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Contributed by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor
for Radio Free Entertainment

March 13, 2006

A modern-day, teen comedy incarnation of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, She's the Man stars Amanda Bynes as a girl who masquerades as her twin brother in order to get onto the boys' soccer team after the girls' program has been cut. The innocent deception quickly unleashes a tangled and comical web of relationships as each character seems to get struck down by crises of love and identity, one by one.

In this interview, Vinnie Jones talks about his role as a tough-as-nails soccer coach, as well as his real life transition from soccer superstar to dedicated film actor.

The Interview

MEDIA: Do you feel this is a new type of role for you?

VINNIE: No. I've done EuroTrip, and I think that's in the same sort of level. This, I think, has gone up a grade from that. But I was working with younger people on that as well, you know.

Did they really have to talk you into doing this role?

Well, you know how infectious he is, that guy [referring to director Andy Fickman]. I mean, I went in, and he says, "I want you to do it. We're going to do this, that, and the other." So I read the script and I said, "Well, how do you see [my character]?" And it was the same as me. He said, "Look, I want him to be a hard ass mother through the movie, and no one likes him. And then just pull it round, pull it round, pull it round, and then let the audience warm to him." And I think that's what we've done in the end.

Were you familiar with Amanda Bynes before this movie?

Yeah, I've got a daughter same age. She watches all that stuff.

Did you base your character on coaches you've had in the past?

Yeah, one in particular. There was a coach. He [wasn't] as sergeant major as Coach Dinklage, but 50, 60% of him was an old coach I had when I was at Chelsea. And then I developed the rest myself, how I thought he was.

You've done both action and comedy. Do you enjoy switching it up?

You know, I love humor, and I love humor off-camera. I'm always larking about and mucking about and making people laugh. And if you look at Snatch, I've got the lines in there. Lock, Stock, I've got the lines. You'll see in X-Men, I've got the killer lines. But acting for me is playing different positions on a soccer field. I've never played a vulnerable guy. I've played the funny guy, I've played the tough funny guy, I've played the action guy. So if you're going to be an actor, you've got to test yourself on all of them. And if I wasn't 100% comfortable that I could play that part, then I wouldn't do it. Not even for $10 million. I wouldn't want to fail on screen. It's such a big audience. People see it, there's no getting away from it. You can't say, "I was misquoted." You're up there. And it's like that sometimes when you go in and you don't quite feel up to it, you're a bit tired on the day. [snaps fingers] You've got to be professional, and you've got to be on your game. And I always think, "Act in the scene how you want to see yourself at the premiere." The last thing you want to do as an actor, for me, is to go, "I could have done that better! I remember that! I was out the night before..." There's no second chances once it's up there on the screen, you know.

Which world is more competitive: acting or sports?

Both are cutthroat. You're only as good as your last game, you know. You can do a great movie, and then if you sit there and wait for the phone to ring, you're mistaken. You've got to go back out the next day. It's like a golfer. You win the US Open, an hour later, there they are practicing again. And it's like the acting here. You go and do a good movie, the next day, you go to your meetings. That's my way of looking at it.

Which world do you think is tougher?

I think the acting is, because you've got the umbrella, as a soccer player, of your contract. If you're on twenty grand a week, whether you're playing or not, you're on that for years. When you're an actor, if your contract's in three months, you've got to make sure you've got something at the end of that three months to go into. You can burn here very quickly. Very quickly.

Are you constantly described as a "soccer player turned actor"?

Only in England. They just can't give it up, you know? [laughs] That's why I love being in LA. They say "the actor Vinnie Jones." It's just nice, you know.

What do you miss about England?

The family, I think. You know...nans and mums and dads and stuff. Mates...

Did you feel the guys on the soccer team were intimidated by you when you first came on the set as their coach?

Yeah. But I mean, I really did get on well with them. There's a picture of me with Paul Gascoigne where I grab him by the nuts in a soccer match in England, and it won photography of the year and it was on Sports Illustrated and everything. So they were asking me [to sign a copy]. So in the end, I just got a [bunch of them] printed off and signed them for all the lads and all the extras and everybody, and they were absolutely over the moon.

What do you usually do when people are intimidated by you?

Make them laugh. I think that's the best way. If you make someone laugh, or you laugh with them, they know you're human. They know you're not going to put one on their chin if they say something wrong. I mean, to a certain extent, I get intimidated around certain people--if you don't know how you're going to upset them, you know? I don't particularly liked upsetting people. I don't make a thing of it.

Do you see this as a big year for your acting career, what with this film and X-Men?

My run was Lock, Stock, Gone in Sixty Seconds, Snatch, Swordfish, and Mean Machine as the lead. And then I stayed at home. I was waiting for the phone to ring. And my agent had a bigger client at the time, and two years go by, and you're ringing him and ringing him saying, "What's going on?" So I've learned that lesson. I've gone from here, down, and now I've got it back up. And some people don't get that second chance. How long did it take Travolta? You know...One movie, bang! [snaps fingers] And so that's why I say I've learned from the golfers. After that premiere the other night, I had a meeting at ten o'clock in the morning with a casting agent. An actor's never too big for this town. No way. And the minute you think you are, you burn.

Any plans to work with Guy Ritchie again?

He's writing another movie, so we'll see. I wanted to do Revolver. There was a great part, French Paul, in it. But I had done an independent movie. I was the lead role in it. And I love independent movies as much as the big movies. I think that's where you learn your craft. And I've got a lot of learning to do. You never stop learning. I played nearly 500 games as a professional soccer player, and on my last game, I was still learning.

Do you attribute having a successful second career to luck?

The harder I work, the luckier I get.

Good theory...

It's the only theory.

What was your favorite moment in your soccer career?

Favorite moment? Well, we won the FA Cup in front of 100,000 people. That's the same as your SuperBowl, you know. That's the equivalent.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Fly fishing. And I was in my element up in Canada with the salmon. I thought I was doing A River Runs Through It and She's the Man and X-Men, you know what I mean? [laughs]

Do you still play soccer recreationally with friends?

Yeah. Hollywood United. We've got a team Glendale League. The over 30s. The old farts league. Dad's Army, we call ourselves.

Who else is on the team?

Anthony LaPaglia, Steve Jones, Billy Duffy...Robbie Williams was at a game. Frank Leboeuf, who was at Chelsea.

Can Robbie play?

Yeah, but Robbie's got a court up at his house now. He plays up there. He's got his own team going up there now. You can't take the football away from the Englishman, so he had to bring it with him. So there was a bit of luggage on the plane.

Do you have a favorite moment in this movie?

Yeah, the dream sequence where [Amanda Bynes has] got that dress on and everything. It was quite early on in the filming, and Andy said, "Really give it to her. This is the dream." So she comes out and she's running. And I really screamed at her, and she went over. [laughs] And it's the only time she went over...It looks like she's petrified.

How was she as a soccer player?

She was good. The coach for Hollywood worked with her for six weeks before the movie on technical stuff.

So she could join the team next year?

She's too young. Another 20 years, she might.

Any interest in getting back into the game as a coach or general manager?

[Acting] is my game now. I'm like a kid at Father Christmas' house, you know. I just love it, and I just want to learn as much as I can. I'd work every day. Seriously, I would.

Andy Fickman said you have the heart and soul of an angel. Is that accurate?

Well, it depends what shoulder the angel's on. [laughs]

Thanks for your time.

Enjoyed it, thanks.

Related Material

She's the Man interview with Emily Perkins
She's the Man interview with director Andy Fickman
Movie Coverage: She's the Man


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