Legend is a 2015 French-British crime thriller film written and directed by Brian Helgeland. It is adapted from John Pearson's book The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins, which deals with the rise and fall of the Kray twins; the relationship that bound them together, and charts their gruesome career to their downfall and imprisonment for life in 1969.
This is Helgeland's fifth feature film. Tom Hardy, Emily Browning (who acts as a narrator from beyond the grave), David Thewlis and Christopher Eccleston star with Chazz Palminteri, Paul Bettany, Colin Morgan, Tara Fitzgerald and Taron Egerton as well as singer Duffy featured in supporting roles.
In the 1960s, Reggie Kray is a former boxer who has become an important part of the criminal underground in London. At the start of the film, his twin brother Ron is locked up in a psychiatric hospital for insanity and paranoid schizophrenia. Reggie uses threats to obtain the premature release of his brother, who is rapidly discharged from hospital. The two brothers unite their efforts to control a large part of London's criminal underworld. One of their first efforts is to muscle-in on the control of a local night club, using extortion and brutal violence.
Reggie enters into a relationship with Frances, the sister of his driver, and they ultimately marry; however, he is imprisoned for a previous criminal conviction, which he cannot evade. While Reggie is in prison, Ron's mental problems and violence lead to severe setbacks at the nightclub. The club is almost forced to close after Ron scares away most of the customers. When Reggie is finally released from prison, the two brothers have an all-out fist fight on the first night after Reggie's release, but they manage to partially patch things up.
The brothers are approached by Angelo Bruno of the Philadelphia crime family on behalf of Meyer Lansky and the American Mafia, to try to interest them in a crime syndicate deal. Bruno agrees to a fifty-fifty deal with Reggie to split London's underground gambling profits in exchange for local protection from the Kray brothers. Initially, this system is highly lucrative for the Kray brothers. However, the results of Ron's barely concealed violence continue to cause problems with Scotland Yard, who open a full investigation of the Kray brothers.
Reggie beats and rapes Frances and she leaves him. Reggie then approaches her to start afresh offering her a holiday to Ibiza. However, she is soon found dead after committing suicide with an overdose of prescription drugs. The brothers' criminal activities continue, and they are unable to thwart the escalating Scotland Yard investigation by Detective Superintendent Leonard "Nipper" Read, who soon arrests Ron. The final scene shows a police squad breaking down the door to Reggie's flat in order to apprehend him.
The closing captions indicate both brothers receiving criminal convictions for murder. They died five years apart, Ron from a heart attack in 1995, and Reggie from cancer in 2000.
- Throughout the film, there is no mention of Charlie Kray, the twins older brother, who was part of The Firm, and also a key influence on their lives.
- Ronnie only occasionally wore glasses, not all the time as depicted in the film.
- In the film, Reggie and Frances’s eight-week marriage falls apart when he beats her up and rapes her. In real life, Frances insisted Reg was never physically violent towards her. Several friends of theirs have corroborated this. Helgeland has since said he used this scene as part of his "poetic licence."
- In the murder scene of George Cornell, the location chosen for the pub makes it look as if it is on a quiet back street. In fact, The Blind Beggar opens straight on to the thoroughfare of Whitechapel Road and not on a corner. Jack Dickson also drove Ronnie and Ian Barrie, Teddy Smith was not present in the car.
- Onscreen, Reg suddenly turns on Jack McVitie at a party, stabbing him in a frenzy and then hissing in Ron’s ear that he did it to Jack because he couldn’t do it to him. In real life, McVitie was lured to the basement flat in Stoke Newington by both brothers. They cleared all the women out of the party first, then Ron egged Reg on to kill McVitie – even helping to hold him down while Reg stabbed him three times with a carving knife, not multiple times as seen in the film.
- Reggie punches Albert Donoghue after he kills McVitie. Not only was Donoghue not present at the murder, but the Firm also continued to operate for another seven months after, whereas the film depicts the arrest on 8 May 1968, happening the morning after McVitie's murder.
