but there's no messing with RICHARD HARRIS in his latest movie Trojan Eddie, directed by Scotland's Gillies Mackinnon. Just don't mention method acting. Words: Anwar Brett
RICHARD HARRIS IS a big man with a big reputation. In his time. he has been known as a lover. a fighter. a drinker and. between being paid a lot of money for some dreadful films. has proved himself to be an actor of great depth and quality. All of this can be learned from reading a few newspaper cuttings and watching a cross-section of his work. What is less obvious is how erudite. impassioned and fun the man can be. with a lack of pretence and artifice that is at first quite bewildering.
Now in his ()7th year. and as aggressive and curious as ever. Harris seems finally to have turned his back on a potentially self— destructive addiction — to bad films rather than boo/.e — and is content to live his life to a simple philosophy. ‘l’m happy any place I am.’ he smiles cheerfully. ‘I never. have never. will never live my life in regret about anything. I‘m here today. and I find it amazing that I've lived this long. I‘m still here to annoy people.‘
Or entertain them. or frighten them. and he does both to good effect in his latest film. Trojan Eddie. He plays John Power. the rough. tough godfather figure to a group of travellers in contemporary Ireland. desperate to cling on to the respect his fists earned him as a youth. But he is getting on. and he knows it. when matters come to a head after he is bewitched by a young woman who looks uncannily like his late wife.
Scottish director Gillies Mackinnon was shrewd in persuading Harris to play ‘the heavy‘. perhaps realising he would bring unexpected sympathy to a role that could so easily have been one-dimensional.
While researching his part in Ireland. llarris saw first hand the truth of the travelling people‘s status as outsiders to society. ‘What I found amazing there was the amount of bad feeling towards them.‘ he sighs. "I'hey wouldn‘t be allowed in certain pubs. They wouldn‘t be served. I found that disheartening. particularly for Ireland which is a country that has claimed to have been discriminated against for so many hundreds of years. yet they themselves practise this discrimination.‘
llarris certainly has a conscience and plenty of offbeat but intelligent views. He is also intolerant of pretension. which is odd for an actor. Get him talking about American actors and their famed ‘Method‘ approach. and
he spins off into a furious denouncement of
‘There‘s a whole theory in America. which actually is bullshit. that actors become their parts.‘ he says. frowning. ‘It's utter rubbish because you retain all sorts of memories. So how in the name of fuck can these fucking pretentious arseholes turn around and say that
they can erase a lifetime of their own memories and replace thetn with two months of research on a part. The craft of acting is nothing to do with indulging yourself in a part. The craft is to create the part on a certain amount of historical research. but also using your own memories. You cannot eliminate them.‘
Illustrating his point. he picks on the most legendary acting names from both sides of the Atlantic. pausing only to take hearty swallows from a succession of pints of Guinness.
‘Marlon Brando was the greatest American actor and his greatest performances will always have aspects of Brando.‘ he continues. lets take our two leading actors here. Larry Olivier and John Gielgud. (iielgud was a brilliant Romeo. because he‘s one of the nicest
fucking men you‘ve ever met in your life. and he was a disastrous Mercutio. Olivier was not a nice man. and he was a disastrous Romeo and a brilliant Mercutio. All of his great roles were horrendous people. like Richard III.
"faking a look at Brando's great roles. Marlon has a mischievous kind of evil about him. In all his great roles. he played a bit of a shit. 0/: The miter/rant. bit of a shit: Stanley Kowalski. definite shit; be correctly turned Mark Anthony in Julius Caesar into a corrupted. corruptible. corrupting shit. But they were his qualities. When he started to play nice leading men. like in The Ugly Amerieun. he was a disaster. A fucking disaster. It's all to do with an indulgence and a total acceptance of what you are.’
Given the number of flawed heroes he‘s played in his time. this theory clearly says a lot about Harris himself. And he probably wouldn‘t deny it.
‘I could never have played Romeo in my life. but there are certain parts I would have been great at. like Macbeth. Coriolanus. llamlet.‘ he says. ‘If I read a part. I usually know straight away if I can or I can‘t do it. When I read The Field. I knew that nobody else could do it: somebody might be as good as me. but they wouldn‘t be better.‘
Trojan Eddie opens at the Glasgow Film Theatre and Edinburgh Filmhouse on Fri 21 Mar.
. . . and the quiet man
Trojan Eddie’s Stephen Rea is one of Ireland's greatest actors, but an unlikely and reluctant film star. Words: Alan Morrison
WITH A FACE that seems weighted down by all the cares of the world, Stephen Rea has a reputation for playing reluctant heroes. From his screen debut in Neil Jordan's Angel to his Oscar-nominated turn as the conscience-stricken IRA man on the run in The Crying Game, he has proved an unlikely leading man, world-weary but strong willed.
A Belfast native and graduate of Dublin’s famous Abbey Theatre School, Rea's full repertoire takes in classic plays on stage and television, as well as film jaunts with Mike Leigh and Robert Altman. Trojan Eddie, the idealistic market stall owner he plays in his latest film, contains elements of the actor’s best-known screen roles, as once more Rea takes an ordinary guy into an extraordinary situation and fills him with human warmth.
'Well, I suppose there appears to be some kind of pattern,‘ Rea says when asked if he is drawn to roles such as Eddie, ’but I just respond to whatever’s thrown at me. I'm much more interested in the narrative than the characters. It's much more gratifying to be in an exciting film playing a smaller part than it is to play the lead in something that doesn’t work.’
Rea has collaborated six times - to greater or lesser degrees - with fellow Irishman Neil Jordan (most recently on the forthcoming comedy The Butcher Boy), and although Trojan Eddie has a distinctively Irish subject, it was made by Scottish director Gillies Mackinnon. Did Mackinnon bring a Celtic connection to the material?
’I’m only pausing because I want to be careful about . . . eh, how I phrase this,’ says the soft-
Face of concern: Stephen Rea in Trojan Eddie
spoken Rea, with a hesitancy that hints at suspicion of the press. "There's no question that Gillies, as a Scotsman, was able to slip into a way of being in Ireland that was easier for him than a total outsider. Gillies is fantastically open to the script and the actors and to the world of Ireland that he found himself in. That's not just his Scottishness, that's the man, you know?‘
Trojan Eddie also gave Rea the opportunity to work with Richard Harris, something of a legend among Irish actors. ’Well, obviously Richard Harris and Peter O'Toole are heroes to all Irish actors of a certain generation,’ Rea agrees. ‘I never aspired to be like them, I have to say; I think I was more drawn to American actors. Harris kicked his way out of Ireland at a time when it wasn't easy to get into the movies, and he became an international star from nothing in Limerick, so I have huge admiration for him. These guys weren’t just frivolous hellraisers, these were very serious men, tenacious about their work.’
A bit like Rea himself.
2: Mar - 3 Apr 199nm; usr 11