John Niven is Don Logan in Sexy Beast

Sexy Beast

Before John Niven became an author, he was a guitarist with 1980s band The Wishing Stones. Having ditched a career as an A&R man in London’s music industry, he used his insider knowledge to write the scabrously funny Kill Your Friends. His second book, The Amateurs, took a violent sideswipe at the safe image of golf. Next up he’s gunning for God in The Second Coming, out in May. If he was a film character he would be Don Logan from Sexy Beast as he explains below. Eithne Farry

Which bitter film character would I be? I thought for a while about choosing Willy T. Stokes, the Bad Santa played by Billy Bob Thornton in the eponymous 2003 movie, but decided he’s more nihilistic than bitter. No, for pure curdled bitterness it’d have to be Don Logan from Sexy Beast, as played Ben Kingsley. Don is a man so hate-ravaged he’s moved to scream at Ray Winstone’s Gal: ‘I won’t let you be happy! Why should I?’ In other words, ‘I’m unhappy, so I’m fucked if anyone else is going to be happy’.

I was actually very resistant to watching Sexy Beast when it came out 10 years ago: another British gangster movie, starring Ray Winstone, directed by a pop video director (Jonathan Glazier), with a soundtrack by trip-hoppers du jour Unkle? The omens, I felt, weren’t good. What a clown I was. It’s also easy to forget what a shock it was to see nice old Ghandi playing the most psychotic character in recent movie history. The scene in which Don’s name is first mentioned is a masterpiece of understatement on the part of writers Louis Mellis and David Scinto. Everyone at the table nearly soils themselves at just the sound of those three letters. The mention of his name is enough to ruin an evening. You know this guy means business before he’s appeared in one frame.

And, oh, to be Don Logan. Gratuitously pissing on your friend’s carpets (Don’s pissing stance alone is worth the price of admission), openly smoking on airplanes and then offering to stub your cigarette out on a fellow passenger’s eyeball (‘Agreeable?’), greeting your friends with the words ‘I’m sweating like a cunt’ (Kingsley’s first line in the movie). Just the way he says the word ‘orgy’…

Interestingly, Sir Ben said he approached playing the character as if he were ‘the best Sergeant Major in the army’ and it is exactly this quality he brings to Logan: someone in a relaxed, holiday setting who cannot relax and who never, ever goes on holiday. A man so consumed by bile and fury that he uses his dying words to tell his friend that he fucked his wife.


John Niven