Brendan Gleeson, co-star of the "In My Country" Movie!
A former teacher, burly Irish actor Brendan Gleeson spent the 1990s earning an increasing amount of acclaim for his work in a variety of films, most notably John Boorman's The General (1998). Gleeson, who made his feature film debut in Jim Sheridan's The Field (1990), first made an impression on audiences in the role of Hamish, William Wallace's hulking ally in Braveheart (1995). In 1997, the actor was given his first crack at a starring role in I Went Down, a likeable black comedy that cast him as a thick-skulled hit man. The role brought him a greater dose of recognition and respect on both sides of the Atlantic, but it was Boorman's The General (shot right after I Went Down wrapped) that truly demanded -- and received -- international attention. The story of real-life Irish criminal Martin Cahill, the film featured Gleeson in its title role, and his cocky, assured portrayal of Cahill was widely deemed as the best part of an altogether excellent film. The numerous plaudits he won for his performance included awards from the Boston and London film critics. His career flourishing, it was only a matter of time before Gleeson had the opportunity to expand his resume to include the occasional Hollywood blockbuster. That opportunity came by way of John Woo's Mission: Impossible 2 (2000), which cast Gleeson, surprisingly enough, as one of the film's resident villains. After carefully balancing his roles between the mainstream and roles in more low-key, character driven films in later 2000 and into 2001 (he gained notice for his starring role as a philanderous, boozing TV chef turned sensitive amnesiac in the romantic comedy Wild About Harry (2000)), Gleeson headed back for Hollywood with his lively turn as Lord Johnson-Johnson in Steven Speilberg's A.I. Appearing in Trainspotting director Danny Boyle's /zombie /thriller 28 Days Later the following year, it wasn't long before Gleeson was once again gracing stateside cinemas with appearances in such high-profile films as Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York and the Kurt Russell /police detective /thriller Dark Blue (both 2003).
Brendan Gleeson Talks About "Cold Mountain"
Director Anthony Minghella scoured the planet looking for the perfect location to set his epic movie, “Cold Mountain.” Romania was finally chosen as a stand-in for North Carolina in the 1800s, and with the hard work of a large, eclectic cast, the Charles Frazier novel “Cold Mountain” was transformed into what has become one of 2003’s most critically acclaimed films.
I had the pleasure of speaking with “Cold Mountain’s” Brendan Gleeson ('Stobord') on the morning the Golden Globe nominations were announced. “Cold Mountain” had just received eight nominations, the most of any film considered in 2003. In this interview, Gleeson discusses how recognition helps the film, working with director Anthony Minghella, promoting “Cold Mountain,” and playing Renee Zellweger’s father. Gleeson also provides a small preview of one of his next big projects, “Troy.”
You’ve been very busy traveling the United States with this movie. Why did you decide to go on a press tour with “Cold Mountain?”
I was kind of encouraged to do it (laughing). They wanted to kind of push it out there. It was a particular project that took a lot of time making, and I kind of felt that it deserved to get an audience, you know? MGM pulled out at one stage and there were problems with trying to push it through. It kind of deserves the best shot it can get.
And apparently it got a good shot with eight Golden Globe nominations just announced.
That’s fantastic. That sets up a head of steam and that pushes it out there.
Does that help you with your enthusiasm while you’re promoting the movie, to know that it is being noticed and recognized by organizations such as the Hollywood Foreign Press?
As far as I’m concerned, the work stands on its own anyway. I mean, it’s always nice to get recognized. Obviously it’s a universal medium so you’re hoping that it’ll have universal appeal. I always reserve judgment in the sense that I have my own kind of feeling about what the movie is, its importance, and whether it was worth doing or whatever. But it’s obviously much better… We’re in the communication business and there’s no point in talking to an empty seat, as I say. No matter what you have to say, if the seat is empty there is no point. So it’s great that it’s spreading out there and it’s obviously moving people.
When you do Question and Answer sessions across the United States, what’s the most commonly asked question?
