Plenty of films have used Clerkenwell as a location – but The Hatton Garden Job is a true crime story from EC1. Andre Paine talks to the movie producer who recreated the audacious heist.
It’s the Clerkenwell crime that made headlines around the world as the largest burglary in English legal history. Gold, diamonds and sapphires worth up to £14 million were stolen on that Easter weekend in 2015; two thirds of the valuables remain unrecovered. Almost two years later, the Hatton Garden heist is being depicted in a series of films dramatising the audacious, if ultimately unsuccessful, jewellery raid.
Four ringleaders – Brian Reader, Kenny Collins, Terry Perkins, Daniel Jones – admitted conspiracy to commit burglary. Three other men were found guilty of their involvement in the heist that felt like the storyline from a vintage British crime caper. But it was these old-fashioned methods that brought about the capture of the gang of elderly career criminals.
There have already been TV documentaries and a series of books about the crime, including Wensley Clarkson’s Sexy Beasts: The Inside Story of the Hatton Garden Heist. In One Last Job, Tom Pettifor and Nick Sommerlad tell the story of criminal mastermind Brian “The Guv’nor” Reader, 77, who was sentenced to six years and three months.
The race to be the first Hatton Garden movie was won last October by Hatton Garden The Heist (“The crime that shocked the nation!”), although this low-budget film went straight to DVD. But the EC1 raid will be on the big screen around the world before long. There are projects in development, including a caper movie from the team behind the Stephen Hawking film The Theory of Everything.
The Hatton Garden Job, directed and cowritten by Ronnie Thompson, is set to be the first major movie about the crime. With a strong cast, including Matthew Goode, Joely Richardson and Stephen Moyer, it has the star power to appeal to a global audience. There are also some familiar faces in the roles of the gang members: Larry Lamb (as Brian Reader), Phil Daniels (Danny Jones), David Calder (Terry Perkins) and Clive Russell (Kenny Collins). Goode, who starred in Downton Abbey, is in the role of the mystery man who got away – an imagined version of the real-life, unidentified crook known only as “Basil”.
“Heroes is the wrong word,” producer Ben Jacques tells The Post when asked how the gang will be portrayed. “They are still criminals and there are numerous points throughout the movie where you see a little bit of their darker side. But the truth is the movie and the actual event lend themselves to being lighthearted. You’ve got four old guys robbing a safe deposit company that hurt no one apart from those that lost their goods. It’s not a violent crime.”
It was also far from the perfect crime – one senior officer at Scotland Yard described them as “analogue criminals operating in a digital world”. There was no forensic trace, but one of the criminals was caught on CCTV driving his own car to Hatton Garden Safe Deposit and another had a copy of Forensics for Dummies. Jacques says the detail of the raid, which involved ransacking 73 boxes after using a drill to bore a hole into the vault wall, will be accurately portrayed in The Hatton Garden Job. As well as modelling the set on the actual vault in Hatton Garden, which the filmmakers visited, the cast are using the same equipment as the criminals to drill through solid concrete. “Nobody else is going to be able to improve on that because it’s real concrete and we’re doing it with a real drill,” says Jacques.
A few fictional elements have been added to make it “more of an adventure and a bit of a caper”, says Jacques. It’s set to be a very British heist movie that happens to be based on a true story. “It’s why we have the cast we have – they all read it, loved it and wanted to do it,” he adds. The film has been partly shot in Hatton Garden, while Lamb recently visited the real-life vault with Jackie Keily, a curator at the Museum of London. As as well being immortalised on screen, the scene of Clerkenwell’s notorious jewel heist could one day end up as a museum exhibit.
“The Hatton Garden Job” is released in spring 2017.