Plan B’s iLL Manors is a brutally honest documentation of the world we live in, starring new talent Ed Skrein.
One of Ben Drew, a.k.a Plan B’s oldest friends, and an artist, musician, actor, director and model in his own right, Ed Skrein steals iLL Manors with a performance of raw, unerring, swaggeringly violent power. Here he tells i-D online about the force of being that is Plan B’s directorial debut…
How long has iLL Manors been in your life and how does it feel to let it go? I’m so glad I can draw a line in the sand and move on from it and pass it on to people. It’s been such a big part of my life. We did a short film called Michelle, which we shot in 2008 after planning it throughout 2007, and both the funding and the script for the feature came as a result of that. So it’s been in the works for five years. Along with the production team, I’m probably the only person who has been involved every step of the way. You can’t even say it’s been a labour of love. It’s been a labour of all sorts of emotions.
Plan B has claimed iLL Manors is about witness rather than drama. Given that, how did you decide to handle the violence in the film? The arts aren’t supposed to be loved. They are there to be experienced. There was a conscious effort made not to stylize iLL Manors. We streamlined storylines – of course – but we wanted it to be a realistic depiction. In a lot of other British urban movies, the fights can last for a long time. In real life, there’s a couple of punches thrown, there’s usually a horrible noise, and you’re just left with a strange negative energy in the air. That’s what we wanted to represent.
You’ve talked about how aspects of your character are autobiographical. Do you recognise yourself in Ed? I think all of us – whether we admit it or not – have so many different sides to us. We choose what we show, and we’ve been guided to show parts of our personality through our employment and our parents and all that stuff. All I did was tap into that part of me. I heard a brilliant quote: “Even the purest people are capable of moments of the worst evil.” My character has never grown up. He still has the mentality of a crazy 15-year-old. He doesn’t realise there’s a world outside the manor on which he grew up. I wasn’t like him when I grew up, but he’s a very extreme version of the adolescent aggression and single-minded stubbornness that a lot of us had when we were 16.
iLL Manors has got a lot of commentary, even before its release. Have there been any comments that have surprised you? People have been saying that Ben’s a Conservative and I’ve been laughing my head off about that. But the people who really struck a chord with me were Camila Batmanghelidjh and Edwina Currie (published in The Observer). I was just so pleased with her comments. They confirmed everything I was trying to do. They got the social consciousness of the film. We were just trying to give a mouthpiece to a forgotten demographic of society and represent our generation.
The film seems influenced by the social conscious of hip-hop? One hundred per cent. Ben and I used to sit in my flat in Angel listening to vinyls before he started rapping. I was the guy that played him Talib Kweli and Common Sense and the Native Tongues movement. But by the same token we were listening to Necro and Non-Fiction and Ill Bill and Immortal Technique. The film is informed by Talib Kweli in its message, but its informed by Necro in its feel and aesthetic.
iLL Manors is out now in UK cinemas.
Text: Tom Seymour
Portrait (bottom): Gavin Watson