The Greatest Story Ever Told

[Book] The Real Deal: Danny Dyer by Martin Howden

imagesI was going to attempt to write a constructive review of this but realised it would be a fairly pointless endeavour as predictably, it’s moody as fuck. Instead I will save you the ordeal of your own personal literary Vietnam by compressing the highlights, in a feature in no way similar to one run by a left leaning daily newspaper.

 The little toerag

Danny was raised by his nan. A proper matriarch, she ruled the family with a loving fist, whatever that is. It is to her that Danny attributes his florid vocabulary.  “Nana Polly swears every other sentence…. whenever she sees Stephen Hendry on the telly. “I can’t stand that cunt, cunt, cunt… How’s them potatoes, cunt?” It’s a normal way of life.” But it’s from his father that he inherited his hardman tendencies. According to director Nick Love, “a fucking colossus. Proper old school, works at a building site and all that. Drinks fully pasteurised milk and everything. Top man, he’s got pictures of Satan tattoos and all that.” Yep, he’s so hard he goes up to men and asks if he can take photos of their Satan tattoos whilst hepped up on milk. And all that.

During drama classes Dyer was fearless, often tackling the classics. “He loved Jossy’s Giants and acted out a scene.” But according to his drama teacher, although prodigiously talented, there were deficiencies. “The significant thing he couldn’t do was speak any kind of approximation of Standard English. I realised there were financial implications in this, so encouraged him to think about it as something to invest in for the future, so that he could avoid becoming typecast.” Of course these fears were soon allayed as Danny’s career developed.

After a career-making role in Prime Suspect 3 – Helen Mirren having patronisingly stated “Cor, you’re really good” – Danny continued to reap critical acclaim in every show he deigned to grace. In Cadfael he played a leper recovering thanks to the detective monk’s healing herbs. Danny’s one speaking line is delivered competently enough. “God has punished him for whipping you.” But this was nothing compared to his pioneering work in the TV adaptation of Highlander. While his performance may have been wasted in the first episode of the show’s sixth and final season – which fans consider to be the series’ worst season – it still remains a curio item nonetheless.  As do many of his earlier appearances… as well as the famous Coca Cola advert, which saw Danny denounce a rival soft drink with the damning verdict: “It tastes like chicken,” a line which would rank alongside Travolta’s “Royale with cheese” in the pantheon of great 90s food-based quotes.

Even as a youngster Danny was keen to extend his range. “I got really excited about being in Borstal Boy, running around beating everyone up, until I got the script and read I was a gay sailor. I thought, whoa, I’m going to have to act now.” A problem he would encounter throughout his acting career.

 Regrets, he’s had a few

Although his number is now on speed dial of all the fatcat Hollywood producers, things weren’t always so easy for Dyer. “I’d like to play Sid Vicious, my ideal role,” he said on his official website. “There’s only been one other film about the Sex Pistols, Sid and Nancy. Gary Oldman, who’s one of my idols, played him in a way I would have done differently. There was so much to him. This was a geezer who couldn’t play guitar, a raving lunatic.” Unfortunately, an actor’s strike a week before production was to wreck that dream. “I was devastated,” he admits. Of course as keen Dyer watchers know, he was to have the last laugh, as he is soon due to debut in the West End in Kurt and Sid – take that Oldman, you Muppet! However, he still has unfinished business with another British institution. “I remember I used to be up for Casualty all the time and I never got a part in that cunt.”

Dyer’s maverick tendencies have still occasionally seen him fall foul of the Hollywood machine, like when he made crucial dining faux pas in the company of the producers of Red Dragon. “I ordered salad cream and you should have seen their faces – they just looked disgusted. I don’t want to say that I’ve ruined LA, but I just couldn’t believe their reaction because I’d ordered something they hadn’t heard of.” But then what is an actor without his integrity?

It is probably due to his uncompromising attitude that the reviewers haven’t always been kind to his films. When talking about The Business, Dyer noted “Time Out cunted the life out of it when it came out.” Of course, in a way this was another moral victory as it was the first known instance of somebody using the word ‘cunt’ as a verb. Nana Polly would be so proud.

 On his craft

Once you’ve got through the audition, a gruelling process that Danny, despite his fame, still has to go through on occasion, there’s no point overthinking the acting process. According to Dyer “It’s just playing yourself.” But this simplistic approach isn’t to say he won’t suffer for his art. He believes the ginger hair dye (used during the filming of All in the Game) has caused his hair to recede. “I couldn’t get it out of my hair. It took me six months. I kept washing it. I think I started losing my wig after that. It’s down to Channel 4 I’m losing my canister.” He’s even been known to ponce it up and go method by wearing glasses for six weeks during the filming of Outlaw.

