"It was great cause I basically was playing golf all the time with Sly and even on set we [were] sorting out our drivers and our wedges," Jones says. "And then with Arnold we just talked about football.

"He liked his football, you know, and I played against Germany in Dusseldorf. It was quite strange to be on a set with them two, I've got a brilliant picture —we got the three chairs [with] Jones, Sly and Arnold [on the back]— I've got that. "

Sylvester Stallone portrays Vietnam veteran John Rambo for the fifth time in 'Rambo: Last Blood'. (Credit: Lionsgate)
Sylvester Stallone portrayed Vietnam veteran John Rambo for the fifth time in Rambo: Last Blood, a film franchise Vinnie Jones turned down joining. (Lionsgate)

It turns out, though, that it wasn't Jones' first time meeting Stallone, because he was once approached by the action star to appear in a different film franchise of his: Rambo.

"He wanted me for Rambo and we couldn't do the deal, but I went to see him at his house and we had a cigar together," Jones reveals. "I think it was Rocky 6, he'd just cut Rocky 6 together, and that's like one of my claims to fame I saw Rocky 6 before it even came out.

"But I turned Rambo down which wasn't one of my best decisions. You know when you do these deals you gotta be prepared to walk, and I walked on that one and I kept walking."

Reuniting with Guy Ritchie in The Gentlemen

The Gentlemen (Netflix)
In The Gentlemen, Vinnie Jones portrays Geoff Seacombe, the groundsman who is ready to lend Eddie (Theo James) a helping hand whenever he needs. (Netflix)

One project he didn't want to walk on though was The Gentlemen, and having worked with Ritchie over several decades the actor says he's most impressed with how his friend has "grown" as a filmmaker.

Jones explains: "I think we're very comfortable with it now, [being] in our own skins. To see how massive Guy has grown, confidence-wise, and to run a set like this, a massive set like this — I don't know whether we had 25 or 30 people on the set of Lock Stock but it was a massive contrast.

"And he was just in control again, it was just like water off a duck's back for him."

The Gentlemen premieres in full on Thursday, 7 March on Netflix.

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