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What It's Really Like To Work With Guy Ritchie - Exclusive

Guy Ritchie made his name on flicks like Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, but his filmography is actually quite diverse. Over the past few years, the writer-director has helmed a fantasy epic (King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword), a fairy tale (Disney's live-action Aladdin remake), and The Gentlemen, a return to the kind of quirky crime capers that made Ritchie famous.

Production designer Gemma Jackson has been with him that whole time. While you probably know Jackson best as the woman who came up with the look for HBO's blockbuster fantasy series Game of Thrones, she's also been Ritchie's go-to production designer since collaborating with him on 2017's King Arthur. Jackson took some time to chat with Looper about what it's like to work with such an eclectic filmmaker.

Not that Ritchie's work habits are easy to pin down, of course. "He's different on different projects," Jackson said. On King Arthur, Jackson and Ritche didn't know each other very well, and didn't have a particularly close relationship. That changed by the time Aladdin came around. "He really let me run with a huge amount of that," Jackson revealed. "We had the best fun doing that film."

On The Gentlemen, however, things were completely different. According to Jackson, Ritchie was much more involved with every aspect of the film, including the production design, and had more concrete ideas about how things should look. "He probably was more exacting because he knew these characters much better, and he had clearly written it about a world that he understood," Jackson explained. "He cares more passionately, more personally about the characters and how they were portrayed."

As a result, The Gentlemen is one of Ritchie's most personal films in years. Just look at its main character — according to Jackson, Matthew McConaughey's Mickey Pearson was partly modeled after Ritchie, and the director saw the weed kingpin as a kind of kindred spirit. "I think there were elements of Matthew McConaughey's character that he felt were not billions of miles away from the way [Ritchie] lives," Jackson admitted.

No money? No time? No problem

Despite an all-star cast that includes the likes of Matthew McConaughey, Hugh Grant, Charlie Hunnam, Colin Farrell, and Henry Golding, The Gentlemen had a much smaller budget than Aladdin and King Arthur, and was filmed in about three weeks. Compared to the big blockbusters, that's nothing, and the schedule forced Ritchie, Jackson, and the rest of the crew to get creative.

"We couldn't really build in proper studios, but we found places to build that were a bit unusual as far as you lot, the audience, are concerned," Jackson said. Instead of leasing a soundstage, production rented an old plaster shop at one of the studios, which became Michelle Dockery's auto shop. Charlie Hunnam's house was crafted from a "weird, old, rather dreary building outside London."

The tight budget and quick turnaround didn't keep Ritchie from putting his personal stamp on things, though. An outdoor barbecue, which is the centerpiece of a few scenes between Hugh Grant and Charlie Hunnam, was designed by Ritchie, who has plans to take the product to market. Similarly, Ritchie owns his own brewery. Naturally, plenty of Gritchie beers pop up in the final film.

The modest production also didn't stop Ritchie from helping his collaborators get creative, either. According to Jackson, Ritchie shared all kinds of small details about The Gentlemen's eccentric characters with his crew, sparking their imaginations. "If you're doing those sorts of films, you really want to get juicy details about people so that you can really find where they live," Jackson explained. "As designers, we're visual storytellers. We're there to give [Ritchie] the visual information to back up all the words and the characters and the rest of it."

You can see the results on screen. In order to create The Gentlemen's underground pot farm, Jackson ordered 350 hand-made fake marijuana plants from an English manufacturer (the props impressed Jackson so much that she kept one, which she now keeps in her dining room to surprise guests). A dingy heroin den was built almost entirely from scratch. "Apparently, Guy really liked that set," Jackson said.

Just don't hold out hope for a sequel. According to Jackson, Ritchie isn't always keen on repeating himself. When asked about the recently announced Aladdin sequel, Jackson wasn't sure if Ritchie would be up for it. "Sometimes I think you don't really want to revisit things," Jackson said. "I think he'll wait and see what the script throws up, who wants to do it and all the rest of it before he commits himself."

For her part, Jackson would love to work with Ritchie on Aladdin again, even if it might be something of a gamble. "Everything [on Aladdin] just sort of came together as one of those lovely, lovely experiences," Jackson said. "We'd probably find if we went back and did another one it would be hell. It may be tempting fate. I have no idea."

The Gentlemen is in theaters now.