Of course every De Niro has his Pacino, and during the filming of Mean Machine Dyer made the rookie mistake of going head to head with acting powerhouse Jason Statham. Statham stole every scene as the Monk, a homicidal maniac who is recruited to be the team’s goalkeeper.

Ever eager to explore new avenues, Danny has also shown a deft touch for comedy. Although he sadly missed out on Lesbian Vampire Killers, he was able to demonstrate his almost McIntyresque comedy chops in arguably Severance’s funniest scene. It features just Danny trying to jam a prosthetic severed leg into a mini fridge. And it’s one he knew he could make a success. “I’m quite an instinctive actor. I know how I’m going to play it. I didn’t want to milk it too much, just try and jam it in, get the bottles out, take the shoe, then the sock off – and the foot looked so real, it was horrendous…. and it was very heavy. What a scene to play as an actor.”

 Britpack? Shitpack, more like!

Although often lumped in with the Britpack, Dyer has an uneasy relationship with his so-called peers, and one man in particular yanks his facking chain. “I do genuinely think Orlando Bloom is a cunt. I’ve never met him but he’s in the same game as me and he’s loaded. He got lucky. He came out of drama school and got Lord of the Rings and then goes and gets another trilogy, Pirates of the Caribbean.  He wasn’t all that good in it but it put him on the map, didn’t it? He’s the opposite of me; he’s well media trained and boring. Plus he can’t act.” Now warming to his theme, Dyer continued, “He’s got all sorts of dough, loads of screaming girls chasing him, but he hasn’t honed his craft yet, he’s a rubbish actor. I don’t think anyone I’ve ever come across has said “you know what, he’s a great actor, that Orlando Bloom.” He’s got a good name; I think that’s what it is. And quite an irritating face. I just can’t stand Orlando Bloom. I can’t. I just want to take his face and fucking squeeze it.”

Another man who couldn’t escape his finely tuned bullshit radar was James McAvoy. “Bafta nominations, presenting at the Oscars… Why? Because he’s running about with a floppy hairdo and does period dramas.” And his fellow movie hardmen don’t get an easy ride either. “One cunt that pissed me of is Vinnie bloody Jones. We did his scenes and his dialogue, but, when the camera turned round on me to do my bit, he fucked off to watch the golf.”

Somewhat incongruously, the staunchly anti-establishment Dyer found an unlikely ally in Harold Pinter. Pinter was incredibly fond of Danny. When Michael Attenborough directed him The Homecoming, he mounted a picture of the cast and we all wrote things on the back. Danny wrote, “Harold, you’re the bollocks.” Harold said it was the best thing anyone had ever said about him.

 The man, the myth

Like Scorsese/De Niro, Scott/Crowe or Burton/Depp – the Love/Dyer collaboration is increasingly becoming a fixture on the big screen, and more recently in Blockbusters. The old adage of ‘men want to be him, women want to be with him’ could definitely be applied to Danny. He’s the cheeky chap who you can have a pint with, while for women he’s the roguish bit of rough who probably won’t remember your name the next day. Of course, none of this is quite true but that’s the power of the movies and Danny’s star is getting brighter and brighter.

Those who’ve got really close to Dyer have discovered his unreconstructed wideboy facade masks a softer, more feminine side. During a photoshoot for Attitude Magazine (for which he was paid £500 in a brown envelope) he took all his clothes off and swung his dick around like a helicopter. Waxing intellectual on the subject of gender politics he noted, “It’s sweet as if you like a bit of cock. You know, I’ve had me moments. I’ve had me fucking moments.” When pressed further, he claimed “We’ll leave it at that.”

Straight to DVD and beyond

So having conquered the worlds of TV, film and theatre, what’s next on the agenda? “I’m trying to break away from that a bit. Maybe do period drama – tights and all that. I draw the line at fucking Shakespeare though! I’d love to have a crack at Doctor Who. I think I can do something mad with it. Just instinctively, I know I can do something with it.” What a chilling prospect.

In a word: mug!

4 Responses to “The Greatest Story Ever Told”

  1. […] the delightful Graham Linehan. Read the abridged version of Danny’s biography at Bilge […]

  2. […] earlier post was linked to by the ever ace Sarah Ditum over at Paperhouse in her blog about the predictably […]

  3. […] the runaway success of my abridged version of Danny Dyer’s biography, I present for your enjoyment, the Condensed Perusal of a used 10 year old Nic Cage biography I […]

  4. […] Read the abridged version of Dyer’s autobiography here […]

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