Colin thanked Brendan at the Golden Globes, Brendan said thank you on behalf of Mr McDonagh at the BAFTAs, and none of them were to be seen at the Oscars®. Brendan Gleeson did turn up to the IFTAs in the Burlington on 14th February, but he didn’t win anything. Meanwhile, Steve McQueen who is by now stuffed full of congratulations for Hunger since winning the Camera d’Or award at Cannes in May 2008, maintained that the IFTA was the most important accolade of all… Huh?
Elsewhere that same night, Jim Sheridan pondered the recession, Michael Fassbender considered the feelings of emasculated men, and Lance Daly found his bearings. The awards were presented to people that the members of the Irish Film and Television Association deemed worthy of note for their work in Irish cinema (and television) in 2008. Out of a total of thirty-seven awards, more than a third were given for achievements in film. Some recipients never made it to the pressroom (some, like Jonathan Rhys Meyers never made it to the awards). Aidan Gillen, who spoke about playing ‘himself’ in his next movie, actually won an award for a TV series (but it was for the The Wire). Here is the best of the rest from an orgy of cinematic back-slapping Irish style….
Sheena Sweeney: Michael Fassbender, how are you?
Michael Fassbender: I’m great. [He attempts to shake my hand.]
SS: I’d shake your hand but my hands are full… You’ve just won the Rising Star Award, congratulations on that.
MF: Thank you.
SS: Lots of people, when they talk about your current success with Hunger, mention the Guinness ad and then the film. Was it really an overnight success for you or were you at it for years?
MF: Ah well, you know, I left drama school nine years ago, and a lot of people say you get one big break, but really you chip away. I always think it’s an apprenticeship like anything else – like a carpenter or whatever – and you just try and keep at it and do the best you can. And then Hunger comes along, and it gives you an opportunity to really get your teeth into something and show your chops in some respect, so people think, ‘OK, maybe this guy can lead a film or play a leading role.’ So it’s a series of events really, and nine years of graft…
SS: And here you are…
MF: And here I am.
SS: I saw Eden Lake and that was fairly harrowing I have to say. Did you see it?
MF: I did see it, yeah.
SS: And what are your thoughts on that sort of torture porn?
MF: Well it does exactly what it says on the tin, doesn’t it? What I found interesting about the script, and when I met James Watkins [the film’s writer/director] originally about the idea, it was just that sort of idea about being emasculated, and that idea of a man being the protector and hunter gatherer, and what it would be like for him to be stripped of that by a bunch of kids. And what’s also interesting is that there is, I think, a gap between the generations. We’ve sort of lost contact and lost communications skills with that generation behind us and I think it can be scary. But it’s also our responsibility as the older generation to try and bridge that gap.
SS: It’s a great performance. Can you tell me a bit about Inglourious Basterds, that you worked on with Quentin Tarantino?
MF: Yeah, again I’m pinching myself most days on set because you know when I first started off in this I directed and produced a play of Reservoir Dogs in Killarney in Ravel’s night club. So to be actually standing on set being directed by the man is pretty exceptional. You know he’s a rare breed – he’s a genius. I’ve been very lucky that I get to work with these people in the industry.
SS: Well, congratulations and best of luck with the next award.
MF: Thank you.
Michael Fassbender won the awards for Rising Star and Best Actor in a Lead Role.
Sheena Sweeney: Saoirse Ronan, congratulations you just won the award for best supporting actress for you role in Death Defying Acts, how do you feel?
Saoirse Ronan: I feel great, yeah, it’s brilliant. I did not expect to win or to be nominated or anything – it was a very strong category – so em, yeah, I feel very privileged to get this award.
SS: Well done. I just want to ask you about your role in The Lovely Bones, which I know you finished shooting last year. It’s due out here in December and it’s the story of a girl who’s murdered. It sounds like it could be quite disturbing. Do you let things like that disturb you? Or do you go there when you’re playing a role?
SR: Well I have to say the film is not disturbing in any way, and I can promise you that now. I know that the book was a little bit intense and it’s a kind of tricky subject, but it was written in the most beautiful way. It was actually one of the most uplifting films that I’ve done, even though it’s about a girl who’s murdered.
SS: Great, well that’s something to look forward to. And you worked with Susan Sarandon and Rachel Weisz on that, was there anything in particular that you learned from them?
SR: Well Susan is one of the coolest actresses in the world, so I just learnt how to be cool from her.
SS: What’s so cool about her?
SR: She’s just cool. Like last year I was in New York and I had dinner with her and her partner and she just walks around New York and people come up to her. She’s just like ‘Yeah, there you go.’ She wears a leather jacket, she’s very ordinary, very cool, she just doesn’t let any of that stardom or fame phase her.