I think people are slightly nonplussed at the fact that there are so many non-Americans in the cast, and also the fact that it was filmed in Romania. There’s a kind of a fascination with that, for example. It’s just the whole internationalization of the industry. People are shooting everywhere for everywhere. It’s good, as far as I’m concerned, it’s great news that actors can be international, too. The boundaries are down a little bit.
Romania and why it was shoot there and why not in North Carolina was kind of something that did occupy people’s minds. All film is an illusion anyway. We were able to go into a time capsule in Romania that I don’t think would have been possible in North Carolina. But, it would have been interesting to be there, too. I would have been very interested to shoot down there.
In Romania, did you encounter a lot of difficulties with language problems or with the fact that they’re not used to such a big production being filmed there?
Yes, both of those. But in a sense, that was refreshing particularly for people like Nicole [Kidman]. They can walk about and there isn’t the same mad preoccupation with celebrity and everything else. There were advantages to go with that. They have a film structure over there. We were working in tandem with a local film company so the structure was kind of in place. But I think the language – people break through language. And it’s very beautiful country, you know? The set was a little bit isolated but I think that’s very good for the movie, given the movie as it was. It felt right to be out in the wilderness a little bit.
Had you read Charles Frazier's book prior to being cast in the movie?
No, I didn’t read it deliberately. I’d heard music from the book, and then I heard that they were interested in me so I deliberately didn’t read the book because I think you form too many opinions in your head. You kind of pepper the book with your own imagination and it’s very difficult to shake out of that. I wanted to read the screenplay first. Once I read that, I could take that as my initial impression and then use the book as a reference point and find if I could mine anything else out of it. That’s the way it happened for me really. The music was first, the screenplay was second, and the book third.
Did you do a lot of research for the role?
Yes, quite a lot, particularly in the music. I teamed up with Dirk Powell who was heavily involved in the music from the beginning, even prior to the film being made. So I hooked up with him a lot. We obviously went into the action pretty meticulously. We listened to an awful lot of tapes. Tim Monich, who is a fantastic dialect coach, sent out a whole pile of tapes of recordings and interviews he’d done in North Carolina. You kind of try and immerse yourself culturally in all that and try and find out the way people react and think about that life in general. Then you get down to the specifics about accent and just the way people hang about. It was good there are a lot of Scotch-Irish kind of roots in North Carolina so you could feel that they were very, very distant cousins (laughing).
Somewhere along the line was a connection.
How quickly do you pick up accents?
Well, I’ve got a reasonably good ear. I’ve got a semi-musical ear, I guess I could put it that way. I’ve always been interested in them. You play about as a kid and all that, putting on accents and taking them off. I always found them fascinating, even at home. Every county has a different accent at home. And so all those kind of subtleties I was intrigued by. But when it comes down to it, your ear is never as keen as you imagine it to be. I’m aware now over the last 5 or 10 years that when you do an accent, you really have to kind of get down to the nitty gritty and go into the phonetics of it, if necessary. Find out not just the sounds but the rhythms and the music – or lack thereof – in a particular accent. It’s kind of one of my things that I enjoy a lot. It helps when you have such a great guide, such as Tim Monich, who is able to point you in the right direction and just tweak little things.
Would you have been cast in the role had you not already been a fiddle player?
(Laughing) Anthony [Minghella] said I would. I think it pushed me in a particular way. I know he wanted me in the movie, but I don’t think he was sure which one he wanted me to play. I actually think he had a couple of people he was interested in working with and he was kind of trying to figure out in his head who would be most appropriate for what. I think he might have had a number of options. Then I kind of let it be known that I could scratch on the fiddle a little bit, so it pushed him in the right direction. If I were to choose, Stobord would have been the one I would have wanted a go at. I find him fascinating. I had a hard time saying good-bye to him actually.
Why did you, in real life, start playing the fiddle?
