To coincide with the release of The Stag on Blu-ray and DVD, the good people at Eclipse Pictures have given Film Ireland 5 copies of the hilarious Irish comedy to give away.
Andrew Scott and Hugh O’Conor star in this Irish comedy written and directed by John Butler. Metrosexual groom-to-be Fionnan (O’Conor) would rather go to his fiancée Ruth (Amy Huberman)’s hen party than his own stag do. Ruth, however, manages to persuade his best friend Davin (Scott) to arrange the stag and he opts for a walking holiday. Despite their best efforts to avoid him, they are joined by Ruth’s maniac brother known as The Machine (Peter McDonald), who turns the low-key weekend into a series of misadventures. Will Fionnan make it back to his future wife unscathed?
Andrew Scott (BBC’s Sherlock and Legacy) leads a fresh ensemble cast of Irish stage, screen and comedy stars including Hugh O’Conor (The Young Poisoner’s Handbook, My Left Foot), Brian Gleeson (Snow White and the Huntsman, The Eagle of the Ninth), Andrew Bennett (Fool for Love,Angela’s Ashes), Michael Legge (Channel 4’s Shameless) and Amy Huberman (Comedy Central’s Threesome).
Award-winning writer/director John Butler (RTE’s award winning sketch show Your Bad Self, debut novel The Tenderloin) makes his feature directing debut with this hilarious and touching comedy about male friendship – developed and co-written with actor/writer Peter McDonald (I Went Down, When Brendan Met Trudy), and produced by Rebecca O’Flanagan and Rob Walpole (The Good Man).
To win yourself a copy of the film on DVD, simply answer the following question:
Andrew Scott recently played Father Seamus in which Ken Loach film?
Email your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday, 27th July 2014 when the Film Ireland hat will select a winner while tied naked to a tree. Winners will be notified by email.
Rental exclusive with XtraVision from 4th July 2014
Available on digital platforms from 7th July 2014
Available to purchase on Blu-ray and DVD from 18th July, 2014
Lorna Buttimer caught up with John Butler, co-writer and director of the Irish comedy The Stag, to discuss the making of his first feature.
John Butler has got a bone to pick. ‘There is this cliché out there that producers are uncreative, it’s wrong, totally wrong. Producers are inherently creative. When the budget is low a producer has to be totally creative towards it and the film’. Butler recalls during the production of his new, and first feature, The Stag, moments where his producers had to step in and help make creative decisions caused by budget restrictions. These instances have clearly fostered the belief and experience in Butler that producers are indeed creative; creative with money.
Butler’s belief probably also comes from his close and successful relationship with long-time producers Robert Walpole and Rebecca O’Flanagan. Both have worked with Butler since his early days of TV, shorts and documentaries. When he, and co-writer of The Stag, Peter McDonald decided to write the comedy both producers jumped on board. With their help, Butler was able to approach the Irish Film Board for production financing; as quickly as that they were in production by November of the same year. From the outside looking in, that is one smooth operation and surely the sign of a good director-producer relationship.
However, even with financial backing and great producers, Butler recalls that the production was still tight, ‘It was all meticulously planned. We had no extra budget so we had to plan everything’. But as a result ‘we didn’t have any major problems going from script to screen’.
Still, even with careful and considerate planning, the director says the budget brought difficulties of another kind; production time was short. ‘The whole shoot was only twenty days [as a result]…the hardest bit to film…was a fireplace scene that happens in the middle of the movie. We had ten pages of dialogue and one night to get it covered.’ Throw in six or seven characters with eye-lines to track, lighting for firelight, sound and a two-camera set up and you’re in for one long night. Successfully managing that feat alone gives the director credit in my book.
The director does mention one factor that he considers significant in helping with the tight turnaround; actors. For him they were ‘Brilliant… very smart… very prepared. They arrived on pitch for the characters…and nailed it’. Arriving so prepared was essential for the film. The director recalls that the actors didn’t have time to prepare on set, and they had to jump straight into character as soon as they arrived.
The Stag is, of course, Butler’s first feature-length film, which he directed and co-wrote, and he’s got some advice for any aspiring filmmakers hoping to do the same. Don’t… ‘wait necessarily for development funding, it might come, just write…and if the script works, if the story works, if the beats make sense – then that will carry you through’.
The Stag is released today in Irish cinemas. John Butler’s comedy follows a bachelor party weekend in the great outdoors that takes some unexpected detours. The film stars Andrew Scott, Hugh O’Conor, Brian Gleeson and Peter McDonald, who co-wrote the script with Butler.
Gemma Creagh caught up with the film’s director, and its stars Andrew Scott and Peter McDonald at the recent Jameson Dublin Film Festival for On the Reel in association with Film Ireland.
The film closed this year’s festival and Gemma was there on the red carpet to find out more about the film and what it’s like for a load of men to be in the nip on a weekend away.
DIR: John Butler • WRI: John Butler, Peter McDonald • PRO: Rebecca O’Flanagan, Robert Walpole • DOP: Peter Robertson • ED: John O’Connor • MUS: Stephen Rennicks • DES: Ferdia Murphy • CAST: Andrew Scott, Hugh O’Conor, Peter McDonald, Brian Gleeson
New Irish comedy The Stag boasts an impressive cast including Brian Gleeson, Andrew Scott (fresh from his Sherlock fame) and the film’s co-writer Peter McDonald. Not forgetting, of course, Amy Huberman who – I was surprised to note – wasn’t attending to any table-setting, à laher recent advertising campaign.