SS: You’re working next with another director from the same part of the world as Peter Jackson who directed The Lovely Bones: tell us a bit about Peter Weir and The Way Back.
SR: Yeah, it’s set in 1940, it’s called The Way Back and it’s about a group of prisoners who escape from a Soviet work camp and on their travels they meet this young girl, this young Polish girl, who I play. Basically I come along along with them at the start for food and just for protection, but we end up kind of changing each other and becoming the person that we once were before any of this awful stuff happened.
SS: OK. So another fun movie?
SR: Yeah, definitely! [laughing] Ah no, but I have to say I really love making movies like that, they just satisfy me when there’s heavy scenes to do and scenes that really ask you to give a great performance and really test you.
SS: You’re also up tonight for your role in City of Ember, so best of luck with that.
SR: Thank you.
Saoirse Ronan won the award for Actress in a Supporting Role.
Sheena Sweeney: Aidan Gillen, congratulations you just won Best Actor for Lead Role in a TV series for The Wire, how do you feel?
Aidan Gillen: I feel very good, I wasn’t expecting to be here at all so, yeah it feels good. I don’t kinda think about winning awards and it’s not a goal, but it’s nice.
SS: Cool, good for you. Lots of people say that series like The Sopranos and The Wire are like cinema in your living room. I guess with sixty episodes of the Wire it’s like a sixty-hour movie, would you agree? Is it like that in terms of shooting and locations and that kind of thing?
AG: It’s shot like a movie in that it’s done on a single camera; you get certain TV shows that are shot with three cameras. This is made like a movie, by people who make movies. Yeah, TV did kinda become the new movies for a while. I suppose you can take more risks in television since the emergence of channels like HBO. It wouldn’t have got made without a channel like HBO being there and being, well, brash enough to put it on, or to not have the restrictions that network television does.
SS: And in terms of your cinema career, I think the next thing we’re going to see you in is 12 Rounds, which is coming out here at the end of March, or so I’m told. This is your first big action movie, is that right?
AG: Yeah, kind of. I mean I’d kind of been around sort of that territory before but yeah it’s a Renny Harlin-directed shoot ’em up car chase action film. Bit of a laugh really and eh…
SS: Yeah, I wanted to ask you: how did you find it? Did you have to work out and do all that kind of thing you actors have to do for these films, supposedly?
AG: No, actually, it was alright. I just played myself in New Orleans, which was pretty interesting. Renny’s good at action films, you know?
SS: And you play an international terrorist with an Irish accent, how does that work out? Did you agree about the accent beforehand, because you’ve used your own accent before?
AG: Eh… [laughs uneasily] I’m not a terrorist… I’m an international thief…
SS: It says terrorist on the trailer material…
AG: I haven’t seen that. Em, yeah, you know what? They asked me to do it in my own accent and my hair was long, and I had stubble and they said: ‘Just do it like that’, you know? It’s just me.
SS: Well, keep on being you. Thanks a million.
AG: Alright. Thanks very much.
Aidan Gillen won the award for Actor in a Lead Role Television.
Lance Daly: Hi. What is it we’re doing? ’Cause I don’t want to miss the award for actress, I want to sit beside Kelly [O’Neill, who plays the female lead in Kisses]. I don’t think she’ll win, but…
PR woman: Eh, you actually are going to miss it; it’s on now…
LD: Oh is it, let me watch it. [Looks at the TV, then to me] OK, let’s go. What are we doing? How was that [his acceptance speech] anyway?
Sheena Sweeney: This is for filmireland.net. I couldn’t actually hear you in here, the TV was turned down.
LD: Oh, right. OK.
SS: So Lance Daly, you won the Best Director award for your film Kisses, how do you feel about that?
LD: A little stunned
LD: Well it’s a big room, you know, and I’m fine shouting at people to do what I want them to do on set, but talking for myself is a little trickier, I find.
SS: OK, well we’ll give it a go. You won awards for this film at the Foyle Film Festival and the Galway Film Fleadh, amongst other things. Did these awards mean anything to you? Do you care? I believe the DVD is coming out in March…
LD: Yes, it is coming out in March. Em, well I mean I never won anything before – well except I won a gold medal for the egg and spoon race in fourth class, that’s the last thing I won – so it’s nice to have something that has some steam.
SS: Well the egg and spoon race is always good. What were your hopes for Kisses when you were making it? Did it work out as you hoped?
LD: Yeah, I think it did. I think the two kids we cast were brilliant and that’s what made it work or get to where I thought it could, the chemistry between them was right.
