HOW DIRE IS DYER? and NICK LOVE, WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE…
DANNY BY DANNY
I am sure that in time Danny Dyer’s brutally frank autobiography, Straight Up: The Real Me in my Own Words, will hit the bargain bins. It happens to all of the great thespians, old chap: Olivier, Guinness, Hopkins, all charity shop fodder soon enough. But for now, I can’t quite bring myself to part with the £7.99 required and have had to make do with occasional browses in W.H. Smith. I haven’t looked into the co-writing arrangements, but it does all look a bit Dyer by numbers. Film buff Mark Kermode comes in for a good kicking (on the page only, for now) for his imitations and savage mockery of the boy from Canning, with Danny (or his ghost) laying into the hairdo and suave smarminess and asking menacingly who would come off better in a dark alley stand-off. They should surely do a joint book tour.
If you can’t get it from the horse’s mouth, there is the redoubtable Martin Howden on hand with: The Real Deal – The unauthorised biography of Britain’s toughest star (£1.99 from The Works in Oxford). Howden has given us similar tomes on Russell Crowe (surely New Zealand’s toughest star), reformed wastrel Robert Downey Jr, Joaquin Phoenix and Lily Allen, whose street wisdom was partly honed at posh progressive school Bedales, plus some Twilight-related vampire types. I suspect the Dyer volume took at least a long weekend to write, but it contains invaluable insights into the man described on the back cover as: “one of Britain’s most gifted and most uncompromising talents”.
What do we find out? Danny’s is West Ham until he dies, while frequent co-star Tamer Hassan is Millwall. Danny hails from Canning Town, but was born in Newham, which he describes, not very charitably as “a shit-hole, a real fucking concrete jungle”. Danny wowed Dame Helen Mirren as a tragic junkie-rent boy in Prime Suspect and became fast friends with the great Harold Pinter while turning in often overlooked performances in Pinter productions. Danny swears a lot? He probably gets it from his beloved Nan, who used to rant at the telly, calling Scottish snooker legend Stephen Hendry “a c***”. Danny got his tackle out for Gay magazine Attitude, but they didn’t run the wilder stuff. Danny doesn’t like Hungary. Danny featured in an Oscar-winning short film, Wasp, directed by highly rated director Andrea Arnold, who recently gave us Wuthering Heights. Danny (surprise) reveres Ray Winstone.
Howden makes a case for our boy as a pretty decent sort of geezer, albeit a bit foul-mouthed in interviews, but a loving family bloke, into footie, doing the DJ bit and UFOs. Elsewhere, Danny has bitterly regretted a disgusting (ghosted) column in Zoo magazine, suggesting jilted or cuckolded blokes scar the women who have betrayed them. This is briefly alluded to in the last chapter: ‘A Difficult Year for Danny’. He also had a nasty house break-in.
Putting all this aside, what of the work? While The Guardian has meanly described Danny as “the byword for low-budget, no-quality Brit-trash cinema”, Howden nobly makes a case for most of the Dyer oeuvre, sometimes in the face of incredible odds. For example, he talks with reverence of Danny being “one of the most distinctive faces and voices on British TV”, presumably because of his sterling work encountering Danny Dyer’s Deadliest Men and touring the Football Factories, although he lists many other lighter roles you might have missed.
In fairness, it’s not all bovver boys and f***** geezers. Danny ain’t no one trick pony and has not ruled out having a go at Doctor Who should the opportunity arise. Can he be sad and sensitive as well as loud and leery? I have witnessed Danny courageously enjoying ‘one off the wrist’ in semi-likeable Cardiff-based rave fest Human Traffic (his Mum bursts in), and doing his stuff quite decently in Foyle’s War, not a ‘c’ word to be heard. Then there are more stretching roles, as in Borstal Boy, where Danny goes Gay with Brendan Behan and jolly football romp, The Other Half, a newly wed with American wife at Euro 2004 with Vinnie Jones cast (against type) as a life guide. These are available at cut-price DVD emporia across the land. You should investigate.
But the prosecution has a pretty damning case at this juncture. I regularly, enthusiastically visit the bottom of the barrel, but am not sure I could deal with Straightheads, Danny cast implausibly alongside a slumming Gillian Anderson as a handyman caught up in a rural rape and revenge saga. Kermode: “I can’t believe the funding or the will to make this film existed”. And what of The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael, the Newhaven-based tale of feral youth at play, dominated by a gang rape scene?
Few have been queueing up to lavish plaudits on Pimp, the Soho sex industry faux documentary, described by The Daily Telegraph (0/5) as “soul-flayingly horrendous, even by the gutter standards of Britsploitation flicks featuring Danny Dyer”. I briefly owned this, but a discerning flatmate binned it or gave it away before it came close to the DVD player. I have, however, twice watched Danny as down-at-heel Pete, former drug user, criminal and alcoholic on the road to redemption in City Rats, proving his mettle by blowing away the bad man at the end. Also featuring Tamer Hassan (he is suicidal and rightly so), it’s another film of staggering awfulness, championed by the deluded as part of a new wave of hard-edged British cinema, but frankly embarrassing.