Director Neil Jordan Totally Reworked His British Crime Film Mona Lisa After Meeting Bob Hoskins [Exclusive]

After “The Long Good Friday” (one of the best mob movies ever), Bob Hoskins developed a reputation for playing tough guys. But the Londoner had more to offer, having appeared in everything from Shakespeare plays to BBC dramas, and Neil Jordan suspected as much after meeting with the actor for “Mona Lisa.” 

/Film’s Jack Giroux spoke with Jordan about “Marlowe,” but the conversation turned to his meeting with Hoskins for the 1986 crime drama. As the Irish filmmaker explained:

“Basically, I had written the script for ‘Mona Lisa,’ and I wrote it with another writer called David Leland. It was rather harsh and savage. David had one sense of what this story could be. I met Bob Hoskins and I showed him the script, and suddenly, I saw a totally different character. I saw this guy with this huge heart, with this great capacity for violence, but actually this huge emotional kind of thing.”

Having gotten a sense that Hoskins was much more than his “Long Good Friday” role would suggest, Jordan hurriedly rewrote the entire “Mona Lisa” script to better fit the actor’s more nuanced abilities:

“I met with him, went off for two weeks, came back with a different script, gave it to him, said, ‘What do you think now?’ And he loved it. I really wanted that movie to be about a man who generally didn’t understand women, and that’s what Bob played. It was lovely to do.”

Jordan toned down the violence and took George from a more traditionally brutish gangster type to a multi-layered character whose struggles to understand women and his place within the criminal underworld gave the film a whole new dimension. It also garnered Hoskins an Oscar nomination and a BAFTA win for Best Actor.

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