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Would love to work with Sarah Greene again: Paddy Breathnach

Would love to work with Sarah Greene again: Paddy Breathnach

India Blooms News Service | @indiablooms | 22 Sep 2018, 12:58 pm

Irish director Paddy Breathnach's film Rosie, adapted from a story penned by BAFTA winning novelist and screenplay writer Roddy Doyle, shows a gripping tale of a family fighting homelessness in Ireland. Paddy's last film, Viva, was the first Irish film to get shortlisted for best foreign-language film at the Oscars. Rosie, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, stars Sarah Greene and Moe Dunford. In a chat with Suman Das and Sudipto Maity, Paddy and Roddy share different aspects of film-making and writing as they discuss Rosie and the experiences of working with the lead actors. Excerpts:

Tell us a bit about your movie Rosie.

Paddy:

Well it stated with Roddy really. Roddy (looks at his screenplay writer), do you want to say how it stated?

Roddy:

I was making my breakfast one morning while listening to radio news, and I was listening to a woman, describing her efforts the day before to find somewhere to stay. She and her children were in a car and they had nowhere to stay, they had to leave their home. She was describing what she had to do all day trying to find somewhere to spend the night and her husband couldn’t help because he was at work. It just struck me that this is really a good story, in so far as telling a story is concerned. We generally associate homelessness and solitary man usually. We see man on corners with cups and occasionally a woman. But, the reality is, there are homeless families. In some societies they are on the streets and you see it all the time. In Ireland, that is generally not the case. So, I just thought well, this is a really interesting story. So, I dig into it and began to write the script within minutes of hearing it and Paddy comes in then later on.

 
Did you try to find out who this woman was?

Roddy:

No, I didn’t try to find out who this woman was or what her name was or if I could talk to her. I didn’t feel the need to do that, because I thought telling the story would be relatively easy and it was. It’s relatively easy to imagine oneself in a car with children…I used to have my children, now they are adults, but they used to be babies and toddlers and children. So, I just imagined myself in the car with the children and making phone calls. We are all familiar with making phone calls and waiting for someone to pick it up and answer. It is energy sapping really. It is just a question of making it more intense.  

Above all, the movie is about finding hope in a hopeless situation. Tell me, have you ever faced a similar situation in your life?

Roddy:

Yes, but I am not going to tell you about this (laughs).

Paddy:

He said exactly what I am going to say, except, he was much more polite (laughs). You know, for me, the film is not so much about finding hope in a hopeless situation, it’s about seeing how hope come under pressure in a desperate situation. The hope that Rosie has and constantly shows and acts out, begins to become brittler and in jeopardy as the film goes on. I think it’s about saying that that hope we have, the life force we have, if too much pressure comes on it, it’s vulnerable.

Apart from the leads, Sarah Greene and Moe Dunford, you have had to work with four very young actors. How difficult was it?

Roddy:

Paddy was a lion tamer in his previous career (laughs).

Sarah Green in a scene from Rosie

Paddy:

As with most things, if you cast well…we spent a lot of time casting the children under a very good casting director. I wanted to have children, that were able to not just learn the lines and do something that was regimented or pre-ordained. I wanted them to be alive in the scenes and be quick witted and able to respond to things immediately and also that they could gel together. We spent a bit of time trying to make that work.    

Did you explain the whole story to the kids?

Paddy:

No, I didn’t. I gave them the background to it. I wanted them to be alive at minute to minute. So, it was more important to me what was happening for them to know what was happening at that moment in the film, rather than that they knew the whole story. Also, I learnt a few years ago…I used to be very tight while constructing a scene. There were certain shots that I wanted to do and it had to fit the shape that I had already put on it. Now I have changed my views about film-making. I try to create a situation where something can come to life and it’s my job to try to capture that. So, I create the atmosphere and I try and capture around that. The children felt very comfortable, partly because Moe and Sarah helped generate that, but also because of themselves as children and as actors.

Sarah Greene, who plays Rosie, is garnering a lot of praise for her role. How was the experience of working with her?

