Papa don't preach

Fri, Apr 20, 2012, 01:00

HAPPILY, I see no reason to say anything nasty about Jaime Winstone. She comes across as a bright, unpretentious Londoner.

When I stumble over my vowels she actually says: “Whassat, my darling?” The young actor is not at home to precious naval-gazing. She doesn’t pretend that acting is more dangerous than bullfighting. No, I see no reason to be rude about her.

Mind you, even if she were an ogre, I very much doubt if I’d mention the fact. Jaime’s dad is, you see, the great Ray Winstone. I would be very surprised if the old bruiser allows anybody to speak ill of his second daughter. In her new film, a feisty comic horror titled Elfie Hopkins, Ray plays a butcher who exacts vengeance with a bloody meat cleaver. You wouldn’t want that turning up at your door clutching a copy of The Ticket.

“Oh, he’s as protective as any dad for sure,” she says. “He’s an amazing dad, actually. But he does allow us to step back and do what we want. He’s always trusted us to be individuals.”

I wonder when she first realised that dad was properly famous. Jaime was born in 1985. Ray had already appeared in Scum, the great Alan Clark borstal drama, and Quadrophenia, Franc Roddam’s improvement on The Who’s mod epic, but it wasn’t until later in that decade that he cemented his reputation as the greatest of all contemporary geezers.

“I guess I noticed when we first moved to Essex,” she says. “Before that, I went to a girls’ school and nobody blinked an eyelid about him. But then boys started talking about Scum. Then Nil By Mouth happened. He had a second wave of fame. But it was never a big thing in our family.”

There was never any great pressure to follow in dad’s footsteps. When, in 2006, she was cast in Kidulthood, a controversial, influential youth film, she initially kept the news a secret from her parents. Jaime was, it seems, wary of being seen as slavishly clocking in at the family business.

Over the intervening years, she has become a key member of a new British brat pack. She appeared in the raunchy Donkey Punch and the lively Made in Dagenham. She was superb as Annelli Alderton, one of the Ipswich serial killer’s victims, in the BBC’s excellent Five Daughters.

Along the way she’s picked up a degree of tabloid interest. Bringing together two hard-nut dynasties, she spent some time dating Alfie Allen, brother of Lily and son of Keith. In the past she has (without too much bitterness) blamed the collapse of that relationship on the swarming media interest. Being the next It Girl has its downsides. “There was always a bit of attention due to various things,” she says.

“It was to do with who my dad was. It was to do with who I was with. But my main concern was always the work. You just can’t live in that world. You can’t believe in it. These things come out that aren’t true. I’ve seen it over and over again with my dad. You just can’t live by what the papers say or you would be dead. But you know what? If you’re happy as an actress then everything else just falls into place.”

There are, as she admits, more upsides than downsides to her bubbling fame. It has, for instance, allowed her to shepherd Elfie Hopkins into production. Written and directed by Ryan Andrews, the picture features Jaime as a rebellious young girl who suspects that her new next-door neighbours are up to some sort of horrific mischief. As you might expect, nobody believes her.

An amusing trifle, the picture, in its later stages, suddenly switches from a latter-day Nancy Drew adventure to a gruesome festival of decapitations and evisceration. It’s a very crafty change of tone. “We had the idea of the character for quite a while. She’s like a private detective,” she says. “Then we just had the idea of bringing in all this stuff. It’s like a tribute to The Lost Boys and Twin Peaks and all the stuff that we loved when growing up.”

It seems to have been made with little money and without any major studio involvement. Must we reach for a cliche such as “labour of love”? “Yes. That’s what it is. I was an associate producer. It was initially this idea Ryan and I had. We took this script to London and pitched it. You know when you have a feeling and want to drive something forward? That’s how it was. And suddenly it was up and running.”

Jaime Winstone comes across as a fairly self-confident young woman. Large-eyed, with a funky, modern face, she exudes a class of brassy charm you only encounter with Londoners. A glance at her biography confirms that, despite Ray’s fame, she did not have a glamorous upbringing. Her dad, who has been married to her mother, Elaine, for more than 30 years, somehow managed to go bankrupt on two separate occasions.

She initially attended an ordinary school in Enfield, north London, before going to college in Essex. Nothing about that brief précis suggests the life of a movie star’s brat. There is no mention of Biarritz. The mansions of Bel Air don’t come into it.

“Certainly not. It was not very glamorous. It was very normal then and it still is,” she says. “I didn’t really train as an actress. I studied it at college and I kind of left it aside and decided I wanted to get a normal job. Then something happened and I was noticed by a casting director.”

Jaime found herself cast in two highly praised, gritty British films: Bullet Boy and Kidulthood. She played the rough, mouthy kid who wouldn’t take any lip. Winstone returned to that role for the strange, faintly dubious shocker Donkey Punch. She wasn’t exactly being typecast as a bad girl but nobody would mistake those early parts for those essayed by the young Helena Bonham Carter. Of course, it’s fun to play the naughty girls.

“Oh, they are looked upon as bad, feisty characters. But that’s not fair. I based them on real people. Every bad person has a good side. They were real people. They existed for me. I never thought: ‘I am going to play this as a bad person.’ I put a different spin on it. I’ve been very lucky with the roles I have had. I’ve had bold roles. It’s been really great. I can’t complain.”

The part in Five Daughters marked a real shift in direction. In 2006, Steven Wright murdered five women in various parts of Ipswich. As is often the case, the tabloids adopted a crude, often misleading shorthand when referring to the victims. They were talked of as “drug addicts and prostitutes” first and as women second. The BBC secured the support of three of the victims’ families with the aim of producing a series that redressed the balance. Jaime played Anneli Alderton, who was pregnant when she was killed. “We all remember when that happened. She was my age,” Jaime says. “It was an honour to be asked to play someone in their last moments. But it was a great responsibility. There was a media frenzy. These girls had been brutally murdered. And were misrepresented. It was made for the families. They felt really cheated.”

That performance secured Winstone’s reputation as a serious actress. An unwanted place in the gossip columns has also been set aside for Jaime: her current boyfriend – since you ask – is the photographer Tom Beard. Now all she has to do is steer the vessel that is her career in the proper direction. Rocks lie ahead. It’s easy to lose one’s way.

“I hope for the usual things in my career,” she ponders. “I want to keep working on better and bigger projects. I want to be a better woman and a better actor. Those are the key things in life. Aren’t they?”

You’re not wrong, my darling.


THE NEXT BRIT PACK

KAYA SCODELARIORecently muddied up for Andrea Arnold’s revisionist take on Wuthering Heights. A cast member on the controversial TV show Skins, she will shortly appear alongside Jessica Biel in Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes.

WILL POULTEROnly 19, he has already been the best thing in three very different pictures: Son of Rambow, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and the recent, unfairly overlooked Wild Bill.

ADAM DEACONBeat off strong competition to take the Bafta Rising Star award earlier this year. Deacon recently directed and starred in the gritty youth movie Anuvahood. Much is expected from the Hackney boy.

HOLLIDAY GRAINGERThe sometime Holly Grainger has suddenly begun popping up everywhere. Plays the young Estella in Mike Newell’s upcoming adaptation of Great Expectations. Recently shone in The Scouting Book for Boys and Jane Eyre.

JACK O’CONNELLAnother Skins graduate, the Derby lad has been in the news for dating somebody called Tulisa. Will shortly be seen in Pat O’Connor’s version of the Michael Murpurgo novel Private Peaceful.