SS: And why did you want to tell that story?
LD: Em. I’m not good at that question, sorry. Every Q&A we do after the film I say if I could tell you that quickly I wouldn’t have spent two years making a movie to do it. So…
SS: So it’s just a feeling.
LD: Mmmm… Yeah. It’s just such a long answer; I’m going to spare you [laughing].
SS: OK. And you wrote The Pagan Queen, which is coming out this year, I’m told. [LD looks at me quizzically] Constantin Werner is the director?
LD: Yeah, I wrote the script for it. As a job and a paying gig, as the writer for hire, it was fun because I’m used to being a dictator and suddenly I was the second voice. It was nice to be able to let some of the responsibility go. They made that in the Czech Republic last year, so I’m not sure when it’s coming out.
SS: Were you on set at all for that?
LD: No, I was busy finishing Kisses, I went for a rehearsal and then I had to come home and finish the film.
SS: And do you have plans to direct anything else any time soon?
LD: Well, yeah, I’m always trying to get another film made but it’s difficult, you know, so I’ll just have to wait and see what comes first.
SS: OK, well, whatever it is, best of luck and congratulations again.
LD: Thank you.
Lance Daly won the award for Best Director – Film.
Sheena Sweeney: Eileen Walsh you just won the award for best actress in a lead role for
Eden. Congratulations. How do you feel?
Eileen Walsh: Thank you very much. I’m very nervous because when the awards were announced the producer phoned me and he said ‘Congratulations! We think Kelly from Kisses has it, but come and enjoy the night!’ It looks so beautiful up there, the film Kisses, so it’s an honour to win this. It’s really, really lovely.
SS: I loved Eden. Did that role hold anything special for you?
EW: Absolutely, it’s really important to win, because for me it started off as such a small project for TV or whatever. And it was such a delicate little piece about two people, you know, up the Swanee without a paddle. And you just think ‘God it’s really affected a huge amount of people about their own relationships.’ So it’s lovely that it’s been able to reflect that.
SS: And you just finished work a while ago on Triage with Colin Farrell, is that right? How was that?
EW: It was great. I only did a day now, like, let’s not blow it out of proportion. But it was lovely to get the chance to do something that’s so high budget.
SS: What’s it about?
EW: He’s a war photographer and he goes off to Uzbekistan and his friend who’s working with him doesn’t come back and only he knows… And then I’m the doctor who says, ‘Ahhh, it might be something else, you know?’. It’s a beautiful film, it’s a bit like a Bourne Identity kind of thing. And I saw some clips of Colin and he looks amazing in it. It’s a beautiful script.
SS: Fantastic. I’m just wondering, Eileen, do you have any thoughts on why there seems to be a real dearth of good roles for women? I don’t know exactly what it is, but Irish men are making it in Hollywood: Colin Farrell, Liam Neeson, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Gabriel Byrne, the list goes on, and the same thing isn’t happening for women. Why do you think that is?
EW: Well, I don’t know. I think when the opportunities come the best girl gets the job at the end of the day and I think if you base your life in film and theatre and TV, then you can get a rounded subject. Fame schmame. It’s about keeping the work going and paying your mortgage, that’s what makes me happy.
SS: What do you have coming up next? Theatre, film, is there anything people can see you in?
EW: I’ve a two-month-old, so that’s what my life is about right now. I don’t really have anything in the pipeline at the moment, so it’s just kind of a wait and see, but I’m happy for it to be that way.
SS: Well, congratulations on your two-month-old and congratulations again on your win tonight.
EW: Cheers, thanks a million. That was painless!
Eileen Walsh won the award for Actress In a Lead Role – Film.
Sheena Sweeney: Steve McQueen, you just won the award for Best Film for Hunger. Congratulations, does it mean anything to you?
Steve McQueen: Yeah, I’m very happy. I mean, this is the most important award we’ve won really. To come back to Ireland and win this award means a hell of a lot to me and to the production team and I’m honoured, I’m really, really honoured.
SS: Why is it particularly important for you to win in Ireland?
SMQ: Because this film is a reflection of the history of this country and just by getting the nod, it warms my heart, really. Cannes is great, Toronto is great, Venice is great, but you know these awards mean everything.
SS: Well you’ve spoken in the past about the apathy of the UK film industry and there’s an even bigger output there than we have here… [SMQ looks at me like I’m an alien.] You mentioned it in an interview with Jason Solomons? You said in terms of making another film you didn’t know how you felt about that, because your experience was that people in the film industry weren’t that enthusiastic… Or maybe your view has changed?
