Jaime Winstone has already proved her acting mettle in gritty, urban dramas but now proves her worth as producer too in kooky horror, Elfie Hopkins, which is released on Friday, April 20. The youngest daughter of Ray talks about playing a titular role, bringing dad on board and the intricacies of getting just the right sort of blood on screen.
By Susan Griffin.
Like the detective in the title of her new film Elfie Hopkins, the diminutive Jaime Winstone should not be underestimated.
Party girl and showbiz column favourite she may be, but the scion of Sexy Beast star Ray is also ambitious and determined.
She had to be to see horror Brit-flick Elfie Hopkins come to fruition.
The idea first emerged when Winstone befriended the film's first-time director Ryan Andrews on Daddy's Girl, a Welsh thriller she made in 2006.
"Ryan was part of the camera crew and we instantly bonded," recalls the 26-year-old, dressed in Doc Martens, black leggings and a vibrant voluminous shirt.
"We got each other the moment we met. Our tastes are similar in everything, from films to music, what we liked and didn't, and our attitude.
"It was a collision of minds, a love affair between our brains. We inspired each other as soul mates."
Today Winstone's full of beans and brings to mind a cheeky pixie with her delicate elfin features, shaved head and throaty cackle.
The movie was inspired by one of Andrews's short films, The Gammons, in which the Elfie character played a minor role in the story about a family with 'exotic' tastes.
After meeting Winstone, Andrews knew she had to be the main focus of the film.
"The more Ryan got to know me, the more Elfie evolved into a well-rounded character," says Winstone, who championed Andrews and the film from the start.
"They could see what was happening in my life and wrote Elfie to reflect that: hard core in some ways but vulnerable under the tough exterior, 22 years old but still a wide-eyed teenager in many respects; knowing what she wants to do with her life but not having the slightest idea how to go about achieving it.
"All these character traits and story threads came together in a melting pot of cinematic influences to become Twin Peaks meets Miss Marple, with a Tim Burton-esque fantasy feel and an X-Files tone."
When we meet Elfie, she's a quirky wannabe detective who, in the absence of real crimes, simply makes them up. Then the Gammons arrive.
"Curious about them, she starts looking through their rubbish, talking into her Dictaphone, and things suddenly get interesting," says Winstone, who admits to being something of a sleuth in her childhood.
"When I was little I was always asking for detective kits and making up stories about the neighbours," she laughs.
"For me, Elfie's a dream role to play and I feel there's been a gap in the British film industry for this type of entertainment, which we more than fill. I can't wait for the world to meet Elfie, she'll kick ass."
Born and brought up in London, Winstone first came to the industry's attention in 2004, playing Natalie in the award-winning Bullet Boy.
"I didn't know if I wanted to act. I was always rebelling against going into it. But I've always been used to being on set and seeing how it all works so being in front of the camera felt really natural," she says.
Even so, Winstone admits she never told her parents she was doing 2006's Kidulthood.
Instead she bunked off school for a month so she could shoot the hard-hitting film about a day in the life of a group of troubled 15-year-olds growing up in west London.
"When I watch Kidulthood now I'm like, 'Oh my God!' I did go to school with girls like that and it's scary what's going on. But to me it's more important [to portray that on screen] than a romcom about two people falling in love."
Winstone's next feature film was Donkey Punch, a thriller set at sea. She turned down the remake of the clean-cut St Trinian's to do it.
"St Trinian's would have propelled me in another direction and I just really want to do good stuff. Donkey Punch was something different with a first-time director and I thought that was way more interesting," says Winstone.
Other projects include zombie-fest Dead Set for Channel 4, Made In Dagenham, a British movie about factory workers' fight for equal pay, and Five Daughters, a drama based on the murders of the Ipswich sex workers.
Then at Christmas she made her period debut as the lead in Poirot's The Clocks.
"I'd love to do another period drama but I know a lot of people don't see me like that so it is a struggle," she says with the slightest of shrugs.
"I guess some people can't get past the accent or see past the pink, green, bleach blonde hair."
Not only did she champion and star in Elfie Hopkins, she also co-produced it.
"I had to do it because there was a certain amount of things I needed control of, otherwise I would have felt vulnerable," she says.
And as co-producer and horror nut, she found it her task to request more blood on set. Though not just any blood.
"Quite neat, stylised blood. I'm not so much into real gore and splatter-fests, like Hostel and Saw, which is borderline snuff," she says.
The middle Winstone (she's flanked by two sisters) already knows whose career she wants to emulate - that of her father, who pops up in the new movie as the all-seeing, all-knowing Butcher Bryan.
"He didn't have an easy, breezy climb. It was tough but he stuck to what he liked and it's got him to where he is now," she says.
"It's longevity, which is scary and it certainly doesn't pay the bills sometimes but that's not important. What's important is to do something that shocks people or moves them.
"British film and TV is definitely where I want to stay and grow."