- John Dickson and Pat Connolly do not have Scottish accents in the film, despite both in real life hailing from Scotland.
- Tom Hardy as Ronnie Kray and Reggie Kray
- Emily Browning as Frances Shea
- Christopher Eccleston as Leonard Nipper Read
- David Thewlis as Leslie Payne
- Taron Egerton as Edward "Mad" Teddy Smith
- Chazz Palminteri as Angelo Bruno
- Paul Bettany as Charlie Richardson
- Martin McCreadie as Eddie Richardson
- Colin Morgan as Frank Shea
- Tara Fitzgerald as Elsie Shea
- Aneurin Barnard as David Bailey
- Paul Anderson as Albert Donoghue
- Duffy (singer) as Timi Yuro
- Millie Brady as Joan Collins
- Kevin McNally as Harold Wilson
- John Sessions as Lord Boothby
- Alex Giannini as Antonio Caponigro
- Sam Spruell as Jack McVitie
- Shane Attwooll as George Cornell
- Charley Palmer Rothwell as Leslie Holt
- Adam Fogerty as Big Pat Connolly
- Mel Raido as Ian Barrie
- Chris Mason as Ronnie Hart
- Stephen Thompson as Ronnie Bender
- Frankie Fitzgerald as Jack Dickson
- Jane Wood as Violet Kray
- Jon McKenna as Charles Kray
On 12 October 2013, it was announced that Brian Helgeland had written a script and would be directing a film focusing on the life of Reggie Kray who, with identical brother Ronald, formed the notorious Kray twins. Helgeland said the film would concentrate on Reggie's attempts to control the psychopathic tendencies of his younger twin.
Helgeland spoke of hanging out in London with well-known Krays associate Freddie Foreman, saying, "I had drinks with him in his local haunt. When we finished he got up to go and they feted him at the bar. I said to him, 'what about the bill?' and he replied, 'we don't pay." Helgeland attended the Cannes Film Festival with Working Title's Tim Bevan and Chris Clark to talk to potential buyers of the film and showing test footage of Hardy playing the twins.
On 18 April 2014, it was announced that Helgeland would write and direct the film, with the shooting being based in the United Kingdom and with Hardy starring as the male leads. Five days later it was stated that Browning was in negotiations for a role as the film's female lead.
Crews and cast were spotted filming scenes at Falmouth Road, London, St Anne's Limehouse in Limehouse and in the Windmill Walk area around London Waterloo. Filming also took place in Caradoc Street in Greenwich, London in June 2014.
Principal photography started on 12 June 2014. The film was released in September 2015.
Financing for Legend was be provided by StudioCanal, which also distributed the film throughout the territories of the United Kingdom, France, New Zealand and Germany in addition to handling international sales, which started at the beginning of the Cannes Film Festival. On 30 April 2014, Brian Oliver's Cross Creek Pictures acquired the North American distribution rights to Legend from StudioCanal, with a planned 2015 theatrical release through Universal Pictures in its distribution deal with the studio and Oliver also named as a producer on the film. Sales to other territories such as Asia, Africa and much of Europe are being completed. The film was originally set for an 2 October 2015, U.S. release, but it was moved to 20 November 2015.
Legend premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on 12 September 2015 at Roy Thomson Hall.
On 13 June 2014, the first image of the film was published, featuring Hardy as the Kray twins. A promotional poster attracted publicity because it made a two-star review from The Guardian appear to be a four- or five-star review by placing the two stars between the heads of the Krays.
Legend was released on DVD and Blu-ray in the United Kingdom on 25 January 2016 and in the United States on 1 March 2016.
As of 31 January 2016, Legend has grossed $41,636,816 worldwide; $27,960,112 in the United Kingdom and $1,872,994 in North America.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 61% based on 146 reviews and an average rating of 6/10. The site's consensus reads, "As a gangster biopic, Legend is deeply flawed, but as a showcase for Tom Hardy – in a dual role, no less – it just about lives up to its title." On Metacriticthe film has a score of 55 out of 100 based on 31 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".