Guy Ritchie on ‘Operation Fortune’ & Jason Statham’s Chess Skills

Mar 2, 2023

After some delays, director Guy Ritchie’s new action-packed comedy, Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre, is finally set to hit theaters this weekend. The spy-thriller reunites Ritchie with frequent collaborator and the “old man who creeps around on crutches,” Jason Statham, as the titular super spy. Ritchie’s off-the-cuff direction on sets has contributed to a number of popular crime thrillers, including The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Gentleman, and the Sherlock Holmes films starring Robert Downey Jr. Most notably, though, Ritchie helmed the wildly successful live-action adaptation of Disney’s Aladdin and is tapped to direct for the highly-anticipated live-action Hercules.

Alongside an ensemble assortment of characters, from Aubrey Plaza, to Hollywood heartthrobs Hugh Grant and Josh Hartnett, in Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre, Jason Statham is Orson Fortune, a super spy with a distinct set of skills. Fortune, despite his lone wolf M.O., must partner with a highly skilled team of operatives in order to take down Greg Simmonds (Grant), a billionaire arms broker whose new weapons technology poses a threat to the world order. As a means to obtain the information they need to take Simmonds down, the team will employ his favorite movie star, Danny Francesco (Hartnett), to take advantage of the proximity Simmonds allows. With the help of his expert team, which also includes Cary Elwes and Bugzy Malone, Fortune blackmails the actor into aiding their mission to track down the dealer. High stakes, fast cars, killers on a yacht, and lots and lots of weapons – what could go wrong?

Before Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre’s theatrical release, Collider’s Steve Weintraub spoke with Guy Ritchie about his upcoming feature and past works. During the interview, Ritchie discusses what motivates him to work on projects, his editing process, and why he won’t be working with Statham on his next film. Ritchie also reveals why he rewrote nearly every scene of Operation Fortune on set the day of, what the holdup is for Sherlock Holmes 3, and whether he wants to do Aladdin 2. You can watch the interview in the player above, or read the full transcript below.

COLLIDER: I’m going to start with the most important question right up front, who is better at chess you or Jason [Statham]?

GUY RITCHIE: I was, absolutely. There’s no debating that at all. Jason’s terrible and I’m pretty good.

Does he actually ever beat you?

RITCHIE: He cheats. I mean, it’ll be maybe if he cheats. I hope you interview him later because you’ll hear a very different story now. He’s a shocking cheat, shocking cheat. Actually, shocking chess player. That’s not what he thinks.

Image via STX Films

I will definitely bring up the fact that you said that he cheats. I’m joking, obviously. Well, maybe I will bring it.

RITCHIE: No, no, no, no, no, no, bring that up.

I definitely will. If someone has never seen anything that you’ve directed, what is the first thing you’d like them to watch and why?

RITCHIE: I think it’s a frequency thing. I think if someone dials into the frequency then you’ll probably like most of my work, I suspect. And in terms of a hierarchy of what movie, I’m not sure if I’ve got one. What I quite like is this momentum I’ve got at the moment. I quite like you got one movie that you’re very keen on and then quite swiftly… I think I used to make one movie every three years or something, and now I’m making two movies every year. It means you can move quickly and you can have some objectivity because you’re not too frustrated about pushing in so much energy into one project that you can care too much. So I’m not sure there’s a hierarchy. I probably like the movie the most that I did the last.

I’m very much enjoying your output recently. I say keep going, please. I will keep watching. I would imagine when you want to make a movie, you can get the financing, but has there been a project along the way that you really wanted to do and you couldn’t get the financing? If you could get the financing for anything tomorrow, what would you want to make?

RITCHIE: No, for me it doesn’t work like that. For me, it’s a conspiracy of events that have to collide or a moving concert, and then you capitalize on a premise, a moment in time, the freedom that you have, whether you’ve made anything like that recently. There [seem] to be a lot of different components that go into the attic of your mind. You do this sort of intuitive arithmetic, “Do we fancy this about now?” Two years earlier, you may have not fancied the project at all.

