Fur coats, leopard print catsuits, Hollywood stars, South Wales gangsters, GLC, Dirty Sanchez, and me. Yes, a handful of Welsh celebrities gathered last night on the red carpet to toast the première of Mr Nice, the film adaptation of Howard Marks’ autobiography.
It’s a long time since I read Mr Nice, the amazing true story about the Kenfig Hill Oxford graduate/pot smoker who became the FBI’s most wanted. What a story to make into a film – it has everything: humour, glamour, illicit activities, tension, danger, and daftness aplenty.
Casting Rhys Ifans for the main role was also genius: a proper wild, Welsh, and funny man of the movies. He was born to play this role of Marks’ ‘lovable rogue’.
Marks wrote the book following his release from the Terre Haute Federal Penitentiary in 1995, where he was sent originally on a 25-year sentence in 1988. True to the book, the film is full of well-documented moments from Marks’ life on the wrong side of the law, opening with a scene from one of Howard’s (also legendary) talk-show tours and campaigns for the legalisation of cannabis.
During his time as a smuggler in the 1980s he had 43 aliases, 89 phone lines and 25 companies trading throughout the world as fronts for laundering drug money, according to his official website.
The film was written and directed by Bernard Rose, who was introduced at the Cardiff première last night. Rose didn’t want to give a long speech prior to the film so he introduced the main stars of the film to the audience, and a warm and lively round of applause welcomed Howard Marks and Rhys Ifans.
Rhys then grabbed the mic and said: “He’s Rhys Ifans and I’m Howard Marks!” which was pretty much it for introduction to the film. Speaking to BBC Wales at the Edinburgh film festival, Rhys Ifans said he and Marks were old friends. “It’s an honour to step into the shoes, the sandals and many other garments of a great man,” he said.
“You’d think it would be a huge responsibility [to play him] but I guess it’s a testament to how well we know each other. It was very simple – put a wig on, talk deep and sound like you’ve had a smoke.”
The film is funny, endearing, beautifully shot and tender, with stunning performances from Ifans, Chloe Sevigny as Marks’ wife Judy, and David Thewlis as the slightly psychotic IRA leader Jim McCann. The retro stylings of the cars and clothes in the film were delightful, and the ups and downs of this line of business all too clear, from LA poolsides scenes to the harrowing raids and courtroom drama.
As a story it’s a great one, as a film connected to one of Wales’ best loved folk heroes, priceless. Go see and enjoy!
By Bethan Elfyn