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Ray gets it all off his chest

With three of films out this month and another two in the pipeline, retirement is the last thing on Ray Winstone's mind.

"Oh come on, I've got to pay the rent and I've got three daughters. Are you joking?" says the 52-year-old, chuckling.

"I'm a working man, I am, so I've got to work. If I'm a lorry driver, I'll have to drive a lorry every day. That's what I do.

"I don't want to be sitting around, you die sitting around. If I retire, what am I going to do? People retire and they go down to the pub. Besides, I like my work, it's fun."

Dressed in a black cashmere jumper and jeans, Winstone is a passionate man, which is evident when he speaks about his film career and his family.

He now lives in Essex with his family -- wife Elaine, and daughters Lois, Jaime and Ellie -- as well as his two female Norfolk pigs.

Best known for his tough guy roles, Winstone rose to fame after winning the lead part in Alan Clarke's BBC play Scum.

He has branched off into directing and producing but this month he's on screen in the Ian Dury biopic Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll and alongside Mel Gibson in thriller, Edge Of Darkness.

But it's British drama 44 Inch Chest that has proved the biggest labour of love for Winstone. The film, which he co-produced, was conceived nine years ago, but failed to get off the ground, due to lack of financial backing.

"The idea first came up off the back of the success of Sexy Beast [in 2000], and we thought we'd have no trouble finding someone to look at this, but the problem in a way is the film reads like a stage play and knowing what I know now, I can see why people shied away from it -- you need someone very clever as a director to sort that out," he explains.

The film, which also stars British stalwarts Tom Wilkinson, Ian McShane and John Hurt, centres on gangster Colin Diamond (Winstone), who seeks revenge after discovering his wife has been unfaithful.

"It's about love, and how you can actually smother someone, and the consequences of when someone comes to you and tells you: 'I don't love you any more'," he says.


"I start that film having a nervous breakdown and I go deep into that. So it's quite brutal, it's quite explicit in the language and the mental violence of it, but it's a beautiful film."

He admits it wasn't hard to get into Colin's state of mind.

"I cry all the time!" he says, laughing. He adds: "It's usually afterwards that you think about the violent scenes you've been acting out, as at the time, you're in the mode of being at work and playing a scene.

"When I'd done Nil By Mouth, at the time, it didn't affect me in any way.

"And then when I did The War Zone, I was abusing a kid and quite rightly I was questioning what I was doing, making a film like that, although it's a film I'm very proud of."

Winstone has no qualms about portraying violent men. But adds: "You can't just make a film and not think about it, because you have responsibility when you're portraying violence especially abusive violence towards women and children."

Winstone is well known in Hollywood thanks to roles in films such as The Departed and Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, but he has no plans to relocate Stateside. "I like it there . . . but it'd be like living above a shop," he says.

Although his film career spans more than three decades, Winstone admits he still has trouble seeing himself as a star.

"It's very difficult for me to comprehend sometimes that I'm in the arts. Maybe I'm being a bit of a inverted snob myself, maybe I question myself -- am I good enough to be in this industry? -- I don't know. I think it's quite healthy anyway, it keeps you planted. It keeps you on the ball."

44 Inch Chest is released in cinemas on Friday