I didn’t see myself making Aladdin until all of a sudden it provoked me by how alien and exotic that idea was. So, it’s hard to know what you’re motivated by, but you sort of go, “Oh I like that. I haven’t done that. That’s a new, completely new genre. Can we make that work?” And I think the more you pick up rhythm and confidence in that, you can start bouncing around all over the place and hopefully take some kind of consistency with your frequency throughout your work.

I’m fascinated by the editing process because that’s where it all comes together. Which of your films actually went through the biggest changes in the editing room that perhaps you weren’t expecting?

RITCHIE: Well, I’m always expecting because I know you’re going to watch that film, and it’s not going to be the film… Your tonality is probably going to be what you set out. The general expression and tone of what it was you meant to make [are] usually pretty consistent. You’ll be within 5% of what it was that you wanted to make. But you can realize afterwards, in retrospect, that there are things that you can do to improve the efficiency of the narrative and the journey itself. If you can follow the breadcrumbs to the bakery, you can sometimes improve the breadcrumbs in order for you to end up in that bakery elegantly, or more elegantly. That’s usually remedied with a few days’ additional photography at the end where you can sit there and marinade on it.

I think that’s probably been the same with all of my projects. I’ve always left about four or five days, of which is usually three that you need, to consolidate ideas that can be made more efficient in terms of plot and so on, and I think they’re all pretty much consistent in that sense. I don’t think one has been more work than the other.

I am a big fan of when you work with Jason. So what do I need to do to get you to make 10 more movies with Jason?

RITCHIE: Actually nothing. I’ll be very happy. It’s funny, we’re about to go make a film in Spain and I would have done it with Jason apart from, he’s just far too old now. He just creeps around and he sort of needs crutches, and I needed someone handsome and young. So I went for someone else. Otherwise, I would use him the whole time.

So, next time I’m looking for an old man who creeps around on crutches, you’ll see me using Jason again. It won’t be that long.

I’m glad to hear that. I’ve seen you work on set, and I’m curious, with Operation Fortune, how much is actually scripted on something like this, and how much are you tweaking everything on set on the day to finagle exactly what you want? Because I saw you do it on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and the Sherlock Holmes movies, and I could see the way you were tweaking things and I’m curious if it’s still the same.

RITCHIE: Yeah, it is, it’s pretty much the same, I think probably more so on this one than almost any other script that I’ve done. I didn’t like the script when I started with the script, and that was sort of the challenge. It was something that I cobbled up with a couple of chaps that I worked with. It was a bit of a feathery fish and the challenge was how to make it a less feathery fish.

We just rewrote every scene on the day in this film almost completely. You had general ideas which were fun, like the Danny Francesco idea that you’ve taken a movie star as a spy. You’d hold onto those as base camps for your summit. But how you got to those base camps was completely spontaneous on the day. You just knew you had to get to that base camp.

I am such a fan of the first two Sherlock Holmes movies. Do you think that there’s ever going to be a third one, or is it that time has come and gone?

RITCHIE: Well, honestly, I left this up to Robert [Downey Jr.]. So Robert wanted to be in charge of this. The ball’s in his court, so he’s in charge of the script, he’s in charge of the whole thing. I’ve moon-walked out of that until there’s a time for me to get involved.

The same question with Aladdin. Obviously, it’s the biggest hit of, I believe, your career. It made over a billion dollars. Do you see yourself doing a sequel?

RITCHIE: I’d very much like to. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed that experience. It was a great experience. That whole Disney thing, as you can imagine, is such a professional outfit. Just from that perspective, it was so much fun. I would very much like to, we’ll wait and see. We have been kicking some ideas around for some time now, but it’d be great to do, it would be great to go back there.

Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre is in theaters on March 3. If you’re curious how Statham responded to the chess call-out, you can check out our interview with him below.

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