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Guy Ritchie Biography

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Birth Name: Guy Ritchie
Born: 09/10/1968
Birth Place: Hertfordshire, England, GB

Born on Sept. 10, 1968 in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, England, Ritchie was initially raised by his father, John, an advertising executive responsible for the legendary Hamlet cigar commercials, and his mother, Amber, a model. When he was five, his parents divorced, leaving Ritchie to live with his mum, who married Sir Michael Leighton, the 11th heir of a 300-year-old barony. Though he spent some of his youth living at Loton Park, Leigton's 17th-century estate, Ritchie went in and out of some 10 odd boarding schools -namely because of his suffering from severe dyslexia. By the time he was 15, Ritchie was expelled from his last school, Stanbridge Earls in Hampton, later claiming he was kicked out for doing drugs. His father disputed the account, saying his son was caught skipping class and sneaking girls into his room. In the end, all Ritchie could manage was a GCSE - General Certificate of Secondary Education - in film studies.

After leaving school for good, he began a series of odd jobs until his father tapped his industry contacts to get him a job as a runner at a production in the Soho district of London. At 25, Ritchie quickly learned the ropes and began directing commercials and music videos - some 20 videos back-to-back that were "really crappy with sort of German rave bands." With the money he earned, Ritchie funded his first film, "The Hard Case" (1995), a 20-minute short about a group of blue-collar lads entering a high-stakes poker game. Also written by Ritchie - who took on the screenplay after failing to find another writer - "The Hard Case" demonstrated his fine-tuned ear for working class dialects and penchant for deftly crafted plots centered in the criminal world. The film attracted the attention of Trudie Styler, wife of music legend, Sting, who agreed to finance his first feature length movie, "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" (1999), a variation on the criminal theme Ritchie utilized in his short.

With Styler serving as executive producer - and even Sting making an appearance as a bar owner - Ritchie told the story of a group of likeable smalltime crooks (Jason Statham, Jason Flemyng and Dexter Fletcher) led by card shark Eddy (Nick Moran), who try to scam a local crime boss at poker, only to find themselves a half million pounds in the hole. With Eddy's fingers on the line, the four lads have a week to come up with the money, which they obtain by robbing a bunch of marijuana dealers, only to find themselves embroiled in a gang war that mysteriously revolves around two antique rifles. Ritchie's first movie firmly established his knack for catchy dialogue, sharp camera angles and a punchy soundtrack that helped glamorize the tawdry world of East End criminals. Most impressively, he crafted an ensemble group of memorable characters with names like Hatchet Harry (P.H. Moriarty), Barry the Baptist (Lenny McLean) and Big Chris, played to deadpan perfection by former footballer Vinnie Jones. Meanwhile, thanks to Tom Cruise, who saw a screening and laughed his head off, the film received distribution in the United States. Though a hit with the film buff crowd, "Lock, Stock" failed to catch on with American audiences, who had trouble slicing through the character's thick Cockney accents. Nonetheless, stateside critics stood up and took notice of Ritchie's obvious talents.

Around the time his first film was being released, Ritchie began dating pop superstar Madonna, whom he would go on to marry in December 2000 in an exclusive Scottish ceremony, after the couple gave birth to a son, Rocco, earlier that same year. The relationship between the hot young director and the larger-than-life icon attracted more than its share of tabloid attention - from profiling their supposed marital problems to their mutual commitment to the Jewish faith, Kabbalah. Meanwhile, Ritchie directed "Snatch" (2000), a return to the familiar territory of low-life thugs and working-class gangsters all haphazardly vying against each other for some seemingly unobtainable prize - this time an 86-carat diamond the size of a fist stolen from a diamond merchant in Antwerp, Belgium. Because of his newfound celebrity status, Ritchie managed to land topnotch talent like Benecio Del Toro, Dennis Farina and Brad Pitt to star. The labyrinth caper-gone-wrong followed a boxing promoter (Statham) and his partner (Stephen Graham) trying to rig a fight involving a mealy-mouthed Irish gypsy and bare knuckle brawler (Pitt), who complicates matters when he actually wins the fight he is supposed to throw. Meanwhile, a Jewish money launderer (Farina) hires Bullet Tooth Tony (Jones) to find another Jewish crook (Del Toro) who has gone missing and supposedly possesses a very large diamond. Complicating matters is a dimwitted thief (Lennie James) trying to rob a pawn shop with his even duller partner. Once again using fast-paced action, witty dialogue and unique forms of violence, Ritchie scored his first genuine box office hit, though some critics complained about the lack of difference between "Snatch" and his previous effort.

With Ritchie married to Madonna, talk centered on when their inevitable onscreen collaboration would arrive. The celebrated couple started with baby steps, teaming up for the stylish, but controversial music video for her hit song "What It Feels Like for a Girl," which MTV and many other stations refused to air because it depicted Madonna engaging in numerous forms of over-the-top violence, like tasering a man for his ATM money, blowing up a gas station and running someone down with a car. The two reteamed for the fast-paced and mildly amusing short film, "Star" (2001), which was part of an eight-episode series of high-profile vignettes for BMW. The married duo finally hit the big screen together the following year when Ritchie directed his wife in the romantic comedy "Swept Away" (2002), a dismal remake of Lina Wertmuller's 1974 Italian film of the same title, in which Madonna plays a spoiled rich woman marooned on a deserted island with a spirited sailor (Adriano Gainnini). The movie was a miserable failure, landing on many a reviewers' worst all time lists, while it earned five Golden Raspberry Awards, including Worst Actress, Worst Director and Worst Picture. It was hardly the kind of reception Ritchie was used to. In fact, his professional association with his wife would reduce his "cool" quotient drastically amongst the same cinephiles who had embraced his pre-"Swept Away" projects.

Ritchie was unable to shake off the bad vibes after directing his next film, "Revolver" (2005), a dense, pretentious and just plain dull return to gangland with its story of Jake Green, a cocky Vegas gambler (Statham) who is banned from most of the casinos because he always wins. In a private game that includes Dorothy, a local crime boss (Ray Liotta) who also always wins - only because everyone is afraid of losing to him - Jake takes him for all he is worth. With a hit hanging over his head, Jake pairs with two brothers (Vincent Pastore and Andre Benjamin) to take down Dorothy once and for all. Because Ritchie layered the film with numerous hidden spiritual, mystical and psychological references, even star Jason Statham had to watch the film several times until he felt he finally got it. But of the few who did, most only watched once and panned the overly-complicated film outright.

For three years after "Revolver," Ritchie kept a lower profile, finding himself in the news more for his wife's goings-on than for his own accomplishments. After adopting a supposed orphan son, David, from Malawi, Africa - which put the couple in the crosshairs of foreign adoption critics after the baby's poor father was located alive - as well as finding himself in the midst of a tabloid frenzy involving his wife and her denied affair with New York Yankee's third baseman, Alex Rodriguez, Ritchie directed his third London gangster movie, "Rocknrolla" (2008). The film, which starred Gerard Butler, Thandie Newton and Tom Wilkinson, returned to the spirit of "Snatch" and "Lock, Stock" with its inventive take on real estate supplementing drugs as the trade of choice for London's criminal underworld. Meanwhile, his personal life took a plunge when his marriage to Madonna was dissolved in London by decree nisi and later ended in divorce in December 2008. The former couple had agreed to terms regarding the shared custody of their two children, Rocco and David, while Ritchie received between £50-60 million as part of the settlement. Back to directing, he helmed the much anticipated "Sherlock Holmes" (2009), a flashy and stylistic look at the famed brilliant detective (Robert Downey, Jr.) and his trusted ally, Dr. Watson (Jude Law).