One man’s meat
After a couple of Hollywood hits, NEIL JORDAN is returning to his Irish roots with The Butcher Boy. And any film that casts Sinead O'Connor as the Virgin Mary has to be a bit off the beaten track.
Words: Allan Hunter
While some European directors like Paul Verhoeven seem all too happy to surrender to the Hollywood mentality. it’s hard to imagine Neil Jordan following anyone’s agenda but his own. The Oscar-winning screenwriter of The Crying Game has always managed to balance high-profile international projects with work that returns him to his roots in Ireland. True to form, he now follows the stellar Interview With A Vampire and Michael Collins with a vibrant adaptation of Pat McCabe’s award-winning novel. The Butcher Boy.
Set in a small town in the early I960s, the film invites the viewer into the world of twelve-year-old Francie Brady. an unruly lad reeling from the horrors of a drunken father and a frail mother. Teetering between mischief and madness, he confronts his life with a cock-eyed optimism and ebullience that are hard to resist.
Jordan. a novelist himself. has described The Butcher Bay as the most significant novel to emerge from Ireland over the last decade and as the best account of a childhood since Maxim Gorky. He was immediately drawn to its cinematic potential although not initially convinced that he would direct it himself.
‘I bought the rights because I thought it was an extraordinary book. but I wasn’t sure I wanted to do a low-budget film set in a small Irish town again.‘ he explains. making an oblique reference to l99l’s as- gomI-as-forgotten The Miracle. ‘When I began to write. the voice of the boy just went through my brain. and it became so obsessive and memorable that I thought. “I’ve got to direct this myself”.’
The key to making the film was ﬁnding a young actor to play Francie. ‘If you can’t find someone to play the part. there’s no movie really,’ Jordan states. After sending scouts around Ireland and considering some 2000 candidates. Jordan found Eamonn Owens in Killeshandra in County Cavan.
'l've always thought Sinead O'Connor was a good actress and she has the kind of profile l remember from the statues I had When I was a kld.’ Neil Jordan
Neil Jordan: the director of The Butcher Boy is back on home ground
‘lt was extraordinary Iuck,‘ he admits. ‘He knew every facet of that character. He knew the brutality of it and the humour of it and the weird optimism of it. He was a very secure. bright boy and his emotions were all in his face.’
Acutely cast throughout. the film also features Fiona Shaw, Ardal O’Hanlon. Sean Hughes and Stephen Rea — a Jordan regular since his appearance in the director’s debut feature Angel in I982.
‘He’s a wonderful actor and his subdued sense of emotion suits the kind of parts that I write.’ Jordan enthuses. ‘He’s refused to be a star because what he wants to do it act.’
Sinead O’Connor also appears as the Virgin Mary. Given her past history of anti—Papal activity, it might seem a controversial choice but Jordan thinks otherwise. ‘I’ve always thought Sinead was a good actress and she has the kind of profile I remember from the statues I had when I was a kid. I saw her in Hush—A-Bye Baby years ago and thought she was wonderful.’ he recalls before confessing to an alternative strategy.
‘I was thinking about casting Marilyn Monroe. It would have been appropriate because it’s the image you would have seen in the cinema at the time. Going through everything she shot, it would have been quite possible technically to do it. It would have been very expensive though.’
Selected release from Fri 20 Feb. See review.
The column that likes it when the lights go down.
IT’S A LONG SHOT, but it just might work. The first ever University of Glasgow International Student Film and Video Festival - titled 'Long Shots’ — kicks off on Wed 25 Feb and runs through until Sun 1 Mar. A series of workshops and screenings gives student filmmakers the chance to work side by side with industry professionals and show their work to a wider audience. The newly refurbished cinema at the Gilmorehill Centre houses the event.
Highlights include a ’British Film Masterclass' with Channel 4’s David Aukin, an ’Acting For The Screen' workshop with Richard Wilson and a debate with the contentious title 'The Scottish Film Industry — Who Needs lt7'. Four separate screenings of a wide range of short films and videos are topped off at 6pm on Sun 1 by a 'Best Of The Festival’ compilation.
For full details of times and programmes, contact Long Shots on 0141 357 0489 or 9403121d®student.gla.ac.uk by e- mail. There's also a festival website at http://www.arts.gla.ac.uk/tfts/ LGSHOTS.htm which also carries the necessary information.
WHAT’S IT LIKE on the set of a short film? Cara Connolly and Sam Marsh documented the making of Ruby, one of last year's First Reels shorts, in a series of photographs on display at the Glasgow Film and Video Workshop, 34 Albion Street, until Fri 6 Mar. Both were intimately caught up in the production: Connolly, a student at Glasgow School of Art, was official stills photographer while visual artist Marsh also acted as personal driver to the producer (List writer Paul Welsh). It was their first time working on a film, and their fresh viewpoint comes over in the photographs. :
Photo finish: Niall Greig Fulton in Ruby
20 Feb—S Mar 1998 TIIE LIST 25