Lucy Liu and Josh Hartnett in Lucky Number Slevin
Slick crime thriller Lucky Number Slevin hits cinema screens this week and I caught up with Scottish director Paul McGuigan and cast members Lucy Liu and Josh Hartnett when the film premiered at Sundance earlier in the year. Taking its lead from classic film noir, the film tells the story of Slevin (Hartnett), a man unwittingly caught up in a war between rival gangsters (Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley).
Scot Paul McGuigan's style of direction certainly went down well with Liu and Hartnett. Josh, 27, who previously teamed up with McGuigan for Wicker Park, said, "He lit the entire set. He let's you play as much as possible. It's more enjoyable. When you are given free reign, you get the opportunity to explore the script the way you want to."
37-year-old Lucy agreed. "Paul really lets you go in whatever direction you want and keeps pushing you to go further, which I love."
The end result is pacy and features strong performances from the cast, helped by a snappy script from Jason Smilovic, which Paul said is the key to the project.
"There are two ways of making movies," he said. "You either throw money at it, or you throw talent at it. We were lucky. This is a great script and it generated good actors. I wish I could say it was me, but it was such a nice script, with well defined, well written roles."
It may have a good script, but how did Josh feel about sporting nothing but a towel for around 20 minutes and - perhaps more to the point - did he take on a fitness regime? He laughs at the thought. "I was so busy that I didn't have a chance. I was in New Zealand with family for Christmas and had two weeks down there. I was going to cut out desserts... but I didn't." And filming was not without its dangers." Morgan tried to take it off a couple of times - I don't know what that was about - but Lucy was very respectful."
While the towel should ensure Hartnett catches the eye of the female audience, Hollywood certainly seems to have the hots for 42-year-old McGuigan. He has recently been named as the director of a remake of The Equalizer and is also attached to Marvel comics adaptation Deathlok - the story of a man who is half robot - which he hopes to start shooting later this year.
A significantly different project from the noir thrillers he has tackled in the past, he hopes to shy away from overuse of special effects in favour of the human story.
"The reason why they got me involved - I'm not the obvious choice for something like this - is that they want to try something new. They're thinking, why do we have to approach it in such a technical manner? Why don't we approach it from the human heart? That's what the story is - human. It has been written by David Self, who wrote Road To Perdition, so it's a classic piece of work. They want to direct it through that line rather than going down the more obvious CGI, blockbuster blue screen and green screen paths.
"I'm just too selfish to let other people do my movies for me. Getting computer geeks painting in your movie, I don't really understand it, but I appreciate it."
He describes himself as an "old school" filmmaker, preferring to create through the lens. He adds, "To be good at something doesn't mean you have to have a lot of money. This film doesn't have a lot of money. If you know how to shoot things, then go for it. You just need imagination."