Rick Crawford moved to Los Angeles in 2005 and started on the big screen with independent films. His first leading role in a named movie is a feature length thriller entitled Rage. His latest film, No Saints for Sinners, is set for a DVD release.
Carmen Bryce chats to the Northern Irish actor who both co-wrote the story No Saints for Sinners and stars as Mickey O’Hara, a committed IRA member whose days of freedom fighting are long gone, leaving him peddling drugs and disenchanted with ‘the cause.’
Rick, you co-wrote the script for No Saints for Sinners. How much of it is drawn from real-life experiences growing up in Belfast during the ’70/80s or even more recently as an adult?
I was a child in the ’70s and ’80s, but the ’90s were a fun time. There was definitely a few lines taken from those days. Growing up around Belfast was fun. It was off the rails and that’s the type of fun it was. Too much fun at times. We have to grow up sooner than later.
How much involvement did you have with the script? Were you on hand to help with the accuracy of the dialogue or did you have a bigger part in plot development?
I came up with the original story and it went to Chris Benzoni for a first revision, then Nathan Frankowski our director had his take, 20 or 30 revisions later, we had our film, all along revising the lines between us.
Is this a writing debut for you?
Indeed yes, I never had any desire to write but since this, I’ve written two of my own screenplays with Irish themes, which I’ve been told by significant US producers have promising potential in production value. Kind of surprised me to be honest. Raising the cash now is key, which isn’t easy but isn’t impossible.
Did you find it easier to bring a character to life when you helped create him in the first place?
I created Mickey from a character sheet I like to use but yes I threw in plenty of his lines that I knew would suit him.
The film looks at the gritty reality of life in the IRA. Being from Belfast, did you feel responsible for relaying this accurately to an American audience?
Without any affiliation or anything even close, I did meet a few here and there. You can’t stereotype such people. They’re human beings first. Being close to Belfast though, that’s always a big help.
In the Name of the Father, The Devil’s Own, Hunger, Fifty Dead Men Walking, Shadow Dancer… the list goes on. Do you think Americans are obsessed with Northern Ireland’s violent past or in some ways still, its murky present?
A wee bit maybe. The US audience go more for our history than our violence. Sometimes it’s hard to do one without the other.
The film is fairly violent. Is the message that violence is destructive, whether it be delivered by the IRA or LA drug lords? Or is it simply that violence sells as much as sex in the movie world these days?
We just wanted to be realistic. Nathan, Paul, Scott, Chris and I had detailed discussions on this before principle, during principle and even in post. The movie was toned considerably in violence. The nature of the storyline was difficult to tell with authenticity without giving a measure of violence. And yes Chris the cowriter for draft one insisted, like sex scenes, violence sells if done within context. We didn’t have a sex scene in the final cut. In various revisions we did but the final word of course was always director’s
What is the main message you want your audience to take away from the film?
Running from consequences leads to consequences. Simple story.
Mickey gives Jason Bourne a run for his money in parts of the film. Did you have any training for this or did it come naturally?
You’re very kind. We had a stunt man coordinate the fight scenes with us before we shot them. Although when Marty showed up, we made the scenes a bit closer to home.
Mickey is a conflicted character, essentially a thug with a big heart who wants to escape his violence existence that is still very much embedded in him. Was this contradiction difficult to portray?
I set out of make Mickey a real lad. Fears, worries, anxieties. A real human, not bullet proof. Wanted people to feel him. Being true to that and being true to the script was key.
Jim Sturgess, who played an IRA member in Fifty Dead Men Walking, said his experience with genuine IRA members as research for the part was also conflicted. They were decent family men who were also violent murderers. Was it your wish to convey this very conflict in Mickey?
To play Mickey without the humanity would have been an insult to the audience. Soldiers, police, politics are all human first. I saw Mickey as a broken soldier with his conflicts in his own conscience. His violence was always provoked, that’s no justification for it but Nathan and I discussed this during the revisions. We kept the story away from senseless violent acts. That was Marty’s job with Mercer, which he did so well.
We can count the number of Irish actors in Hollywood on one hand (Fassbender being one of the most relevant at the moment). How ruthless is the industry for an Irish actor living in LA?
I watched Fassbender in Hunger around the summer of 2009, I said he’s going to the top and I wasn’t wrong. Like anything else, you get out what you put in but unlike most jobs it’s not always a fair industry. Some of the greatest actors I’ve met are working a 60-hour week for buttons. I was reluctant to move to LA at first but glad I did. I’ve a better life here than I would have back home. I miss my family but visit twice a year or I’d get home sick. Living here is better for me personally for various reasons. It might not suit everyone but suits me grand. I moved here as an electrical engineer and that was a headache I’ll not quickly forget. Working as a full-time actor is a luxury that comes and goes. Starting a production company out here was a good move. I’ve been working hard on that, especially these past few months.
Getting two features in production is now my primary focus. The last couple of years have been dedicated to developing some ideas to script, now it’s time to develop script to dollar. We have been speaking with various investors, both US and UK, it’s a process, not easy but not impossible.
Do you think the Irish film industry is struggling to survive?
I was home last year, writing. I got a role or two while I was there, one being a film for TG4. I was honored to play in a stage production of The Crucible to open the new Lyric Theatre in Belfast. For each project I saw the same actors fighting over the same roles. Game of Thrones is a project I’d love to work on next season, but with so many actors out of work it’s a casting director’s nightmare.
Do Irish actors have to move to the States to stand a fighting chance in the industry?
Not necessarily, Marty Maguire lives back in Belfast now and works as a full-time actor. That wasn’t his story while he lived in LA for 20 odd years. It depends much on the individual.
What NI/Irish actors are you inspired by?
Marty Maguire is an actor that inspires me, working with him directly was a treat. I’ve been a fan since I saw him in an LA production of A Night in November. Liam Neeson and Marty Maguire are both actors I admire tremendously. Of course Liam Neeson has transcended any average standard of success, I’ve never ceased to be inspired by any role or any film he takes, since he showed up in Dirty Harry in the late ’80s. The lads in the south haven’t done too bad for themselves either! Farrell, Fassbender, Cillian Murphy, Gabriel Byrne, Brendan Gleeson and his two boys. I’d love to get a chance to work in Brendan Gleeson’s adaptation of At-Swim-Two-Birds. It looks like a great flick, and I first heard about it in San Diego, from a distant cousin of Teri Hayden, Brendan’s agent, that was a strange coincidence as I knew the cousin a while before I learned that.
What actor/director made you want to become an actor in the first place?
Impossible to pin point. As an avid film viewer since no age. Star Wars, Superman, Jaws, every movie the video shop could rent. Watching films with my father were the memories that started it.
What is the most essential quality an actor must have to survive?
Your roles in Rage, Hollow and No Saints for Sinners are fairly dark and violent. Do you feel most comfortable in this role?
Not necessarily. That’s three films that possibly I brought a darker quality to – which I did enjoy but I couldn’t say I’d enjoy playing a challenged car mechanic any less. My coach says I’ve got romantic comedy down. So I wrote a romantic comedy, and currently raising money for it.
From where do you draw such raw emotions?
A misspent youth; it was worth it.
No Saints for Sinners is released on DVD on 28th May courtesy of Trinity Filmed Entertainment.