The Long Good Friday
|The Long Good Friday|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John Mackenzie|
|Produced by||Barry Hanson|
|Written by||Barrie Keeffe|
|Music by||Francis Monkman|
|Studio||Black Lion Films
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures (UK)|
|Running time||114 min.|
The Long Good Friday is a British gangster film starring Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren. It was completed in 1979 but, because of release delays, it is generally credited as a 1980 film. It was voted at number 21 in the British Film Institute's list of the top 100 British films of the 20th century, and provided Bob Hoskins with his breakthrough film role.
The film's protagonist is Harold Shand (Bob Hoskins), an old-fashioned 1960s-style London gangster who in the late 1970s is aspiring to become a legitimate businessman, albeit with the financial support of the American Mafia, with a plan to redevelop the then-disused London Docklands as a venue for a future Olympic Games. The storyline weaves together events and concerns of the late 1970s, including low-level political and police corruption, Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) gun-running, displacement of traditional British industry by property development, Britain's membership of the EEC (later the European Union) and the free market economy (the latter was strongly in the ascendant at the time the film was made, in the first year of the Thatcher government).
Harold is the undisputed ruling kingpin of the London underworld, when his world is suddenly torn apart by a series of murders and exploding bombs from an unseen foe. Trying to uncover his attackers' identity forms much of the film's subsequent plotline. His ruthless and violent pursuit of leads only points out the small-time tawdriness of the organisation he hopes to legitimise.
Harold discovers that his closest aide accidentally became involved with the Provisional IRA in a side-job gone wrong in which several IRA men were killed, and that the IRA holds Harold responsible for those deaths. He acts on the information with the same brutality that first took him to the pinnacle of the London underworld. Thinking he's taken care of the problem now, he meets up with the American Mafia representatives, led by Charlie (Eddie Constantine). However, they have already decided to leave England because of all the recent chaos.
When Harold leaves their hotel, he gets into his car, which he thinks is being driven by his chauffeur but in fact has been taken over by two IRA men. As the car speeds away Harold is silent, but gives away a range of emotions: at first astonishment, then anger and finally an acceptance of his coming death. He realizes his enemies this time follow motivations and tactics different from those of his past.
- Bob Hoskins - Harold Shand
- Helen Mirren - Victoria
- Dave King - Parky
- Bryan Marshall - Harris
- Derek Thompson - Jeff
- Eddie Constantine - Charlie
- Paul Freeman - Colin
- Leo Dolan - Phil
The film includes a large number of performances by young actors who later became famous.
- Paul Barber (Denzil in Only Fools and Horses and Horse from The Full Monty) plays Errol the Ponce, a police informant who is visited by Harold and his intimidating associate Razors.
- Pierce Brosnan, in his first film role, appears as an IRA hitman.
- Dexter Fletcher is the boy who asks for money to watch Harold's car.
- Karl Howman (Jacko in Brush Strokes) appears as a young Detective Sergeant who enjoys socialising with the criminal fraternity.
- Kevin McNally, star of many films and TV programmes, is seen in a Belfast bar scene.
- P. H. Moriarty ("Razors") and Alan Ford appear as members of Shand's gang. Both would later play chief villains in Guy Ritchie films.
- Daragh O'Malley, who plays Sergeant Patrick Harper in the series of TV movies based on Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series of historical novels, appears as Brosnan's fellow assassin.
- Gillian Taylforth, later of EastEnders fame, appears briefly as a young woman who finds the security guard nailed to the floor of a disused warehouse.
- Derek Thompson, who went on to play Charlie Fairhead in medical drama Casualty appears as Harold's right-hand man.
The film was directed by John Mackenzie and produced for £930,000 by Barry Hanson from a script by Barrie Keeffe, with a soundtrack by the composer Francis Monkman; it was screened at the Cannes, Edinburgh and London Film Festivals in 1980.
Under the title "The Paddy Factor", the original story had been written by Keeffe for Hanson when the latter worked for Euston Films, a subsidiary of Thames Television. Euston did not make the film but Hanson bought the rights from Euston for his own company Calendar Films. Although Hanson designed the film for the cinema and all contracts were negotiated under a film, not a TV agreement, the production was eventually financed by Black Lion, a subsidiary of Lew Grade's ITC Entertainment for transmission via Grade's Associated TeleVision (ATV) on the ITV Network. The film was commissioned by Charles Denton, at the time both Programme Controller of ATV and Managing Director of Black Lion. After Grade saw the finished film, he allegedly objected to what he saw as the glorification of the IRA.
The film was scheduled to be televised with heavy cuts on 24 March 1981. Because of the planned cuts, in late 1980, Hanson attempted to buy the film back from ITC to prevent ITV screening the film. The cuts, he said, would be "execrable". and added up to "about 75 minutes of film that was literal nonsense". It was also reported at the same time that Bob Hoskins was suing both Black Lion and Calendar Films to prevent their planned release of a US TV version in which Hoskins' voice would be dubbed by English Midlands actor David Daker.
Before the planned ITV transmission the rights to the film were bought from ITC by George Harrison's company, Handmade Films, for around £200,000 less than the production costs. They gave the film a cinema release.
The film was shot on location around London including:
- Heathrow Airport – Harold is seen arriving in London after having disembarked from Concorde there.
- St Katharine Docks – Harold's yacht is moored on the Thames at this location.
- St George in the East (Church of England) Church – used for exterior shots of the church where Harold's mother goes to a service and where his Rolls Royce is blown up in the churchyard, killing his/his mother's chauffeur.
- St Patrick’s Church (RC), Greenbank, Wapping – used for the interior scenes of the Church service.
- Canary Wharf/West India Docks is the venue for Harold's proposed marina development. The future location of One Canada Square is clearly visible as his yacht tours the site. There is also a small model of the proposed development in Harold's yacht.
- Paddington station.
- King George V Dock in the Royal Docks, now the site of London City Airport – Harold has a meeting here.
- The Savoy Hotel – where Harold meets the American Mafia towards the end of the film.
- Wigmore Street.
- The Salisbury pub, 1 Grand Parade, Green Lanes, Harringay – used to represent Fagan's Pub in Belfast.
- The Lion and Unicorn pub, was a set built for the film in Wapping. Hoskins has said that they used to get members of the public knocking on the door asking if it was open. It is blown up in the film.
- The Governor General pub – where Harold finds Billy (Nick Stringer) – was the real name of the pub at the time - earlier it was called the Northover. Located at the junction of Whitefoot Lane and Northover in Downham. Now a Q8 petrol station.
- Harringey Stadium, Green Lanes, Harringey, a greyhound racing stadium at the time, now the site of a superstore – the banger racing scenes were shot here.
- "British Film Institute website".
- "Association of Independent Producers' magazine, September 1980.
- "Producer seeks a £1m buyer...": news report in movie trade magazine Screen International, 22 November 1980.
- Bloody Business: The Making of The Long Good Friday, documentary film, 2006
- Robert Sellers, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: The Inside Story of HandMade Films, Metro, 2003, pp. 56-70.
- The Long Good Friday at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Long Good Friday at the Internet Movie Database
- The Long Good Friday at allmovie
- The Long Good Friday at the British Film Institute's Screenonline
- Criterion Collection essay by Michael Sragow