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INTERVIEW: Five Minutes With... Irish Filmmaker Neil Jordan
05 Sep 2012 : By Steve Cummins
Neil Jordan filmed 'Byzantium' in Ireland
With ‘Byzantium’ set to premiere at this weekend’s Toronto International Film Festival, acclaimed Irish filmmaker Neil Jordan - who was in Dublin this week for a special Irish Film & Television Academy screening of 'The Crying Game' - took five minutes with IFTN to discuss his 17th feature as a director; his memories of ‘The Crying Game’ 20 years on; and ‘Broken Dream’, his collaboration with director John Boorman.

Neil, while in one way you are looking back on the past this week with ‘The Crying Game’ anniversary, you must also be looking forward to Sunday’s world premiere of ‘Byzantium’, which you filmed here in Ireland? Yes, it’s very good. It’s a very good movie but I can’t say that much about it because it’s not coming out until next weekend. It’s set in England, in a little seaside town, and it’s kind of a quasi-vampire story. We almost ended up shooting it [here] in Ireland, by default. I introduced some Irish elements into it [the script]. There’s a mythic story in it. There’s an 18th century story and a 20th century story to it, so I ended up introducing elements to the 20th century story. We ended up shooting 90 per cent of it here, everything but a week of it.

Has it got an Irish release date yet? I don’t know because we have to work out when it is going to be released in America. It probably won’t be this year. It will probably be February or March. It depends on how they decide to handle it in America. We’ll know after the weekend.

Caleb Landry Jones stars as Frank in ‘Byzantium’. He’s also just been cast in John Boorman’s next project ‘Broken Dream’, a science-fiction screenplay which you wrote with Boorman a number of decades ago. Yeah, that’s a script that I wrote with John years ago – 40 years ago now. Gosh! (Laughs) I don’t know. Caleb read about it on the internet and rang me up about it. He said that he wanted to give it a read and I said ‘look, it is John’s project. I’ve never owned it’. So he contacted John, and he liked it, you know. I don’t know though what’s happening with that, I’ve no idea but they announced it, didn’t they?

Yes they announced it in June. Moving on to ‘The Crying Game’, what’s your abiding memory of shooting ‘The Crying Game’ more than 20 years ago? It’s extreme poverty, you know! There was so little money to make that film that it was very, very difficult. I suppose it’s very hard to remember. There was a sense that we were doing something quite special in a way because of all the themes – the combination of politics and sexuality and gender issues, but it was really stripped down to a bone almost. What I do remember is how difficult it was to get it up off the ground.

That kind of independent filmmaking is presumably easier for you at this point in your career? No, no, no, no. In some ways independent films are even more poverty stricken these days than they were then, but my main memory of ‘The Crying Game’ is that it was a script that nobody wanted to make. If it wasn’t for the persistence of Stephen Woolley, the producer, it probably wouldn’t have been made.

Three of your last four films have been filmed here – ‘Byzantium’, ‘Ondine’ and ‘Breakfast on Pluto’ – what is it that you enjoy most about filming in Ireland? Well, I suppose I still live here. It would be a bit strange if I never wrote anything to do with here. It would be a bit odd. I could have moved to Hollywood years ago, and I did for a while. In terms of filming here, ‘Ondine’ was all about the landscape, pure and simple. It was about that little corner of the world, of the universe. It was about that and nothing else. ‘Breakfast on Pluto’ was about… well what I thought was lovely about the script, was the way that it told a certain truth about the 1970s that I remember very clearly - that sort of mad glamour and violence at the same time. ‘Byzantium’ is more like ‘Interview with The Vampire’ or ‘The Company of Wolves’. It’s a fantasy.

Finally Neil, with ‘Byzantium’ now completed what is your next project? Well I have a load of projects on the go and to be honest, I don’t know officially which will be next.

View a gallery of images from 'The Crying Game' IFTA event here

‘Byzantium’ will receive its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this Sunday (September 9).

Written by Moira Buffini, the feature was directed by Jordan and shot in Ireland using Ardmore Studios. It stars Saoirse Ronan (Hanna) and Gemma Arterton (Quantum of Solace). The feature was a co-production between American company Demarest Films, Number9 Films in the UK and Irish company Parallel Films.

The film was produced by Stephen Wooley (Perrier’s Bounty), Elizabeth Karlsen, Sam Englebardt (Diary of the Dead), Alan Moloney (Albert Nobbs) and William D. Johnson (Rits of Passage). Oscar-nominated Irish producer Redmond Morris (The Reader) was a co-producer. ‘Byzantium’ received support from the Irish Film Board and UK Film Council.

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