Kevin Leslie and Simon Cotton chat about their roles as the gay Kray twins

Kevin Leslie and Simon Cotton are hungry for success.

The hunks have taken on the roles of the infamous gangsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray in their film; Rise of the Krays. Suitably titled, the movie tells the life story of how the twins rose to power in the London. Now, to celebrate the DVD release of the movie, the two had a chat with us about their upcoming movie, man crushes, working out and, of course, homoerotic scenes.

What similarities in the Kray twins do you see in yourselves, if anything?

K: The Kray twins would like to be described as an English Gentlemen and I, myself would like to be described as an English gent.

S: Lovely, I’m playing Ronnie Kray. I enjoy being able to engage with people without necessarily being big and strong yet enjoy seeing how power works… I don’t know how to say it without sounding like a psycho.

K: He’s basically saying… ‘I love dominating people’.

S: I don’t know it’s a very good question, my characters a bit of a nutter so there isn’t that many. How about I just like smoking and drinking?

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 We’ve heard that your version of the Kray twins is a contender for the Tom Hardy version, how does that feel, knowing it’s a massive blockbuster?

Kevin: we’re not yet household names and this is big roles for both of us and our breakout onto the scene. We like Tom Hardy’s work. He is a phenomenal actor. To be in the same breath as him and be in the mix playing the same characters is an exciting time for us.

S: There is an intimidating factor. We knew from day one about Hardy’s version but we didn’t ever think ‘let’s compete with him’. I don’t see it as competing. I see it as something that’s the same but completely different. We’ll let people watch it for its own sake, I personally understand that people will compare. Look at all the actors that have played Hamlet. We are not blockbuster stars. We’re new and it’s different. People can compare but they can contrast.

K: I’d like to see our movie stand on its own two feet and there is going to be comparisons but as actors Tom will have his interpretation of the brothers and we will have ours.

S: Hopefully we don’t get downtrodden for not being A-list actors and people take it for what it is. I hope they see the hunger we have and that we’re trying to establish ourselves. I hope that hunger comes out. Im not saying Tom Hardy isn’t hungry, he’s one of the most passionate actors around. But we have been given a chance to prove ourselves and we’re grateful.

What attracted you to the roles?

S: They’re two iconic people that bring responsibility, it’s a challenge. They’re real and authentic. As a child you want to grow up and have guns and drink whisky. There is fun to it but there are still serious acting challenges.

K: Exactly, we all did it as kids, We can release our inner 12 year olds running around in the forest making up scenarios, this type of movie gave us that platform there is sadistic moments and lots of apparatus used like knuckle dusters and daggers and stuff so it was fun to play.

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Was there any training involved before hand?

K: Briefly

S: Yeah, we had to be taught how to shoot and we’re both combat trained to a level so we took to the fighting relatively well and also had boxing lessons. We wanted to be able to hold ourselves like boxers in the scenes and we had a great fight choreographer that instructed us, who made the fight look real and gritty instead of staged.

K: There was an amazing moment in the scene were there is a first bit of brotherly love fight. In the moment I went for it and put Simon through a table and he ended up with a huge bruise on his leg. He took it like a man! When you’ve only had small amounts of training things will go wrong. I got a small scar…

S: You could get them sued for this!

K: Oh! I had no scars or injuries whatsoever. I’ll just go back, what attracted me was the legacy of the two iconic actors. The scene landed on our desk and it was the role you’re waiting for. The characters are so deep. Reggie had so much suppression going on and it was just a great character to play. Ronnie was a psychopath. It’s meaty and gritty. These are two iconic characters that as an actor you can immerse yourself into, so that’s the attraction.

Actors talk about the great lengths they go to to get themselves involved with their characters. What lengths did you go to?

S: Our relationship was natural, we met each other a week before filming and were lucky that as soon as we met we hit it off. We had chemistry as mates and are at the exact same point in our careers. We had mutual respect with what we both wanted from this project. We were both excited. In terms of discovering the character. In terms of my characters extremes I played it situation by situation, I didn’t want it to be a cliché hearing voices typed thing. I let each situation play out.

K: The fact we grew with the parts was great. The Reggie when I started was completely different to the Reggie when I finished. That was good because we began when they were young and ended when they were just going to prison. That as actors helped as we grew with the characters along the process.

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Simon you played Ronnie, was he the first gay character you have played?

S: No, far from it! Maybe on screen… But I was in A Clockwork Orange, which was a very homoerotic play and we had a huge gay following from that. That was fantastic fun and a brilliant opportunity that took me all over the world. I can’t actually remember the last time I played a heterosexual character actually!

Do you both have a lot of gay fans or get a lot of attention from guys?

K: Lets stay modest… I’d say not really.

S: Our names aren’t out there yet. Ask us again in a month.

K: A little bit, we have experienced it; it depends on what you have done. I’ve played Dracula in my graduation show. I got attention from that but more for the part.

If you could choose one man crush who would it be and why?

S: Cillian Murphy

K: Oh nice! Very nice.

S: Because he’s great and has amazing eyes…. No in all seriousness because he has absolute stillness when he’s acting. He is great.

K: I’m going to be a cliché and be that 16-year-old girl…

S: Gosling?

K: No Channing Tatum, he is a good-looking man. I watch his stuff and I think yeah I’d do it for you Channing! But there is also that actor from True Blood Alcide (Joe Manganiello) he’s a good-looking man. But recently, Jake Gyllenhaal. That man is in fine shape in Southpaw. I can appreciate the effort to get himself to that fitness level. He’s a massive hunk in it.

 

Being on stage and film a lot do you feel a need to keep in shape?

S: Yes, it’s very hard to keep in shape when you don’t have jobs coming in each week but now things are picking up and we have been busy. But A Clockwork Orange kept me in shape it was very demanding and it is still going now. It’s a great play, check it out! But coming off that I let myself go but recently got back into it.

K: For me what’s important is being in that middle ground. You can work hard and get yourself to that peak level but I don’t like that buffed up gym look. I feel like it puts you in a box. If a role comes up you have the respect time frame the sixties guys were flares and size 8 and were skinny tiny guys. I like to keep myself in a middle ground and push it for the role when needed, you’re more adaptable.

What more can we expect to see from The Fall of the Krays? Will there be more homosexual aspects?

K: Not many people know that both brothers were gay. Ronnie was openly homosexual but Reggie was supressed. As an actor that was fascinating to play. Having those thoughts and feelings the same as your brother but not portraying them to the world, keeping them internalised was very interesting as an actor.

S: I think as a character and an actor in my head without overplaying it but I was always playing to the fact that Ronnie was homosexual and I don’t know where it will come out more in the second film. There is a relationship I have in the film with one of our firm members. I’d say it’s only alluded to but it’s if you pick up on it. It all ended very mysteriously nobody really knew what happened.

K: And for legal reasons we are not allowed to say his name!

S: We can only do what the writers ask us to do. They did not shy away from the homosexuality. They wanted to focus on the abuse of power and politics within the Kray story.

What’s the difference with your version than what’s already out there?

S: We’re young, hungry actors and there is a lot of authenticity.

K: We can’t hide away from millions of pounds worth of CGI or beautiful sets. We have stunning sets but ours is more about the characters and their story. We can’t cut to London in the 1950’s because we didn’t have the facility to do that so ours is that raw image of what the characters were like in social situations.

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The Rise of The Krays is available on DVD and digital platforms from August 31st courtesy of Signature Entertainment.
Tailoring by East End Tailor Mark Powell

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