I started hitching about the country when I was 16 or 17 years old. I found the music that was played around the country – Irish music – had a particular resonance. There seemed to be a quiet kind of dignity about it and hilarity about it, too. I just loved the company of the people who were involved in it, too. I was kind of tinkering around with the guitar at that stage and then I got myself a mandolin. My grandfather played a mandolin, so I got my hands on that. Then on down to a banjo, and I found I couldn’t play any kind of soft or mournful music with that so I took up the fiddle in my late 20s or early 30s – and that was far too late. But it keeps me off the streets (laughing). It has been a love of mine since I was 17 maybe. I just feel in love with it. There’s a kind of communication possible through music that isn’t possible without it. So it’s kind of my ‘thing.’
You and Renee Zellweger don’t have a lot of screen time together yet the father-daughter relationship on screen is so well developed. Did you two do anything special to get that chemistry?
Well, we liked each other to begin with, which is a help. The first scene we did was where my hand is being patched up after being caught in the trap. She’s giving it to me and I’m telling her I’ve changed. We spent a day doing that. It just felt really, really good. We both came out feeling, “Wow, we’re kind of nailing this in a lot of different ways.” It became very enjoyable. It’s like every so often somewhere in a job you begin to really enjoy the process. You are all the time trying to cover all the options and giving different colors and giving different choices, but ultimately it felt intensely quite right. We chatted quite a lot about it but we didn’t overanalyze it, I think. But she’s great. Back when we first met she said, “Okay, I can buy this.” We kind of did look as though we could be from the same family. That was a help.
I was reading in the production notes that director Anthony Minghella likes to meet one-on-one with every actor he’s considering for a role. Is that intimidating or does it help you understand exactly what he’s looking for in a character?
I love it. The fact was that he knew my work so I didn’t have to read. But I was really nervous because he asked me to bring the fiddle to see where I was at with that. I was really completely, irrationally nervous about playing a tune for him. I’m not as confident on that as I am in terms of my profession because I’m just not that accomplished. That was the one time where my fingers were really shaking about playing the tune. Once we got that out of the way and we started chatting, I felt really at home.
We had a talkfest. I’ll always remember apologizing as I came out. I said, “I hope I wasn’t running on too long.” He said, “No, no, no. I was just going to say the same. I really am sorry.” He had suddenly gotten very enthusiastic about it. We talked a lot about music and I think that music holds the same place in his heart as it does in mine. Then we talked about the character. I think Samuel Beckett came up quite a lot. There is something about Stobord, there’s something about his quiet desperation and then finding hope at the end of it somewhere along the line - although Beckett doesn’t manage to do that too often. We seemed to be in accord.
I actually like [these meetings] because it means you have an idea on whether this guy’s going to be someone you can work with, or whether he’s going to be able to work with you. To be honest, if those interviews go badly quite often it’s a good indication it’s probably as well you didn’t go ahead and do it. If your sensibilities are crossing against one another, it can cause problems. People’s instincts are different and it’s what causes a lot of problems. It might not be anybody’s fault but creatively it’s not a good idea to team up. Whereas I thought we were both absolutely on the same page. It was really one of those [instances], and you don’t often see them, where I remember coming out of it and just thinking, “Wow, that was really exhilarating. I really enjoyed that.”
When you take on a role in a movie like this where it’s such an ensemble cast, is there ever a concern that your character is going to get lost amidst all the other characters?
I don’t really think that because it’s very episodic, the movie – that side of it. You go along and you meet these incredibly colorful, interesting, smart, wonderful people along the way. There’s a tremendous kind of democracy about that, you know what I mean? Everybody has a similar little moment in the guy’s journey.
No, I didn’t feel that at all. I don’t plan in terms of career ambitions. The only career ambition I have is to work with people who are going to bring you up and elevate your performance. They’ll let you know things that you didn’t know already and bring you places that you might not have gotten to otherwise. But I don’t really think about how significant a part is. Brian Cox always says, “There are not big parts and small parts, there are long parts and short parts.” Sometimes you can have a fantastic impact with a very short part. Sometimes the long part is the most boring, excruciating thing in the world because nothing is going on, or it’s not very real.
