Code / May 2017

Iron Jaw: Johnny Harris

Writing and starring in his latest gritty thriller, Jawbone, Johnny Harris sits down with The Rake to discuss addiction and the importance of teamwork.

Johnny Harris as Jimmy McGabe in Jawbone, 2017.

Johnny Harris is lovely. I mean really lovely. His demeanour makes you feel like the conversation with him should be carried out over one big hug. Considering the fact that interviewing him after just watching him pummel fifty shades of red out of someone and himself, is an odd juxtaposition. He is a rare gem is Johnny, whose cockney roots come with a sincerity and authenticity that isn’t contrived or isn’t there to say the ‘correct things to an interviewer.’ He sat down at the table with a desire to get honest and get to the bones of what his latest project is all about.

Jawbone is Harris’ magnum opus (to date). We will all have enjoyed his roles in Monsters: Dark Continent, This is England and Snow White and the Huntsman. For Jawbone, Johnny cuts his teeth with writing and producing and the emotional narrative of the film about which his own life is the stimulus material. He plays Jimmy, an alcoholic, ex-child prodigy boxer who is in so deep with liquor that daylight causes him to wince, he literally cannot see the light.

He says, “The three biggest moments in my life were firstly when I walked into a boxing gym when I was 9, the second was when I walked into an acting class, the third was when I walked into a pub. They were three pivotal moments in my life so to not bring all those things together to make a film, it is almost inconceivable in a way.”

The film opens with darkness, the London Southbank, murky, a jumping-off point, sirens in the background – a nifty representation of the noises in our protagonist Jimmy’s head, full of booze-diluted fear and, as we discover, financial insecurity – in the opening scene he has to break into his own home on the council estate which is being repossessed. After an altercation with local government officials, he revisits an old boxing gym – portrayed by a gorgeous abandoned ceramics factory in Stoke – run by Ray Winstone’s William Carney and Michael Smiley’s Eddie as his deputy. The history between them is clear but left to the audience’s imagination; it probably has something to do with booze.

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Tom Chamberlin

Editor of The Rake Magazine