James Frecheville, Actor, ‘Black 47’

 

In Black 47, James Frecheville plays battle-hardened soldier Feeney, who deserts the British army to return home to Ireland, where he finds his country ravaged beyond recognition by the Great Famine. When he discovers that his mother has died of starvation and his brother has been hanged by the British, something snaps, sending Feeney on a relentless quest to get even with the powers-that-be who have wronged both his family and his country.

Karl Argue sat down with James to discuss his ruthless pursuit of justice in Lance Daly’s revenge thriller.

 

This film is quite meaty and your role is very intense. How did the script come to you?

I was given the script and had a Skype meeting with the director [Lance Daly].  I was originally on a list they were looking at for another character. They pulled up a picture on Google where they saw me with a red beard and thought ’Maybe he’d be a better fit for Feeney.’ I read the script and really responded to it, then had a great Skype with Lance for about an hour. At the end of the call, he said he wanted to do the film with me. I said, “Great. I’ll start growing my beard and learn how to ride horses!”

 

This is a big movie for Ireland. 

It is. And to play a guy like Feeney who’s carrying all this emotional baggage of revenge, I had to know what I was doing. It was important to do it right.

 

Both physically and mentally… 

Yes, For example, I didn’t want to leave them an option to cut to a stunt double. I did some serious knife training to learn how to kill someone properly! I learnt how to shoot different gunsAnd I did most of my own horse work. That was satisfying as I’d never ridden in my life and I had to look like a soldier that had been doing it for 13 years.

Funnily enough, the character started taking shape as I was growing my beard. This guy would have spent six months on a boat after he deserted from India – trying to figure out how to move beyond what he’d just done for the Empire and how nasty that was… like “To Hell or to Connaught!”

 

What I’m getting from you is that finding this character was a journey. You didn’t really know who the character was at the start.

In a sense, it’s a very archetypal sort of role. A man on a horse with rage in his eyes, on his way to Hell, tries to make some amends. At a reduction, that can be very straightforward but it’s about trying to make it more dynamic than that. There was so much to work with but I think that great actors in great roles is about cultivating simplicity. Building up enough to work in the process before you start shooting so that when it’s happening you’re not mentally strained. It’s just there. It’s happening like osmosis.

 

Did it change much from what was on the page and to what you brought to it personally?

Not so much for Feeney. There were elements of it changing and shifting as we were shooting. But a lot of my dialogue was in Irish, which couldn’t really change because it was a very particular version of the language that not many people speak anymore. I had a fantastic teacher. So I had a lot of support there. 

 

Does it add a bit of pressure playing Irish when you’re not?

Yes – that was part of the responsibility. Doing it to the best of my ability and hoping that passes the test. Because when you’re not Irish and you’re playing Irish of course there’s more pressure to make sure that it’s right. This is a really important story and it’s never quite been visited cinematically. With that comes a responsibility. You’d better do your homework. I didn’t half-arse this. I’d never been more focused in my life.

We spent a lot of time doing table-work with Hugo [Weaving], figuring out the dance of these two characters. Given that they’d had prior connection and experience with each other in the war – stuff that is suggested in the film and not necessary discussed. It’s all just shapes and flavours and implications.

 

What did you do as an actor to dig into to reach that ‘revenge’ state?

It was an exercise in focus and and learning how to concentrate on multiple, multiple different things at the same time and conditioning yourself for that. I’m a big lover of Sergio Leone films like Keep Your Loving Brother Happy and that idea of rage and that ice coldness that comes with it sometimes.

As an actor, I was able to snap into Feeney and then snap out. You can’t stay in that space – or I couldn’t – and be effective on set as far as dealing with other people and other things. It was so violent and so cold that I personally didn’t want to fully inhabit that character while we were shooting. Not that I didn’t want to inhabit it… but more that I’d dance into it and dance out of it. Some days I’d be in it more and some days I’d be in it less. Had I stayed in character, maybe I would have gone completely insane. And I’d kind of already gone insane enough!

Also there’s that element of where the embellishment is or isn’t or what you’ve led on to people about what your process is or is not, because in my opinion that’s not somebody else’s business but mine – it doesn’t matter what your process is, it just matters what you can deliver between ‘Action’ and ‘Cut’ and the mental dexterity or flexibility to move with the punches and move around.

 

Finally, would you have any particular advice for budding actors?

Some great advice passed on to me from a director I worked with is that you just need to do man stuff – go camping or learn how to hunt. I think it’s really about developing skill bases. Read books. Have varied interests. Find passion in different skill sets.

 

 

Black 47 is currently in cinemas

 

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Irish Film Review: Black 47

DIR: Lance Daly • WRI: Lance Daly, P.J. Dillon, Eugene O’Brien, Pierce Ryan • DOP: Declan Quinn • ED: Julian Ulrichs, John Walters • MUS: Brian Byrne • DES: David Wilson • PRO: Arcadiy Golubovich, Macdara Kelleher, Jonathan Loughran, Tim O’Hair • CAST: Hugo Weaving, James Frecheville, Stephen Rea

 

Black 47 is Ireland’s answer to John Wick… set during the famine. Let that one sit with you for a while. Although this murderous revenge romp is considerably less self aware than its Hollywood counterpart, nevertheless, there’s enough death and bloodshed to have your granny flinching.