The color of the character usually speaks to you. “28 Days Later” is a good example of that. I just loved that character. I was a little uneasy about whether the film was what I thought it was or not, but immediately I really wanted to have a go at that character. I had a chat with Danny Boyle and I found out that the film was as good as I thought it was. He was concerned about what I thought he might be. Ultimately, the character was very difficult for me to walk away from, just because of the nature of the guy. I loved it. Ironically then, I got another kind of a dad and daughter part in “Cold Mountain,” but that hadn’t happened prior to “28 Days Later.”
While Brendan Gleeson was touring the United States promoting the Anthony Minghella movie, "Cold Mountain," I had the opportunity to speak with him one-on-one about that film and his next big project, "Troy," starring Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, and Eric Bana.
What about your role in “Troy?” intrigued you?
That was another one I wasn’t quite sure about. I actually met Wolfgang [Petersen] on the way home from Romania off of “Cold Mountain.” I met him in London on the way home to Ireland and I said, “Look, I’m not sure. I just loved the script but I’m just very tired at the moment.” But he takes an age to make up his mind about who he wants, as well, because of this, that, and the other thing. So I had over Christmas to think about it. Eventually they came back and said, “We’d really like you to do it.” I kind of said [hesitantly] yes.
It was really more the script than the character that drove that one. I enjoyed the chat with Wolfgang and I said, “This is going to be one of the greatest stories in the world and it’ll be interesting to be a part of it.”
The more I got to know Menelaus, the more I liked him. He’s one of these poor guys that even though he has a lot going for him, even when he won, he lost. He married the most beautiful woman in the world and then she runs off with Orlando Bloom. He goes off and fights him, and he kind of beats him, but he still loses out. I actually kind of grew really fond of him because I felt he was dishonored at every turn. He had this kind of vague sense of honor. And of course the Trojans are over there to make peace and they’re eating all his food, and then they run away with his wife. And it just kind of tickled me for some reason (laughing). I actually grew to really like Menelaus. And you could see the scale of the story, I think it’s going to be massive.
It seems everyone is really looking forward to “Troy” hitting theaters in 2004.
It’s glorious. “Cold Mountain,” I think even for all its epic scale, is quite an intimate movie. It’s a very personal and intimate story. For all the characters, when you were asking before about getting lost, I think there’s an intimacy about each of those characters, both the main ones and the people who he meets along the way and the people like myself who drop in at the end. There’s an intimacy about that. Whereas “Troy,” it’s just up there. It’s all out there. All the emotions are huge, all the issues are huge, all the armies are huge, and the fleets are huge, and the walls of Troy are huge – and it’s just really ‘go for it’ time. Subtlety not required at all, which is a fantastic liberation at times. Not very often in filmmaking can you do that. If you lose your subtlety, you lose credibility for the most part. Whereas “Troy” isn’t like that. You just go for it – there is no over-the-top.
Were you involved in a lot of fighting scenes in “Troy?”
I am. Myself and Orlando go at it.
Are scenes where you just get to go physically wild fun for you?
(Laughing) A lot of fun. It really was. It was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed that particular one. It’s great because no one gets cut or no one gets hurt – or not seriously hurt, I should say. It’s just such fun. It’s being a kid again in a way. For a grown man to lash away at something and there’s no consequences at the end of it. It’s like a license to have great fun.
And it’s a release.
Absolutely – and nobody gets hurt.
Six Shooter cast sweat on BAFTA decision
Irish playwright Martin McDonagh is facing an anxious week as his debut short film is destined for the prestigious BAFTA awards next weekend.
McDonagh’s 30-minute grim comedy Six Shooter stars a strong Irish cast including Brendan Gleeson, alongside his son Domnhall in his first on screen appearance, Ruaidhri Conroy and Aisling O’Sullivan.
Domnhall Gleeson said it was absolutely brilliant that the debut short had earned a rare nomination for the British Academy Film and Television Awards.
