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Terry Loane Talks 'Mickybo & Me'
16 Mar 2005 :

Mickybo & Me

The debut feature from writer/director Terry Loane, ‘Mickybo and Me’ is a tale of friendship and the loss of childhood innocence, set against the backdrop of 1970’s Belfast. IFTN caught up with the Loane in Dublin to talk about the film which is released in Irish cinemas next week.

‘Mickybo and Me’ is a coming of age tale about two young Belfast boys, from either side of the sectarian divide, who strike up an unlikely friendship.  They are a sweet but mischievous pair, lost in the tragedy of circumstances and with no real heroes in their lives. Upon seeing the classic wild western ‘Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid’, they are inspired by their on-screen heroes and embark on epic journey towards “the border”, recreating their favourite scenes from the movie along the way.

With a catchy soundtrack and a script packed with drama, comedy, adventure and heartbreak, ‘Mickybo and Me’ is an effortlessly likable movie. Addressing universal themes of friendship, innocence, passion and the fantasy of childhood ‘Mickybo and Me’ reaches beyond being just another Irish feature with more charm and wit than many recent Hollywood offerings.  

Speaking to IFTN just before the film’s Irish premiere, director Terry Loane attempts to put into words what this film, six years in the making, means to him on the verge of its release on home turf.

“I hope to hell they like it,” says Loane, looking nervous. “I’ve been living with it for almost six years now and y’know you lock yourself away and there are these voices and characters in your head, you finally get to shoot and edit it and then it just sits there.  It’s been quiet for a few months and I am just dying to get it in front of an audience and I really want the Irish audience to warm to it, so fingers crossed.”

‘Mickybo and Me’ was shot on 35mm in Northern Ireland, over a nine week period during the Winter months of 2003. Its roots however lie three years earlier, when Terry Loane began working as a production designer on Owen McCafferty’s acclaimed play ‘Mojo Mickybo’, upon which the film is based. At the time Loane was moved by the play and knew it would be an ideal story to adapt for the big screen, and (of course) he wanted to be the man to do it. “Immediately I approached the writer Owen McCafferty and said ‘we’ve gotta make this into a film’” says Loane, “and luckily he just handed it over and said ‘its your baby, you make it and do what you want to do with it’. So I wrote it and re-wrote it and re-wrote it and re-wrote it and re-wrote it…” 

Loane took the film to the Moonstone Screenwriters and Filmmakers Labs in 2001 and 2002. Working with director Pip Broughton he focused his time developing the areas  in which  he had least experience, most importantly, working with children. This was to be of great benefit to the debut director who remembers; “almost every day during the production of ‘Mickybo & Me’, I was thinking about stuff I’d learned from the lab. It was invaluable.”

Johnjo with his on screen father Adrian Dunbar in Mickybo & Me
Johnjo & Adrian Dunbar
Mickybo & Johnjo on the run in Mickybo & Me
Mickybo & Johnjo
Watching Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid
Johnjo & Mickybo at the movies

The ST£3 million film follows the two boys across the province of Northern Ireland which brought the production team to many different locations; from Belfast city centre to Donaghadee, Portrush, Carrickfergus and finally Ballyholme beach. It’s here where the adventure climax’s with Johnjo and Mickybo’s re -inaction of the ‘Butch Cassidy’ famous cliff scene, paying the ultimate homage to the 1970’s classic, which , the director says has Paul Newman and Robert Redford’s seal of approval.  “Newman and Redford had to give their personal approval to use those clips.  They did, they let us use it and they were happy with the script. I think we have done them proud.”

‘Mickybo and Me’ has a dream producing team of Mark Huffam (Johnny English, The Hours) and Micheal McGeagh with Tim Bevan ( Fargo), Eric Fellner (Bridget Jones Diary), Natascha Wharton (Shaun of The Dead) and Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot) on board as executive producers.  The film is a WT2 production in association with New Moon Pictures with funding from Universal Pictures, Studio Canal the IFB and the NIFTC. 

Getting all these financial elements in place was not an easy task for the filmmaker, especially since he had just one (award winning) short film‘Cluck’ to his credit.

“Greenlighting films is about taking a risk and we had a big risk to take. Working Title knew and we knew that taking a risk on film with two boys in the lead roles, featured on every page and in almost every minute of the film was a big risk, but we searched high and low and found two great kids and I think it worked.”

It was a risk worth taking with the two newcomers Niall Wright and John-Jo McNeill impressively playing the leads.  The young actors are accompanied by a lineup of household names in supporting roles playing the boys families including Adrian Dunbar (The General), Ciaran Hinds ( The Phantom of the Opera) , Julie Walters (Billy Elliot), Gina McKee (Notting Hill) and Susan Lynch (Sixteen Years Of Alcohol). 

Terry Loane & Julie Walters

“I was very excited with the cast and the great thing was that Ciaran Hinds was attached from an early stage.  I’d sent him an early draft and he said yes, always love to help…I got a dream cast and they were that.  Sometimes you hear directors talking and it sounds all luvvie nonsense, but they

were all great to work with and they contributed stuff so that it really was a team effort.  I was really pleased and Julie Walters in particular doesn’t like to do that many projects.  She knew she wasn’t the star of it, and she is a movie star, but she just loved the material, loved the role and whenever we met for a chat she said she wanted to do it.”

Was it nerve racking for the debut director with so much talent and money invested in the film and essentially relying upon his efforts?

“I was never nervous, more always kind of passionately excited and enthusiastic and once we got our green light, it was a dream come true.  I mean it really is, because it’s just so bloody hard to get your first feature.”  Also, he was relieved to have such a strong producing team behind him to lighten the burden. “I knew that there was a safety net and I was able to focus on the actors and the performance, I felt very well protected from the trials and tribulations of getting over a nine week shoot.”

Yet, with a background in Fine Art, it was not always Loane’s ambition to become a director.

“It was kind  of a gradual thing. I’d always loved cinema but originally I did Fine Art at Art College and I exhibited some stuff, sold some stuff and it was all going quite well but my frustration was, as an artist, whether it’s a film making artist or a visual artist if you’ve got something to say or to communicate, in galleries it will only get to a few hundred people and then it gets put in a box. Film is the ultimate accessible art form around the world.  Every kid can nick a few quid from their Dad’s wallet and nip off to the cinema.  That’s what I thought as soon as I saw this, I said , ‘this has got to be out there.’”

It is the film 's light heartedness and youthful touch that increases the impact of the emotional upheaval in the final minutes of the film.  There are obvious comparisons with ‘Stand By Me’ and ‘Billy Elliot’ and the director welcomes these associations, admitting to watching and being influenced by those earlier films.  However, Loane exudes an all encompassing passion for, not only his project but cinema itself, when asked simply: Why should Irish audiences go see this film?

“I would defy anybody to not enjoy it,” he replies, “and I feel that anybody who has seen it has loved it. It’s special and it’s an Irish film the Irish audience is crucial and very important to me.   I think for too long we have had people, Americans and English, coming in here and making films about Oirish stories. That has its place in the big Hollywood business but this is a story that has an authenticity. It’s fresh and bloody hilarious at times, it’s a film that can make people laugh, it can make people cry.  That’s the great thing, people can go and laugh for an hour and a half and come out with a hankie in their hands. That’s what I love and that’s what films are supposed to do.”

“Everybody as a kid had a best friend, a family, have their best friend turn their back on them, that’s what we can all identify with,” he says with a sigh, adding, “and also! I need it to be a success!”

‘Mickybo & Me’ is released across Ireland through UIP on the 25 th of March 2005.

By Tanya Warren

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