The Long Good Friday

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The Long Good Friday
Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Mackenzie
Produced by Barry Hanson
Written by Barrie Keeffe
Starring Bob Hoskins
Helen Mirren
Music by Francis Monkman
Cinematography Phil Meheux
Distributed by Paramount Pictures (UK)
Release dates
  • November 1980 (1980-11)
Running time
114 min.
Language English
Budget £930,000

The Long Good Friday is a British gangster film starring Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren. It was completed in 1979[1] 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.


Harold Shand (Bob Hoskins), an old-fashioned London gangster is aspiring to become a legitimate businessman, albeit with the financial support of the American mafia, with a plan to redevelop the (then-abandoned) 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, IRA gun-running, displacement of traditional British industry by property development, UK membership of the EEC, and the free-market economy.

Harold is the 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. He and his henchmen try to uncover his attackers' identity. His ruthless and violent pursuit of leads only points out the small-time tawdriness of the organisation he hopes to legitimise. He discovers his closest aide accidentally became involved with the IRA in a side-job gone wrong, and stole £5000 from the IRA, as well as killing several IRA men – for which the IRA holds Harold responsible. He acts on the information with the same brutality that first took him to the pinnacle of the London underworld. He eventually approaches the local IRA members he suspects of orchestrating the violence against him. He offers to pay them back their money, but then double crosses them while they are counting the money, and his henchmen kill them. He also 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 has been taken over by two IRA men. As the car speeds away Harold is silent, but his face displays a range of emotions.


Actors who later garnered fame playing unnamed characters here[edit]


The film was directed by John Mackenzie and produced for £930,000[2] 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.[3]

Under the title "The Paddy Factor",[4] the original story had been written by Keeffe for Hanson when the latter worked for Euston Films,[2] a subsidiary of Thames Television. Euston did not make the film but Hanson bought the rights from Euston for his own company Calendar Films.[2] 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.[3] The film was commissioned by Charles Denton, at the time both Programme Controller of ATV and Managing Director of Black Lion.[2] After Grade saw the finished film, he allegedly objected to what he saw as the glorification of the IRA.[1]

The film was scheduled to be televised with heavy cuts on 24 March 1981.[3] 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"[2][3] and added up to "about 75 minutes of film that was literal nonsense".[1] 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.[3]

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.[1] They gave the film a cinema release.[5]


  1. ^ a b c d Mark Duguid ""Long Good Friday, The (1979)", BFI Screenonline
  2. ^ a b c d e "Association of Independent Producers' magazine, September 1980.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Producer seeks a £1m buyer...": news report in movie trade magazine Screen International, 22 November 1980.
  4. ^ Bloody Business: The Making of The Long Good Friday, documentary film, 2006
  5. ^ Robert Sellers, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: The Inside Story of HandMade Films, Metro, 2003, pp. 56–70.

External links[edit]