Daniel Mays + Riz Ahmed Shifty Interview

Posted in interview by flicksandbits on September 8, 2009

I recently caught up with two of the best young British actors in Riz Ahmed and Daniel Mays while they were promoting the DVD release of Shifty, the debut feature film from writer/director Eran Creevy and one of my favourite films of the year.

Riz Ahmed (Britz, Dead Set) takes the title role of Shifty, a thriller charting an action packed 24 hours in the life of a young crack cocaine dealer on the outskirts of London. The sudden return home of his best friend sets in motion a chain of events that see Shiftys life quickly spiral out of control. Stalked by a customer desperate to score at all costs, and with his family about to turn their back on him for good, Shifty must out-run and out-smart a rival drug dealer intent on setting him up. As his long time friend Chris, played by Daniel Mays (The Bank Job, Plus One), confronts the dark past he left behind him, Shifty is forced to face up to the violent future he’s heading fast towards.

Pyroradio.com: How’s you doing guys?

Riz Ahmed: Yeah not bad,

Daniel Mayes: Doing good mate.

Pyroradio.com: The film only took just over two weeks to film, what was the highlight for you making it?

Daniel Mays: The wrap party was quite good (laughs)

Riz Ahmed: Getting to the end of it (laughs), nah there were a lot of moments really, the film set was full of jokes. Because there was no budget on the film, we had to shoot it in such a rush. Normally on a film you shoot two pages of script a day, in this we were shooting like eight or ten pages a day. There was such a high energy, but everyone was still cracking jokes, there were a lot of good moments. I think when one of the UK’s most established elder actresses Francesca Annis had to start hitting a crack pipe, that was a good moment (laughs). I just wanted to pull out my camera phone.

Daniel Mays: That was good day. The whole experience was phenomenal from start to end, I thoroughly enjoyed working with Riz. We’ve got a great new talent with our writer/director Eran Creevy. Everyone done a tremendous job. It surpassed all expectations with the response it’s been getting we’re very proud.

Pyroradio.com: One of the key things that worked well for me was how your characters linked together, did you have to work on that?

Daniel Mays: We can’t actually stand each other.

Pyroradio.com: It was just amazing acting?

Daniel Mays: (laughs) Yeah yeah that’s what it was. It just felt very natural you know, we were very lucky because we had a tremendous script to work with, if you’ve got a great script that’s half the battle, you just have to get into it and give it your best.

Riz Ahmed: Also Danny and Eran are two of the funniest people I’ve ever met. It was non stop banter and jokes, that’s gonna put you at ease, so when action is said it’s not a big tense set, everything flows more naturally.

Pyroradio.com: The movie is very relatable as well, especially to people who grew up in an inner city area. Is there anything you want people to take away from the film?

Daniel Mays: I don’t think the film is necessarily a message movie, it obviously shows the effects of drug use, addiction and everything else, it would be wrong to just describe it as a gritty social realism film, there is that but there’s some tremendous one liners and banter and I find it very funny, that level of humour all be it dark humour runs all the way through the film.

Riz Ahmed: It’s definitely not preachy, it’s a combination, its enjoyable, funny, very realistic, it’s got some darker elements, but I don’t think audiences have seen a film like this before, not because it’s got mad CGI effects and explosions but just because it feels realistic.

Daniel Mays: They did have some CGI explosions but when they looked at it back they realised it didn’t work, so they took it out, which is unfortunate.

Riz Ahmed: Yeah the whole budget went on that (laughs)

Pyroradio.com: The DVD came out on Monday, but for your own DVD collection what are the key things that stand out for you?

Daniel Mays: That’s a good question, I’d say probably the Godfather trilogy, that’s right up there for me, along with Raging Bull

Riz Ahmed: I’d say a for me ummmmm. There was a DVD I borrowed of someone and deliberately never gave it back which was a film called Dead Mans Shoes by Shane Meadows, a lot of people compare this film to a Shane Meadows film in terms that it’s a cool British thriller, it stars

Paddy Considine, its raw.Pyroradio.com: I know both of you have got a lot of good projects coming up can you tell the people what you’ve got coming?

Daniel Mays: I’ve got Nick Love’s remake of The Firm, we’ve remade that, I think it’s coming out the 19th of September, which we’re really pleased with, it’s not for the faint hearted. I’ve got that, the new Nanny McPhee film and another film called We Want Sex. Those two are coming next year.

Riz Ahmed: You couldn’t get three more different films (laughs). I’ve just done a Roman action movie with Noel Clarke called Centurion, which willl be out next year, I’ve always just wrapped on quite a controversial comedy film, I’m not allowed to say anything about, it’s written and directed by a comedy legend and I’m also just putting the music together as well, I’ll be previewing the album at the end of November at Sadler’s Wells Theatre its on the Riz MC Facebook and Myspace page.

Pyroradio.com: You both got any last words?

Riz Ahmed: You need to watch this film (laughs) it’s so shameless but you do.

Daniel Mays: Treat yourself (laughs). In all seriousness we’re so proud of it I just think it’s a cracking little number

Riz Ahmed: I think a lot of people would be inspired by it, it was made against the odds with the budget and time. I think it can inspire a bunch of upcoming film makers.

Shifty is out on DVD now!

Words: Matthew Power