Ray Winstone’s career includes hit films “Sexy Beast” and “The Departed,” but making his first-ever doc series has proved as challenging as any movie part. “It’s probably the most difficult work I’ve done to be honest with you,” Winstone told Variety. “You are baring all in a way. The camera is on you more or less 24/7.”
The show is “Ray Winstone’s World: Sicily,” a travel series following the London-born actor on a journey around the popular Mediterranean destination.
“I was coming to Sicily for many years and I fell in love with the place,” he said. “And then Bruno [Zoccola], a mate of mine who is a butcher and owns a chain of restaurants, and [sports broadcaster] Matt Lorenzo, a friend, got together and they wanted to do something. It kind of fell into place, thanks in a lot of ways to Matt who put it all together.”
Winstone, speaking from the island as production nears its end, said he wanted to get beyond the tourist hotspots and to the real Sicily. He acknowledges tourism is a key industry for the island, but said he wanted to dig a little deeper: “We’ve been as honest as we possibly can be about the people we have met and the places we have been,” he said.
Winstone, Zoccola, Lorenzo and the crew travel to locations including Palermo, Cefalu, Marsala and film from the summit of Mount Etna, an active volcano. “We’ve gone full circle, all the way round the island,” Winstone said. “We’ve met very wealthy people, artistic people, people who work the land. It has been an eye-opening experience for me.”
Banijay Rights and producer SWR Media in association with Dash Pictures are behind the travelog, which will run to six parts. Daniel Sharp exec produces.
Winstone will be seen in the heist movie “King of Thieves” alongside Michael Caine later this year. The world of factual TV is very different from the silver screen, he said: “When you’re making films you’re being a character, you’re playing somebody else and if people don’t like that character you can get away with it…In this you’re playing yourself.”
Banijay Rights is using the same funding model it employed with series such as “Inside The Mind of a Serial Killer” whereby it backs the show without a broadcaster attached and then takes it out internationally. Andreas Lemos, VP sales & acquisitions, North America, for Banijay Rights said it is already seeing presales interest. “We were immediately attracted to this project because of Ray’s transcendent international profile,” he said. “It also felt like a distinctive, accessible take on the travel show with a really creative and entertaining entry point.”
Winstone has been to many far-flung locations with his film and TV work including Haiti, the Australian Bush, and the Venezuelan jungle. Will there be more travel shows? “Let’s see how this one goes,” he said.