 

We first meet the stoic Martin Feeney (James Frecheville), a deserting British soldier, when he returns home to Ireland from the war during the famine. Not to give away too much, but considering the era, it’s safe to assume things don’t work out too well for himself and, well, every Irish person at the time. Feeney, a one-man massacre artist, is pushed to the edge. He takes it upon himself to express his displeasure with the powers that be for a number of injustices – some more deserving than others, mind you. His method? Waiting in darkened rooms for the offenders to arrive, then delivering hefty servings of violence within seconds to anyone who gets in the way.

 

Meanwhile, in order to track Feeney down, the Brits recruit his old army buddy, Hannah. Don’t be fooled by the name, however, this character is actually played by Hugo Weaving. There are very few women in this film. One. There is one woman in this film. Anyway, on his mission, Hannah is reluctantly paired with an entitled officer (and possibly Draco Malfoy’s great, great grandfather?) played by the abercrombie-esque Freddie Fox. The always fantastic Stephen Rea and James Broadbent are added to the cast midway, as a cheeky local and brilliantly evil lord, and we sort of forget about Feeney for a while and follow them as they hang out – before things eventually come to a head.

 

Lance Daly is incredibly ambitious in his steering of this Western/revenge thriller film, but it didn’t carry the same truth or warmth as his other features, such as Kisses [2008]. P.J. Dillon, Pierce Ryan, Eugene O’Brien and Lance are all credited as writers, but it would be interesting to see how this dynamic manifested itself, as the first and second half of this films inhabit different universes. Part one, is the exact slow maudlin suffering and woes at the hand of the British that you’d expect from a famine feature. While the second section is that gruesome rampage dappled with incredible international names.

 

Not to solely focus on the A-listers, there’s some fantastic supporting actors in their too. Moe Dunford defends his British Lord as Fitzgibbon, and in doing so delivers an absolute blinder of a performance. If you haven’t seen him yet in Michael Inside, that’s one for the list. Moe consistently manages to deliver these small roles with unexpected depths and unusual character choices that brings humanity to what could have been something flat.

 

While the production design is flawless, the cinematography leaves something to be desired. The camera lingered for too long on what didn’t feel like completed composite shots. It is the famine, and, of course, it thematically makes sense to have a washed-out colour pallet, but I couldn’t help but think if PJ Dillon had put down the pen and picked up the camera, that perhaps it would have had more pizzazz.

 

At the end of the day, Black 47 tackles subject matter and a genre almost completely alien to Irish film. The scope of what it was aiming for was massive. Did it hit the target? Not quite, but there’s a wealth of things to enjoy nonetheless.
Emma Donnelly
99 minutes
15A (see IFCO for details)

 

Black 47 is released 5th September 2018
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‘Black 47’ in Cinemas 7th September

Lance Daly’s Black 47 is set for a nationwide release on 7th September. Set during the Great Irish Famine, the film stars Hugo Weaving and Jim Broadbent and Stephen Rea.

It’s 1847 and Ireland is in the grip of the Great Famine that has ravaged the country for two long years. Feeney, a hardened Irish Ranger who has been fighting for the British Army abroad, abandons his post to return home and reunite with his family.  He’s seen more than his share of horrors, but nothing prepares him for the famine’s hopeless destruction of his homeland that has brutalised his people and where there seems to be no law and order. He discovers his mother starved to death and his brother hanged by the brutal hand of the English. With little else to live for, he sets a destructive path to avenge his family.

The screenplay was written by PJ Dillon (Rewind), Pierce Ryan (Standby), Eugene O’Brien (Eden) and Lance Daly.  Produced by Macdara Kelleher for Fastnet Films with Tim O’Hair, Arcadiy Golubovich and Jonathan Loughran, Black 47 was financed by Primemeridian Entertainment, the Irish Film Board, the Luxembourg Film Fund, Wildcard Distribution, Altitude, BAI, TV3, Eurimages, Umedia, Samsa Films and Fastnet Films.

 



“a rollicking western”
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‘Black 47’ to Premiere at Berlin International Film Festival

 

The Irish feature film Black 47 directed by Lance Daly (KissesLife’s A Breeze) will have its World Premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival next month. 

 

The film, which is an action movie set during the Great Irish Famine, stars Hugo Weaving (Hacksaw RidgeThe Lord of the RingsTheMatrix and Transformers franchises) and Jim Broadbent, (Oscar® winner for Iris) and the prolific Irish screen and stage actor Stephen Rea (The Crying Game, Michael Collins, Interview with the Vampire).

