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Five Minutes With… Richard Dormer, star of ‘Good Vibrations’ out in cinemas this Friday 29th March.
26 Mar 2013 : By Kevin Cronin
Richard Dormer as Terri Hooley in Good Vibrations
Currently surfing a wave of critical acclaim for his portrayal of legendary Belfast rock-music guru Terri Hooley in ‘Good Vibrations’, Richard Dormer is an actor brimming with as much personality in real life as his onscreen counterpart.

Winner of the Best Irish Feature award at the Galway Film Fleadh, ‘Good Vibrations’ presents Terri’s true story of punk-rock rebellion as he opens a record shop and launches his own label against the backdrop of the Troubles in 1978 Belfast.

Ahead of the movie’s long-awaited release this Friday, the Armagh actor met IFTN at the Light House cinema and discussed what it was like playing such a larger-than-life character; his joyous experience making ‘Good Vibrations’; and his upcoming role as a ‘Robin Hood’ type warrior in season 3 of HBO’s fantasy epic Game of Thrones.

Mr Dormer, Terri is an incredibly charismatic character in the film. What appealed to you most about portraying him onscreen? His optimism and his effervescence! His joy of life! I really think it’s nice to see a character in a film that is so optimistic and fun-loving. Terri brought people together during the Troubles and I think it’s only in hindsight that we can recognise that. At the time people just thought he was helping kids – by buying them instruments and getting them to form bands - but looking back on it, he probably stopped a lot of those kids getting involved in political organisations. I think he probably did a lot more for hundreds of teenagers at the time in Belfast, Protestant and Catholic alike, than a lot of the politicians did.

What was it like recreating the punk-rock scene in Belfast in the 1970s with the retro costumes, hair styles and period detail? It was just brilliant. You don’t get to do that every day. I was a kid back then and I didn’t really take much in, but in a way it was kind of an innocent time. I remember holding the old vinyl records and thinking there’s actually music in this! You look at the little lines and realise that there’s actually music recorded in them. It was a magical time, I think.

Has any part of playing Terri changed your own outlook and is there anything you took away from playing the part? I think a greater appreciation of music and a sense of optimism, and in every bad situation to be able to find the good in it. Also to be thankful for the little things in life.

The film has been getting rave reviews, with film critic Mark Kermode particularly singing its praises. Are you very gratified by the response the film has received so far? Yes, when I saw the film I felt like the proud father seeing this beautiful little child kicking and screaming, making everyone smile and cry and laugh. It’s brilliant. I’m very proud of it. Even if people hated it, I’d still be deeply proud of it. It was a real group effort. Every single person involved in the film made that film what it is and we’re all equally overjoyed that’s it been received so well.

What was it like being directed by husband-and-wife Glenn Leyburn and Lisa Barros D’Sa in terms of the strengths they each brought to their respective roles? They’re a dynamic duo because Glenn’s history is as a graphic artist. He’s a great guy for setting up shots. He really knows his cinema. Lisa is very astute and empathetic. She’s great at working with actors. She has a great way of talking to you and eking out a performance. And the two of them work very well together. It’s seamless and they complement each other perfectly.

How did you get on with your co-star Jodie Whittaker? Ah, Jodie’s lovely. She’s very funny, charming and talented and was a joy to work with. She was very grounding as well because my character was so effervescent, with his head in the clouds, and she was like an anchor and played the part of Ruth beautifully. There is a real love between the two characters.

Did you have a favourite scene to film? The last scene as it’s not often you get to sing in front of 2,000 people. I was thinking ‘wow, this is rock n roll!’ I was singing as Terri and Terri can’t really sing, so it was more like shouting.

Regarding Game of Thrones, you are undoubtedly bound by confidentiality agreements with HBO not to reveal any spoilers, but is there anything you can tell us about your character Beric Dondarrion? He’s a kind of Robin Hood character. He’s another bearded one-eyed man, strangely enough! He’s an honourable man who tries to do the right thing and who believes in protecting the poor and the weak with his group ‘The Brotherhood Without Banners’ - made up of men who have left their different factions and come to join him. He basically fights for good in a very dark world, in which Winter is Coming. Together with another character called Thoros of Myr, they lead these men against tyranny and darkness.

Did you have to learn sword skills for the fight scenes? I certainly did! I can’t say too much but suffice it to say there’s a pretty epic battle between myself and the Hound, which has been hinted at in the trailer so I can say that. You’ve already seen the glimpses.

How intimidating a character was the Hound to fight against? Terrifying! All 20 stone and nearly seven feet of him. He’s a huge guy. He’s a lovely guy too, Rory. But if you saw him coming at you in full armour, screaming, you’d still be pretty terrified.

What was the experience like filming Game of Thrones in Northern Ireland? Very hot! It was around 45 degrees because we filmed it in a cave which was filled with bonfires. I’ve got a flaming sword and we’ve got heavy armour and we’re fighting. It was a very sweaty time but it was all worth every second.

Are you prepared for the global fame that will come with being in Game of Thrones? I don’t know. It’s weird. I think as an actor you just go from one thing to the next and these things catch up with you. I did Game of Thrones a year ago and Good Vibrations we finished filming a year and a half ago. These things keep coming back.

What’s the next major project you’re most excited about? I’ve got a play starting in the Abbey theatre that I’ve written called ‘Drum Belly’. It’s set during the Apollo 11 Moon landings, in Brooklyn, New York, in 1969, and it’s a gangster story about the Irish American mafia. The play opens on 5th April and runs to 11th May.

‘Good Vibrations’ opens in cinemas this Friday 29th March.

Game of Thrones season 3 premieres on Sky Atlantic HD on 1st April.

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