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admin   June 1, 2022   No Comment   2021-Pistols - Interviews - News & Updates - Press

While Danny Boyle’s Sex Pistols series Pistol focuses on how the band shaped British punk as we know it, no one quite encapsulates the actual punk era more than Maisie Williams’ and Thomas Brodie Sangster’s characters.

Pamela ‘Jordan’ Rooke barges onto our screens with her boobs out on a bike, revelling in terrorising a seafront town just by her very presence. She later gets a train to London in the same see-through plastic top, being moved to first class as those around her gawp and make comments.

But while Jordan embodied punk, Malcolm McLaren was one of its architects – slowly moulding the Sex Pistols into the biggest disruptors and money-making machine they could possibly be. He promotes anarchy while buying into capitalism and knowingly creates a monster that he later destroys to make a statement.

Naturally, these two massive characters needed equally massive talents to bring them knowingly and lovingly to life in the new Disney+/FX series.

Speaking to Digital Spy, Maisie and Thomas talk about bringing the ’70s back to life, what it was like portraying real-life people, and lessons we could ultimately learn from the punk movement.

Maisie, what was it like working with the real Jordan/Pamela Rooke?

Maisie: I had a lot of preconceived ideas of what this story was going to be, and the way that it was going to be told, just from other things that have been made from this time, but because we had the support of so many people who were really there – including Jordan, who was an immense help to me and all areas of this production – it meant that we could bring it back to a place that was more real and we had a face to all of these iconic names.

For that reason, I think that it did give it more of a soul, and I think it definitely made it easier in a way because you don’t feel like you’re creating something. Or despite this being a fictional retelling of these events, it didn’t feel like you were creating someone entirely fictional. It felt like it was grounded within yourself and your own experiences and the experiences we recounted [of] the people who were really there.

Were there any scenes that were particularly memorable to shoot?

Thomas: There’s loads, honestly. When you go into work every day on this it’s just so much fun, because every time you’re doing something, a scene of such iconic importance… I mean, going down the Thames on that boat, recreating that moment was a fantastic fun day.

And I mean, it’s only because it’s Danny Boyle, and he did the Olympics and he knows the Queen a little bit because of that, that we got permission to fly a drone outside of the Houses of Parliament so close. That’s the first time it’s ever been done. But it’s funny because what they’re doing is so anti-Queen.

That was so much fun though, we were just stuck on a boat all day and singing ‘God Save the Queen’ as we go past the Houses of Parliament, putting two fingers up against them. Although the Houses of Parliament still had all the scaffolding up over Big Ben so it was all CGI anyway! May as well have been green screen.

Maisie: We filmed in the 100 Club nearly 50 years to the day that the Pistols had played, and we were recreating the same gig they had done. That was a really special moment. We were in lockdown in London, and the whole city was empty, and we were in the most iconic room, and they’ve kept so much of the history there.

They have some great images of all of our characters, all of the real people. It was just great to be able to act as if we were at a Pistols gig.

Thomas: It was so much more than if it was a set. It was the real place where they really played, the band were in the real green room where they were really getting ready to go on stage. It was an exact recreation, or as close as you can get.

Something that gets touched upon in the series is the sexism in the punk movement – something that Jordan actively stood against. Were you aware of this element being portrayed in Pistol?

Maisie: I was speaking to someone last night, and he was saying that was his main critique of what we’ve done. He said ‘I remember there being the political strand of punk and the people who were fighting for inclusivity, diversity of all kinds.’ I knew [about the sexism being subtly portrayed], although punk spread to a whole sub-genre.

I think the real creation and the masterminds behind the movement, that was a very, very small low-key group. Much like any kind of subculture, as it grows, as more people are added, the messages become skewed and maybe less widely known throughout the entire movement.

But for us, it was really about containing this story and focusing it in on these very specific characters. I think that for that reason, that message is still in there, from Jordan’s perspective, or Vivienne [Westwood]’s even.

Even just the way the band dress, there’s kind of that fluidity between dressing and sexuality and gender. But, you know, maybe not touched upon so much within the wider punk movement.

“Punk was about you – anyone could be a punk… It had a tough exterior, but it was for the people”

Thomas: I think from their perspective, it was grounded in a huge feminine power, with Vivienne, [Soo] Catwoman and Jordan. But I don’t know whether that was used effectively. I think the kind of power of the masculine was, probably for Malcolm, the only way of voicing that to the world.

But I think in its roots, punk was about you – anyone could be a punk. it wasn’t racist, it wasn’t homophobic. Despite what you may think, it has this aggressive exterior, but it’s for the people completely.

Punk concerts can be rather masculine places, especially with the violence that occurred at the time in mosh pits.

Maisie: I do remember there being like a period of the gigs where Danny was like, ‘I wish it wasn’t the case, but I’m going to have to ask a lot of the girls to step to the perimeter of the crowd’, because it really was very male-dominated in terms of the audiences that would turn up to the gigs.

He wanted to make that look more accurate, but I guess I still feel like that is part of the audience that latches on to a sub-genre versus the ideation or creation of the punk movement.

I guess because we wanted to tell the story from the perspective of the people who were striving for change, it feels counterintuitive to them. Or it’s an exercise that came from the bits that were outside of their control and got away. I guess that’s a choice that Craig [Pearce, writer] made.

Why do you think the impact of Sex Pistols has been so enduring?

Maisie: It’s just universally enticing. You see these four kids who don’t much know how to play at the beginning creating this sound and noise with something to say. Just like anyone, no matter what your background. I think it’s just so inspiring and it just opens so many doors and possibilities of what you could do with your life.

Thomas: Before [Sex Pistols] there were amazing guitarists, like Dave Gilmour [of Pink Floyd], so it was kind of like ‘Wow, cool, I want to be a guitarist like Hendrix or Gilmour’. But these guys showed that no, you can make something creative, you can make something that means something by just picking up a guitar and learning three chords.

That’s how Buddy Holly did it, that’s how The Beatles started. You could do a lot with that.

Pistol is available to stream in full now on FX in the US and Disney+ in the UK.

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