Paddy:

Sarah is very down to earth, good at cooperating, working, talking discussing…she doesn’t come to you with a big ego or make life difficult for you. She is easy going in her process, but if she doesn’t believe in something, you might have a strong conversation about it. She comes with her own ideas, but it’s always about the things that’s in the middle of the two of you. So, she was great to work with. I think she was very brave because she didn’t try and glamourise herself in the situation and she allowed herself to become vulnerable and not going for very heavy make-up, it was simple and straight and true. So, from my experience, she was just fantastic.  

Are you going to work with Sarah Greene in the future?

Paddy:

I would love to work with Sarah Greene. She is brilliant. I think, she’s very well known in Ireland and this [film] will let people outside Ireland know her. Hopefully her star rises further because she is a wonderful actress.

Roddy:

Not so long ago, I saw her play Alice on stage in Alice in Wonderland and then few years later she’s playing the mother of four children. So, she’s very versatile, extraordinary really! We are lucky to have her.

What about Moe? Share your experiences of working with him.

Paddy:

Moe’s role in a way is harder. He needs to be constant and solid there, but not over pander. He has to be supportive, but he also has to be steadfast and strong. I think he’s great. He brings a certain solidity and dignity to the character very naturally. He has a gentle presence with the children, where he knows them and is intimate and close with them, without having being overly demonstrative. Mo is a very cooperative and generous actor. He will give of himself to the part and he will go to places if you ask him to go.

Roddy:

Just on a social level, they are very very nice, both Sarah and Moe. What is like most about Moe is his body language. When he is leaving his work, for example, in the early scene, he’s immediately a working-class Dublin man. The way he moves, his shoulder, so he’s very much the character. Even though he doesn’t say remotely as much as Sarah, it’s the body language that he uses to communicate.

Roddy, since this was your script, did you have a say in the filming process?

Roddy:

I stayed away. I dropped once or twice to say hello really, but I have had no involvement in this. It’s like a military operation, the director is the boss. Everybody else should be working for the director and I’m quite happy with that. I am a writer. I put words together and I should have no say in camera position and casting…unless I am asked. Then my opinion is as valuable as anybody else’s. It’s a gamble. People have asked me if I find it difficult to hand over my work…it is exciting. Luckily, way more times the gamble has paid off than not. So, you take the gamble or you just stay home and I would rather take the gamble. I knew I was in good hands, because I had seen Paddy’s work and I liked it. I don’t have notions of being more than what I am.

Irish director Paddy Breathnach and screenplay writer Roddy Doyle

Paddy:

For me, I feel Roddy hands me a script and I have a certain responsibility towards honouring that and honouring the conversation that we had. We had a lot of conversation regarding the script and I had to honour that too, but equally I’m very happy. Maybe in the past I used to be a lot more defensive and protective about my own position, but now I feel it should be about relationships where there is a lot of trust and respect between us.

You have been involved in a wide genre of films, from thrillers to comedy to indie movies. What's your favourite genre?

Paddy:

I suppose I like comedies that are smart with good characters and dramas that have muscular relationships in them. In filmmaking terms, I have slept around (giggles), let’s say, in terms of genres. I have done a few different things. I enjoy lots of things about relations. In between this film and the last one I did, Viva, I have kind of come back a little bit to something that I wanted to do when I started my career.

Paddy, have you ever thought about going overseas to Hollywood?

I don’t think so. I’m not chasing after the thing [Hollywood]. I spent a year there about 10 years ago. I like Los Angeles actually! I like being there, it’s a lovely place. It’s very interesting in the film industry. For me, it’s about making films from good scripts, doesn’t matter where it comes from. If I get a good script from Hollywood, obviously, I’ll consider doing it. There’s always something nice about doing work with people you know and trust and that is what makes the film interesting and enjoyable.

Finally, why did you decide to show it here at TIFF?

Paddy:

Why here…because we finished the film at this time and we sent it in and they selected it. There are six major film festivals in the world where you put your film if you want it to have a good life, TIFF is one of them.


Roddy and Paddy's image by Radha Bose/IBNS.

Banner Image: Tiff.net

Would love to work with Sarah Greene again: Paddy Breathnach

India Blooms News Service
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