You will or won’t have heard of the Kray Twins – there really is no in-between. For anyone who hasn’t, the Krays were two East London dwelling twin brothers who ran a well-known gang, who terrorised and reigned over the streets of the capital in the 60s.
Committing two well-publicised murders in their time, the two were in prison and both died of illness within the last 15 years, and the new film ‘Legend’ explores their story, their local haunts and what happened to those associated with them.
For me, this is an even more interesting story, as I live in East London and often visit spots the Krays used to dominate. The only difference is that in those days, all the opportunity for one in the East End was ‘to box, to sing, or to enter a life of crime’ (in the words of Chris Lambrianou, a former member of the Kray gang) whereas today the area is split by London’s worst poverty, neighbouring gentrification on a large scale. Tower Hamlets and Hackney, where the film and the story take place, has changed a lot, for the better, since the 60s and we can hope it will change more.
The films producers had done a lot of work on promoting the film – especially in our local area. If you’re around Shoreditch, you can drop into the ‘Legend of the East End Exhibition’. It’s only small but offers real photos of the area as it was in the 60s and pictures and anecdotes from the twins and their associates. They also have some Saville Row tailored suits and jewellery which belonged to the Krays and a fake living room in the style of the Kray family home (with actual tea served to you during your stay) has been set up for you to enjoy as you watch a video about the making of the film, how they uncovered information and stories around the East End and interviews with Kray associates. Make sure you also grab a map marked with which spots around the local area the Krays were most seen – you could even conduct your own mini walking tour!
One such location the Kray twins used to visit was the, now, Genesis Cinema. They once went to a premiere of their friend Barbara Windsor here and owned the club across the road. As such, Genesis put on a special viewing of ‘Legend’ for us, with a Q&A with the film’s director, Brian Helgeland, and a former associate of the Krays, Chris Lambrianou, who went to prison for 15 years for his part in one of murders they committed.
The Q&A was insightful and really brought the film to life. Chris Lambrianou talked about his experiences with the Krays, how he fell into that life, how he is saddened that he defended them with undeserved loyalty and how he turned his life around after prison. His stories were honest and real and he spoke about how he walked the film’s producer around the East End as he told his story, to really bring the idea of this film together with the jigsaw pieces of the story. The director, Helgeland, talked about how he wanted to tell the story of Frances, Reggie’s wife, to show how the twins’ destructive behaviour ruined anyone who came into contact with them.
I won’t tell you too much about the film itself so as not to ruin the story but it is well worth a watch! Tom Hardy’s portrayal of both Ron and Reggie is entertaining and fascinating – and so good, in fact, that you start to forget they are the same person. You sympathise with both boys as you see a more in-depth view into their lives, and relationship with one another, and a place in society that, unfortunately, they carved for themselves but now can’t escape from. The story of Frances is sad and, until now, got lost behind the story of the Krays themselves, so showing the romance of Frances and Reggie shows that this isn’t just a tale but real-life. Most of all, the characters love and loyalty for one another was inevitably their downfall.
With a great window into the past of East London, Legend has dug out and dusted off a really true and unfortunate story of the past. The film is definitely worth a watch, and if you just can’t get enough then check out the Pop Up.
Have you seen the film? Let me know your thoughts on it below!