“I think I’m probably more chuffed than anybody despite the fact it is only a small part,” the 21-year-old said. “I think it is great that an Irish movie is really hitting home over in England.”
The black comedy, which also stars David Wilmot from Intermission and Gary Lydon from Ordinary Decent Criminal, follows a train journey home through rural Ireland, as the lives of several strangers intertwine on the trip.
Hollywood star Brendan Gleeson, who has been in numerous films including Troy and Cold Mountain, plays a man whose wife had just died that morning.
He happens upon a strange young man, played by Ruaidhri Conroy, famed for his younger role in Into the West and Hart’s War. The young man’s outlandish behaviour sets in motion a series of bloody events.
Conroy, 26, said his slightly psychotic character was a great part.
He added: “The script is very good, so it was very enjoyable. It is good that it has done well, and it is a good short film I think.
“We made it all on a train going up and down in Waterford on the one piece of line over the space of a week, so it was really short time-wise.”
Gleeson, who is currently studying Media Arts at Dublin Institute of Technology, said he had worked with the writer and director McDonagh in a previous stage production in the West End.
“I was in good hands, you know my Dad was doing it, they were all really classy actors,” he said. “A tiny, tiny, tiny scene. It is practically nothing in the film but I think I was probably more nervous than anyone else going into it as it was my first time, although it was Martin’s first time directing as well.”
The writer and director, McDonagh, is already an accomplished playwright, however, Six Shooter is his first film.
The Tony Award winning playwright’s works including The Pillowman and The Lieutenant of Inishmore have graced dozens of stages.
Six Shooter has already scooped several awards including Best First Short Film at the Cork Film Festival and an accolade at the Foyle Film Festival last year.
The short, which was a collaboration between the Irish Film Board, Ireland’s national screen agency and Film Four Lab, will be broadcast shortly on Channel 4 and there are plans to release it in theatres across the country in partnership with a full length film.
The BAFTA awards take place on February 12.
Gleeson laces up boots for 'Studs'
Brendan Gleeson will star in a big screen adaptation of Paul Mercier's 'Studs', which begins shooting this week.
Gleeson will play a mysterious and threatening soccer coach who takes on a team of no-hopers.
Appearing alongside Gleeson will be Liam Carney, David Wilmot, Eamonn Owens, Tomás O Suilleabháin, Éanna MacLiam and David Herlihy.
Paul Mercier adapted his play of the same name for the screen.
Shooting on the film will take place in Dublin county and is expected to take five weeks.
Shyamalan's signature spook present in 'The Village'
It's strange to think that one of the most brilliant minds in Hollywood right now began his career by writing and directing a comedy called "Wide Awake," starring Rosie O'Donnell and Denis Leary.
I can't honestly say the movie is bad because I haven't seen it, but it's a good bet that it's nothing like M. Night Shyamalan's other films.
Shyamalan has concocted amazing and spooky stories in his films, "The Sixth Sense," "Unbreakable," "Signs," and now, "The Village."
"The Village" is difficult to describe without giving away its incredible ending. The one thing you're guaranteed in a Shyamalan flick is a twisted conclusion that hits like a ton of bricks.
Bryce Dallas Howard plays the lead role as a blind girl named Ivy Walker. It's somewhat startling to think that "The Village" is her first real acting gig on the big screen, taking into consideration that she's Ron Howard's daughter. She didn't come in off the street, however, as she's schooled in theater and is a veteran of the stage.
Shyamalan discovered the acting ability of Joaquin Phoenix in "Signs" and cast him again in "The Village" as Lucius Hunt, an awkwardly shy fellow who has a thing for Ivy.
The two live in a quaint little village, circa 1897 as is noted on a gravestone in the beginning of the film.
William Hunt is Edward Walker, the wisest of the elders of the vollage. Also leading the community are Alice Hunt (Sigourney Weaver) and August Nicholson (Brendan Gleeson).
With around 50 people in the village, daily life involves doing chores and playing games. Everything seems normal at first, but in predictable Shyamalan fashion, there's a spooky twist, making the village not so normal.