 

Black 47 will join films by Wes Anderson and Gus Van Sant at this years festival and now follows major Irish films such as Jim Sheridan’sThe Boxer, Neil Jordan’s The Butcher Boy and John Michael McDonagh’s The Guard to have premiered at the festival.

 

Speaking about the selection, Macdara Kelleher, MD of Fastnet Films and lead producer of the film said “It’s an honour to be premieringBlack 47 at one of the world’s most prestigious festivals, alongside truly great filmmakers.  There’s a strong history of major films launching in Berlin and we can’t wait for the world to see this epic Irish famine story”.

 

Black 47 sees Weaving and Broadbent joined by other international talent including James Frecheville who starred in the critically acclaimed Animal Kingdom and The Drop with Tom Hardy and Freddie Fox who was recently seen in Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.

 

The film also has a strong young Irish cast including Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk, The Killing of a Sacred Deer), Moe Dunford (Vikings,Patrick’s Day) and Sarah Greene (Noble, Penny Dreadful).

 

It’s 1847 and Ireland is in the grip of the Great Famine that has ravaged the country for two long years. Feeney, a hardened Irish Ranger who has been fighting for the British Army abroad, abandons his post to return home and reunite with his estranged family.

 

He’s seen more than his share of horrors, but nothing prepares him for the famine’s hopeless destruction of his homeland that has brutalised his people and where there seems to be no law and order. He discovers his mother starved to death and his brother hanged by the brutal hand of the English. With little else to live for, he sets a destructive path to avenge his family. Hannah, an ageing British soldier and famed tracker of deserters, is sent to stop Feeney before he can further stoke the fires of revolution.

 

But Hannah and Feeney are old army comrades, forged by their time fighting together. Personal bonds and shifting allegiances cause both men to question their motives, as they are tested to the limit by the hellish landscape of ‘The Great Hunger’.

 

Black 47 is directed by Lance Daly, one of Ireland’s most acclaimed directors, whose previous films include Life’s a Breeze which premiered at Toronto Film Festival. His breakout feature Kisses was named the Best Feature Film at the Galway Film Fleadh, Foyle and Miami film festivals, was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award and the Golden Leopard at Locarno.  It became the highest grossing Irish film of the year and Lance picked up Best Director at the IFTA’s. Lance was winner of the Galway Film Fleadh’s Bingham Ray New Talent Award (2013).

 

The screenplay is written by PJ Dillon (Rewind), Pierce Ryan (Standby), Eugene O’Brien (Eden) and Lance Daly (Life’s a Breeze, Kisses).

 

Black 47 was produced by Macdara Kelleher whose credits include Strangerland starring Nicole Kidman, Lance Daly’s KissesWhat Ifstarring Daniel Radcliffe, Urszula Antoniak’s Nothing Personal, and Rebecca Daly’s The Other Side of Sleep. Kelleher recently producedThe Professor and the Madman with Mel Gibson and Sean Penn. He is co-founder of Dublin-based Fastnet Films with Lance Daly and Morgan Bushe.

 

The film was also produced by Tim O’Hair, Arcadiy Golubovich and Jonathan Loughran with financing from Primemeridian Entertainment, the Irish Film Board, the Luxembourg Film Fund, Wildcard Distribution, Altitude, BAI, TV3, Eurimages, Umedia, Samsa Films and Fastnet Films.

 

Black 47 will be brought to Irish cinemas by Wildcard Distribution later this year.

 

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‘Black 47’ Starts Filming

 

black-47

Fastnet Films and Wildcard Distribution have announced that filming has started on Black 47 starring multi-award winning actor Hugo Weaving and Jim Broadbent. The eight-week shoot is taking place in Connemara, Kildare and Wicklow.

Black 47 sees Weaving and Broadbent joined by James Frecheville and Stephen Rea.

It’s 1847 and Ireland is in the grip of the Great Famine that has ravaged the country for two long years. Feeney, a hardened Irish Ranger who has been fighting for the British Army abroad, abandons his post to return home and reunite with his estranged family. He’s seen more than his share of horrors, but nothing prepares him for the famine’s hopeless destruction of his homeland that has brutalised his people and where there seems to be no law and order. He discovers his mother starved to death and his brother hanged by the brutal hand of the English. With little else to live for, he sets a destructive path to avenge his family. Hannah, an ageing British soldier and famed tracker of deserters, is sent to stop Feeney before he can further stoke the fires of revolution. But Hannah and Feeney are old army comrades, forged by their time fighting together. Personal bonds and shifting allegiances cause both men to question their motives, as they are tested to the limit by the hellish landscape of ‘The Great Hunger’.

Black 47 is directed by Lance Daly, whose previous films include Life’s a Breeze, which premiered at Toronto Film Festival. .

The screenplay is written by PJ Dillon.

BLACK 47 is financed by Primemeridian Entertainment, the Irish Film Board, the Luxembourg Film Fund, Wildcard Distribution, BAI, TV3, Eurimages, Umedia, Samsa Films and Fastnet Films. CAA is handling the North American sale.

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