The Guard / Brendan Gleeson on Ireland and the Crisis

From The Onion Audio Visual ClubInterview Brendan Gleeson:

AVC: Speaking of the country growing up, you were very disappointed in the reception The Tiger’s Tail got at home, but a lot of the movie’s skepticism about the strength of the Irish economic boom has since been fulfilled. I gather the reviews at home weren’t kind.

BG: No, they weren’t. They went out of their way. They got so insulted by it. I’m unsure whether the film actually works properly, in the sense that maybe we got the tone wrong, maybe we got the story wrong, maybe I didn’t play it right, maybe I could have gone one way or another. When it doesn’t happen with an audience, you’re always inclined to say, “How could we have done it differently?” But there was such a gut reaction of, “How dare you bring us down like that? How dare you come out and say people are puking on the pavements in Temple Bar?” It was all brought to extremes to emphasize a point. It was brought to extremes, but it wasn’t a hundred miles away from the truth. Practically everything that we portrayed in that was 80 percent of what was happening.

AVC: Except for the part about identical twins on opposite sides of the economic divide.

BG: Maybe the twin part, maybe. Maybe that was a push. But [director] John [Boorman] was very fascinated by it. I don’t know how we could have done that differently, really. It is truth being stranger than fiction with regard to twins, people being brought up in different parts of the world, and then all these similarities happening. So it wasn’t a million miles away from what could happen. The social reaction to what happened was that as soon as [the Irish] had stood up for ourselves and we were doing this Celtic Tiger thing, we were trying to bring it down. Whereas what we were trying to do was say, “You’re throwing all the babies out with the bathwater. You’re missing the point of decency.” Our health service was a mess, even though they were throwing loads of money at it. There were dreadful things happening in the health service. People being left on trolleys for five days, people in their 80s waiting on a plastic chair because there weren’t beds, but they could have two $100,000 cars outside the consultant’s room. It was nonsense! We were losing our whole soul completely, and that was what Tiger’s Tail was trying to address.

We were trying to do it in a way that would show, okay, here’s a guy who’s a developer, he’s not a bad man, but he’s losing his priorities. He’s lost his priorities. Then we tried to bring him on a journey where he crashed and reversed. It was a way of trying to go from the top to the bottom and get back into some place where you can see what’s important. And it was, “No, we didn’t want to know about it.” I hated the way people did not want to engage in the debate, whatever the merits or demerits of the film as a film, which okay, you’ve got to take onboard if there’s something that didn’t work, take it onboard and listen to what people are saying. But there was a real social thing.

Then, of course, it was so prescient, because the whole house of cards came tumbling down. You really get fed up. “I told you so” is a really, really boring sort of a phrase, but it’s very frustrating when you’re banging on the door saying, “Will you please have a look at what we’re doing,” and it all going to tumbling down. John is extraordinarily intelligent and well-read. He was predicting that crash for, I’d say, eight years before that. He said, “They’re going to have to bail out, we don’t actually have the money in the country to cover this kind of money if it goes bang.” And it went bang. It wasn’t only there.

I think you guys are going to have your own thing, too. What’s good from our point of view is I think there is a change coming at home. Part of the thing is trying to get some honesty in terms of what the problem actually is. They’re still telling lies about the size of the debt. You’ve got to know what the problem is, and then once you know, okay, then you face it. It’s this whole fudging thing of, “Oh no, it’s not really happening.” It took us about three years to actually turn around and say, “All right, okay, here’s how far we’re in.” It’s the whole thing about hitting the bottom before you can even start looking up again. You’ve got to get there.

Read more.

NPR: Gleeson Shines As Irish Anti-Hero Cop In \’The Guard\’

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