We find out about "those which we don't speak of." The townsfolk are terrified of the woods surrounding their village. It's said that unexplainable creatures wander the woods and if the people don't enter, the creatures won't enter the village.
Superstition abounds. Villagers are required to bury anything they find with the color red, since that attracts the creatures. At one point, two young girls sweeping a walkway panic when they spot an innocent, red flower growing out from under the stairs. They immediately bury it as if it was something they wanted to hide from their parents.
A night watchman sits in a tower every night, monitoring the village which is surrounded by lit torches.
The only member of the village who does not fear the creatures is Noah Percy (played by Adrien Brody). He is mentally disabled and not able to grasp the seriousness of the danger that lurks in the woods.
Although Lucius is quiet, he's brave and adventurous and wants to venture into the woods to see if the creatures will actually attack him. His bravery has consequences, however, as his first visit to the woods results in visits from those of which no one speaks.
It's getting to the point where I look forward to each Shyamalan movie before I even know what the story is. His ability to keep people on the edge is uncanny and wholeheartedly welcome.
It's directors like Shyamalan who keep mainstream film interesting and fresh.
Brendan Gleeson stars in 'Troy'
The gods favor the strong, says Greek King Agamemnon (Brian Cox) in Wolfgang Petersen's "Troy," a massive, uneven retelling of the epic battle that took place more than 3,000 years ago.
While all the familiar characters of the Trojan War talk constantly of the gods, this is not Homer's "Iliad," merely "inspired" by it. Apollo, Athena and the rest don't interfere with the conflict. Instead it's decided by men - hunky men like Brad Pitt as the superhero warrior Achilles, buffed up and wearing little enough to show off his muscles and bronze tan.
There is also plenty of other eye candy such as Eric Bana as the Trojan hero Hector, Orlando Bloom as his deadly archer brother Paris, who has stolen Helen (German model Diane Kruger) from Agamemnon's bearish brother Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson). Throw in the lovely Rose Byrne as Trojan priestess and eventual object of Achilles' affection Briseis and the lithe Saffron Burrows as Hector's wife, Andromache, and you might not even notice that there is a war going on.
Petersen ("Das Boot"), however, does give the combat scenes their own muscle; they are slickly edited and paced in order not to be confusing in the close-quarter fighting but move fast enough not to linger on the gore.
Pitt as the brooding, conflicted Achilles may not make you forget he's a movie star, but his acting gives you something more to watch than his well- oiled skin and dynamic fighting maneuvers. Bana ("The Hulk") also shows strength as Hector, but of a different type - stoic, accepting, dutiful. The two leaders, Cox's Agamemnon and Peter O'Toole's Priam, the king of Troy, are in sharp contrast. Though royal in visage, Priam is all tremulous, accented by O'Toole's quavering delivery, and always ready to take his priests' advice based on omens from the gods despite better counsel to the contrary from his warrior son. Cox's Agamemnon will have none of the gods and is all huff and puff and ready to blow the walls of Troy down.
The heroes are at the heart of this "Troy," from a script by David Benioff. So it should be of no surprise that some of Homer's tale has been altered, but the basic story remains intact.
You can stay home, live comfortably and be forgotten, Achilles' mother (Julie Christie in a cameo) tells her son, or you can go off, fight in this war, never to return and be remembered for thousands of years. We know his choice, but his death has a different meaning. When Hector and Achilles ultimately battle, Petersen gives it a sense of import and dignity befitting the legend. Much of the rest of the film, while on a grand scale, lacks the grandness of that scene. Instead, it plays out more like an epic soap opera. But "Troy" never mires itself in plodding plotting too long - there's always a nifty battle scene or a sensuous body around the corner.
The second disc of the DVD has three featurettes on the making of "Troy." Much of it is your standard-issue "this was such a monumental challenge." Alas, for those who care, there were no more revealing shots of Pitt, but there is a rundown of the gods everyone was talking about