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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‘The Anti Love Pill’ signs to Network Ireland Television

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Karl Argue’s short film The Anti Love Pill has just been signed with Derry O’Brien of Network Ireland Television, who will begin seeking worldwide television sales of the film at festival markets from this Summer.

 

The film focuses on a love-sick loser, who goes searching for the cure for love and meets a crazed Scientist, who wants to use him as a Guinea pig, to test his new love-sick drug.

 

The Anti Love Pill stars Karl Argue (Where the Sea Used to Be), Vanessa Emme (Lir), Tara Power (Handy Sandy) and Brian McGuinness (King Arthur), and features music from Republic of Loose, Malcolm Fucktion Dsonik and Rob Walsh.

 

The short is produced by The Adopt a Hermit Theatre & Film Company.

 

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Actors Doing It For Themselves

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Since the beginning of cinema, there has been a fashion for performers creating their own work. Film Ireland spoke to various actors working in Ireland about juggling roles in front of and behind the camera.

From Charlie Chaplin’s great silent films, circa 1914, to Orson Welles who co-wrote and directed himself in arguably one of the greatest films of the 20th century, Citizen Kane, actors have turned their hand to directing, and often a whole lot more. When Ben Affleck and Matt Damon did it for themselves and wrote and starred in Good Will Hunting, they went home with the Oscar for best screenplay.

Closer to home we’ve seen the likes of Mark O’Halloran, who wrote himself into Adam & Paul, and Mark Doherty, who wrote and starred in A Film With Me In It, juggle multiple roles.

More recently, a wave of Hollywood pin-ups have taken to directing. Once something actors turned to after a succession of flops or once past their peak  (think Ben Affleck, Robert De Niro, Tommy Lee Jones), this new class of young actor-director, that includes the likes of Ryan Gosling, James Franco and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, are doing it for themselves and, by most accounts, are doing it well.

And it’s not just a man’s game. After snagging multiple Golden Globe nominations for her acting, Penny Marshall went on to direct Big, the first film directed by a woman to gross in excess of $100 million at the U.S. box office.

This trend of having a central actor take on multiple positions has its roots in low-budget short filmmaking, where manpower and funds are stretched, and has become the name of the game post-recession Ireland. But despite what you might think, a self-financed short film with a single man or woman at the helm does not always make for a grainy, home-made exercise in egotism.

 

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The Anti-Love Pill (Karl Argue)

The Anti-Love Pill was written, produced, directed by and stars Karl Argue, and is a well-crafted film with slick stylized storytelling. The film stars Argue as a love-sick man in search for the cure for love. We spoke to him about what inspired him to adopt the gung-ho approach of going it alone.

“I fell in love with a film in the late ’90s called Buffalo 66 – it’s an indie classic. In this movie the actor also wrote, directed, produced, designed the costumes and much, much more. I felt I could give it a shot. Plus there weren’t a lot of people around me offering to help, so I had to take the bull by the horns. If I had waited around for all the right conditions, I’d still be waiting.

I felt I could do and show a lot more. I was frustrated waiting for the phone to ring and when it did it was normally for me to audition for Scumbag Number 2. But I knew I was good enough to play Scumbag Number 1! Actually I didn’t get into this to just play either of those roles. But if I wanted a better role, I was going to have to create it myself.

“If no-one is going to give you the chance you need, you’ve just got to go out there and take it! I spent every last penny I had on this film (well, all the money I earned from a McDonalds ad). As mad as it felt throwing 1000s of Euros at a short film, not knowing if it was going to sink or swim, it felt good going out and doing something, instead of just sitting around leaving my career in someone else’s hands.  Even if I did mess it up, I was making movies, I was living the dream. But in the end I was really happy with the process and the end film”.

 

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Normal (Eddie Jackson and Mark McCabe)

Actors Eddie Jackson and Mark McCabe had similar reasons for writing the short Normal.  “We wanted to get ourselves out there, by creating our own roles. It was a challenge, but it was one that was really worth doing”. Normal is a heart-warming tale of two very different characters, played by Jackson and McCabe.

 

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Blink (Gavin O’Connor)

Other actors have different motivations for breaking the mould. For the actor Gavin O’Connor, writing and producing Blink was an opportunity to stretch his creative legs. “I have been acting a long time but I have seen a different side of production, which I now have even more respect for than I did before. I learned that if you have a story to tell, you will find a way to tell it, and not to let finance (or lack thereof) stand in the way”.

 

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The Stand-Up (Sean Murphy)

While some use it as an opportunity to experiment, others stick to what they know. The Stand-Up is written and directed by the stand-up comedian Sean Murphy, who also stars as, you guessed it, a stand-up comedian. He told Film Ireland, “I needed a role that suited me, a Jack Lemmon type role, and very few, if any, auditions had that”.

The Stand-Up is a dark comedy that follows the central character as he trudges through the dejecting comedy circuit of Dublin, a strain that eventually leads him to take extreme action. “The final image in the film came to me first and it grew from there. I knew the image contained a certain meaning for me personally, as a cruel comical metaphor and I knew I had to pursue it – I just knew I needed to make it. Then my early collaborator died very suddenly. I felt I had no choice, I needed to see his name on that screen, and that’s why the film is dedicated to him”.

 

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Patsy Dick (Clodagh Downing )

Often actors make their own film as a means of creating something closer to their heart. Clodagh Downing, who wrote, produced and acted in Patsy Dick, told Film Ireland, “I love writing and making films. My mum used to tell us this story and it always put us in good humour no matter what. I wanted to make a film that people would want to see.” Patsy Dick is a moving story about a West Cork boatman who helps an American couple have a child. Downing’s film made the glamourous journey over to this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Whether it be to write themselves into a suitable role, express their own creative vision, or to simply try something new, it seems like the actor turned director/writer/producer is here to stay. In an age of accessible digital hi-definition technology, these modern day Renaissance men (and women) are, rather admirably, staring the recession in the face and making things happen for themselves.

Trailers:

The Anti-Love Pillhttp://vimeo.com/70531435#

Normalhttp://vimeo.com/58415015#at=0

The Stand-Uphttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qdhi6PE6pA

 

 

 

 

 

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‘The Anti-Love Pill’ trailer released online

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The trailer for new Irish short The Anti-Love Pill has been released online.

The film was written, directed and produced by Karl Argue, who also stars alongside Vanessa Matias Fahy (The Shadows), Tara Power (Republic of Telly) and Brian Mc Guinness (King Arthur).

The Anti-Love Pill follows a love-sick man, who searches for the cure for love.

The supporting cast includes Gail Brady (Blood), Steve Gunn (Titanic:Blood & Steel), Patrick Murphy (Love/Hate), Jose Montero (Bitterness), Oliver McQuillan (Blood), Daniela Vanasco (Bitter Sweet), Rachel Moore (The Rescue) and Shane Ward (Split Treads).

The Anti-Love Pill was shot on location around Dublin between Winter 2011 – Spring 2012 and is produced by Adopt a Hermit.

 

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