SMQ: Ah, but… It wasn’t the case of me thinking that or saying that, it was just the case that to get anything done with… Well, to make a project which I feel passionately about is difficult and Hunger was difficult to make because obviously people want soaps or reality TV or whatever they think they can make money out of or get bums on seats for, so for me the whole idea of film is to make something which is worth making. If you’re spending four or five years on something it’s got to be worth it and I hope people will be interested in making films or television programmes with some sort of heart and soul, really.
SS: You won the very prestigious Turner prize in 1999 for your video installation Deadpan and you have spoken about exploring the medium of film as a counterpart to sculpture. Is that how you see film?
SMQ: Possibly, I have no idea. Right now I can’t even think, so thank you so, so much…
Laura Hastings-Smith and Robin Gutch producers of Hunger from Blast! Films, won the award for Best Film.
Sheena Sweeney: Jim Sheridan, how are you, it’s great to see you.
Jim Sheridan: I’m good, yeah.
SS: You presented the award for Best Film tonight, but do you think this award ceremony is important for Ireland and Irish film?
JS: You know, at the beginning I didn’t think the IFTAs was a good idea, to tell you the truth. I was thinking, ‘Do we do enough stuff?’ But now this girl has done an amazing job, it’s such a classy event, I mean you come and it’s good fun…
SS: In terms of giving cinema a high profile in this country and giving young people the idea that they might be able to have a career in cinema, do you think that part of it is important?
JS: I think it’s very important. Like Kisses tonight, that didn’t win, nine years out of ten that’d win best Irish film. It’s an amazing movie, Alan Moloney’s movies are great, 32A is funny as hell. I think this year was probably the best year so far. When you see a talent like Lance Daly arriving, you know it’s great. I think the talent is very high in Ireland; we just need to bridge the gap between making great movies for here, and making them for outside of Ireland. And that’s just experience and getting knowledge outside. I think we need to move our focus into how we sell and market and how we make it a business instead of just making it an art, because film is a business, a financial business.
I know the government are being put down and I know there are terrible things happening, but they did help with the change with the tax regulations and I think that could help, especially in TV. We’ve all got to put our backs in to it now. It’s going to be tough but hopefully some films will get made.
SS: And you’re just mentioning there about the talent there is here tonight, and I was just talking to Eileen Walsh, who won best actress…
JS: What an actress…
SS: She’s amazing, yeah. But I’m just wondering about the amount of male actors who make it really big in the industry and Hollywood in comparison to the very few females that do the same thing. Would you have any thoughts on why that’s the case?
JS: I don’t know what it is. That’s a powerful question you know? I suppose it’s by the nature of, well… Women are used to putting on make up…
JS: I don’t know what it is, it doesn’t seem to be as respected when women do it. And then when they get to forty, there’s something very vicious and primitive about the way women are forgotten when they get over forty, in Hollywood anyway. So it’s a very limited career span. You usually don’t make it until you’re about twenty-eight and your career is over by the time you’re forty, so it’s really hard. Men can seemingly go on and be Cary Grant until they’re eighty. So it’s just different. I think it shows parts of the human psyche that will change eventually, but it will take a long time.
SS: And tell me about your next film Brothers, which you’ve competed already. It’s based on a Susanne Bier film is that right?
JS: Yeah, Susanne Bier. It’s hard when someone has made an original movie as great as Susanne Bier…
SS: She was one of the dogme directors wasn’t she?
JS: She was one of the later dogme directors, she wasn’t one of the originals. But definitely a dogme director, like you know, handheld and edgy. But I thought it was a movie that should be seen by a bigger audience so we put a few stars in it and hopefully we’ll get a few people to see it…
SS: What is it about?
JS: It’s about the affect of the Afghan war on an American family. It’s got Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman, and a man who’s in Ireland at the minute, Sam Shepard, who’s amazing in the movie, great actor, and great fun to work with. They were all fun to work with; they were all easy to work with.
SS: And so what’s up next for you?
JS: I’ve a few things in the offing, you know. I’m like everyone else – I’m looking and I’m saying ‘that job looks great, there’s a lot of money in that one.’ For the first time in my life I’m looking at movies and saying, ‘God, that’s a good payday, maybe I should do that’, because it’s just so different, things are so different. So I’m trying to find a good movie to make and I’m trying to find something that might be a bit of fun, you know?
SS: Well whatever it is, best of luck with it, it’s always great to see you and thanks for talking to me.
JS: You too. Good to talk to you too.
For a full listing of the 2009 IFTA award-winners please visit www.ifta.ie/winners2009/index.htm