Inside a drafty rooftop building in London’s Brick Lane, Total Film is trying to keep warm on a freezing Halloween afternoon. The crew of Twist – a fresh spin on the Charles Dickens perennial – are already in party mood; one girl is wearing a red jumpsuit, with a gold-pair of scissors dangling from her neck – à la Lupita Nyong’o in Us. Revelry aside, there’s still an afternoon’s work to get through first.
Set in contemporary London, Twist re-invents Dickens’ tale of the boy who asked for more. “We’re taking the essence of the original and working into it an original film,” says director Martin Owen (Killers Anonymous). Gender-swapping two key roles, Game Of Thrones' Lena Headey plays the grizzly Sikes and Rita Ora is Dodge, the artful schemer who takes young Oliver Twist (Rafferty Law, Jude’s son) under his wing and turns him into a street-savvy hustler.
When Total Film settles down to watch some action, Ora and Headey are in the gang’s den surrounded by stolen PS4s and Beats headphones. Sitting patiently next to them is Sir Michael Caine, the acting legend whose last Dickens outing was A Muppet Christmas Carol. This time, he’s Fagin. “I watched him yesterday,” says Headey, who previously worked with Caine on 2003’s The Actors. “When it’s a close up, he just f***ing twinkles, like a bit of magic.”
One of the major differences here to Dickens’ original is the action, with Twist featuring plenty of Parkour-style scrambling as Dodge’s gang go-a-thieving. “Rafferty’s been training very hard,” adds Owen. “I mean, from when I met him to where he is now, it’s like two different people! I took him to the gym myself. He went to do a pull-up and he couldn’t even bend his arms. Now he’s leaping around like a little monkey. It’s unbelievable!”
While there won’t be any songs – even with Ora in the cast – Owen admits to growing up on the classic 1968 musical Oliver!, confessing there will be “a nod to that” here. Even Headey is paying heed to her predecessor. “I’ve been looking at Olly Reed, trying to do him justice and carry a bit of him in there.” Headey does Oliver Reed? Now that’s a good twist.
Above, you can check out an image of Lena Headey that features in the latest issue of our sister publication, Total Film magazine.
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Twist will be released on Sky Cinema from 29 January. The film will also be available on streaming service NOW TV via the Sky Cinema Pass. For more on the latest film releases check out the latest issue of Total Film magazine.
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