The premise is simple enough: Ruth (Amy Huberman) desperately wants her fiancé Fionnan (Hugh O’ Conor) to go on a Stag weekend, and enlists the help of his best friend Davin (Andrew Scott) to get him to go on a “manly” adventure, or rather, to take a trip to the mountains. The catch is that Ruth insists that her mysterious brother “The Machine” (Peter McDonald) must be included in the plans, to the chagrin of all involved. So up the mountains they go, with a series of misadventures guiding the rest of the film along.
As with any road movie or narrative which has a trip at its centre, The Stag is more about an exploration of identity and the journey towards the realisation of that identity, than about the upcoming nuptials of Ruth and Fionnan. It wouldn’t be an Irish film without probing Irish identity just a little, now would it? Moreover, The Stag is really concerned with the exploration of Irish masculinity and in typical Irish fashion, works through these issues in the format of a comedy.
These men don’t belong in the wilderness – gone are the days of representations of rugged Irish masculinity and the idea of Irish identity being tied to the land. Instead, we have the new Irish metro-sexual man in Fionnan, who plans his wedding meticulously, would rather attend a Hens than a Stags and contributes Frere Jaques to an Irish sing-song.
However – this is not a film which takes itself seriously in any way. The working through of Irish masculinity is played for laughs; there is one scene in which the group of lads find themselves naked in the woods (wearing only cavemen-esque attire), as Fionnan and Davin begin to talk through their feelings and emotion is at an all-time high.
The film sets itself up as a parody of sorts, and uses as shorthand for “us Irish” references to the recession and the love/hate relationship we have with U2. Despite making fun of Irish identity in a way that will almost certainly have an audience laughing, the film ironically falls into the trap of perpetuating these same, somewhat jaded discourses. Having said that, the film is a good-natured romp that will certainly entertain. Just, enough with Irish masculinity already. We’re ready for something else.
Richard Drumm joined the party and takes a look at The Stag, which closed this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.
Under orders from bride-to-be Ruth (Amy Huberman), best-man Davin convinces his best friend Fionnan (Hugh O’Conor) to have a stag-weekend despite his early reluctance. Everything seems to be in place for a quiet weekend of hiking with a small group of friends until a wildcard appears in the guise of The Machine (Peter McDonald), Ruth’s brother and a significantly more boisterous personality than Davin and co are used to. And thus the scene is set for all manner of hijinks, misunderstandings, nudity and more character drama than you might expect.
There’s a moment early on in The Stag where The Machine first enters the film with his awkward, over-the-top attempts at ‘humour’ and all hope seems to drain from the very screen. Thankfully however, this appears to have been an intentional manoeuvre to wrong-foot the audience as the film almost immediately changes course once the hiking portion of plot begins and everything settles into a much more naturalistic and genuinely funny flow. It is unfortunate that the opening movement of the film is decidedly spotty because once the plot-proper gets going there is a lot to like with The Stag.
The most refreshing aspect of the film is that at no point does it feel the need to descend into lazy, tired ‘paddy-wackery’ style humour like almost every other Irish comedy. There are no jokes where the punchline is just ‘listen to how thick their accent is, isn’t that hilarious?’ or ‘oh, aren’t colloquialisms from rural Ireland just delightfully quaint?’ No, The Stag (for the most part, anyway) places its emphasis on clever writing and some quite amusing, smaller set-piece gags. There are a few jokes of the low-hanging-fruit variety that fall decidedly flat, like the previously mentioned first appearance of The Machine, but they’re largely in the first act of the film before the characters actually get into the countryside.
It is odd how everything about the film only seems to fall into place once the hike begins because on top of the humour settling in, the cast do too. Andrew Scott is of course the main focus and he doesn’t disappoint. Naturally it’s near-impossible not to have a smile to yourself at seeing ‘Moriarty’ being a best-man but the novelty quickly wears off and over the course of the film Scott demonstrates his range definitely extends further than just playing consulting criminals (admittedly the fact that Scott is playing a college professor in this certainly didn’t help shake off said novelty.) The rest of the cast are equally fun to watch and share a convincing chemistry together, especially in the more dramatic moments. The real praise should, however, go to McDonald. For what looked on the surface to be one-dimensional, insufferable, ‘wacky’ character, he brings an impressive level of control to his performance as the slow reveal of what is ultimately the most tragic character in the film.
Sadly, the film slightly falls apart in the final ten minutes once the story moves back to Dublin. After doing a surprisingly good job of setting up and expanding upon a lot of issues with modern Ireland and Irish society (financial problems, the very guarded nature of Irish masculinity, older generations’ inability to accept the normalisation of homosexuality in a modern society, etc.), it almost seems like we’re about to get a somewhat ambiguous ending that doesn’t resolve any of these rather large and complex issues. Indeed, there’s a shot of Scott walking through a field that would have been an ideal place to finish. But instead the film goes on to show the wedding and over the course of that scene resolves practically every source of conflict or distress that had previously been mentioned. It’s disappointing because many of these issues don’t have simple solutions and it felt like it would have been enough for the film to merely draw attention to, and have a small discussion about, them. Instead we get an almost unbearably saccharine ending which feels out of place with the more naturalistic and grounded nature of the preceding half an hour or so.
On the whole though this is still a genuinely amusing film which, despite taking a little time to find its feet, settles into a comfortable and nicely heartfelt comedy that far exceeds a lot of recent Irish attempts at such broad humour. For a film that purports to be about modern Irish issues, it’s unfortunate that it doesn’t quite have the resolve to end at a more natural point and be content to have merely created a dialogue on those issues. The final scene wraps things up a bit too neatly and is in danger of trivialising some of the good work that came before. However, this doesn’t necessary detract from the comedy itself and so will likely be a moot point for most people.