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The Double-Bill Of Andie McCaffrey Byrne
07 Nov 2014 : Paul Byrne
With not one but two films hitting this autumn's Cork film festival frenzy, actress Andie McCaffrey Byrne is on the rise.

Typical - you wait years for a career-defining film, and then two come along at once.

Actually, in the case of Irish actress Andie McCaffrey Byrne, make that three. With Gerard Walsh’s ‘A Day Like Today’ premiering at the IndieCork Film Festival last month and Paco Torres’ ‘Saol’ arriving four weeks later, on November 14th, at the Cork Film Festival, which starts today, the Dublin-born actress also has writer/director Jeff Doyle’s ‘Jack And Ralph Plan A Murder’ heading our way this year.

It’s hardly surprising then that the rising young actress should be in a somewhat playful mood when she caught up with IFTN’s Paul Byrne...

PAUL BYRNE: It’s a busy time for you right now, with both ‘A Day Like Today’ and ‘Saol’ hitting Cork - excited and delighted, or just another day at the office?

ANDIE MCCAFFREY BYRNE: Oh, excited and delighted, of course, for both films. Don't mention the word office though, you'll give me flashbacks of sitting at a desk all day years ago, which was torturous. I'm quite hyper, so I probably resembled a bluebottle in a jar! But the Cork Premiere for ‘A Day Like Today’ is a little bit special though. Especially with the subject matter. It took me a while - and a lot of red nail polish - to shake off the character of Alice afterwards. She would be the total opposite of me in almost every way, and to have to be that vulnerable within the character I knew would prove to be a challenge - which was exciting for me.

‘A Day Like Today’ has a lot of fun with the two-hander set-up - those long takes are like music, and you have to be in tune with your fellow actor, Paul Butler Lennox, throughout. A joy, I presume...?

Oh, a joy is right, we sang and danced between takes. Actually, there was a lot of Cockney accent competitions too. I won, by the way. Paul and I had actually only met once before I auditioned, so we didn't know one another at all. Once I was cast, Ger wanted to have a weeks rehearsal, which I was a little apprehensive about. I like to work fresh and in the moment. This must be some sort of hangover from my comedy improv days. But we did hit it off straight away; we're both from similar backgrounds and the slagging was flying, which helped. No better way to get to know somebody than slag the life out of them. Ultimately, there was a lot of trust there between us. Paul is an experienced actor and is not afraid to improvise, which was great for me, and we both had very similar approaches in the way we work, which was great. Do I speak to him now though? Not a chance!

Nice quote at the start of the movie: “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey”. Believe in the Stephen Hawkins’ credo?

Depends where you are going, and who you are with, in my experience.

How did you come to ‘A Day Like Today’? The traditional audition route?

I was invited by Paul to audition by email. I was actually shooting a feature film around the corner so I nearly didn't go. I was working with a stunt guy all day learning how to fall, and had been flung around like a rag doll. Do you know how hard it is to fall? But I clicked with Ger straight away - you know that feeling like you know somebody already. So we improvised some scenes, myself and Paul, and chatted about the script, and the character, for a long while. So, I must have done something right, as he rang me the next day to offer me the part.

It’s a first-time feature for Gerard Walsh, after last year’s short,’ Is This It?’ - complete trust, or do you have to look after no.1 first and foremost?

I had seen Ger's other short, Bound, and I just loved everything about it. The way it was just shot, so beautifully, the dialogue, I just knew I could work with him. On Day 1 we shot from 5am till, I think, 8pm and we pushed for an 11am start the next day instead of 8am. So, we may have took advantage a little. I think next time he'll be like, “No!”. But I feel complete trust is imperative once you're on the same page. Ger is very open to actors’ suggestions, and it felt very collaborative in that way. I believe he has a really distinctive style and voice in the kind of stories he wants to tell, and he knows exactly what he wants in a scene. Just don't trust him to give you directions to, like, anywhere!

You changed your name from Andrea McCaffrey to Andie McCaffrey Byrne - clashing with another Andrea, or just prefer the sound of your new moniker?

Well, I got married, so Byrne is my married name, and my acting teacher Vinny Murphy started calling me Andie way back when, so I did a couple of films and in the credits I was Andie, so I suppose it just stuck. I was too greedy to give up the maiden name, so here I am, all double-barrelled up.

Can you tell us a little bit about ‘Saol’, in which you play, handily enough, a woman called Andie who, according to the occasionally accurate IMDB is ‘trapped in her own life’...?

I actually play the social worker attempting to help Chelsea, the lead character, who is trapped in her own life. ‘Saol’ was shot in 14 hours and was fully improvised with no script. As you can imagine, it was intense, two takes, no more, and my scene is, I recently discovered, the longest in the film, at 7 minutes. I might have to slap people in the cinema if they doze off. This was a really great, mad, intense way to work. Paco Torres, the director, knew what he wanted, and we had one rehearsal, which was amazing. Paco is Spanish, and is so passionate about film, it was infectious. I did use my three words of Spanish constantly around him - ‘Ola’, ‘Adious’... You get the picture.

And let’s not forget about ‘Jack And Ralph Plan A Murder’, another 2014 release from Andie McCaffrey Byrne - do you know where and when Jeff Doyle’s latest is going to be unleashed?

‘Jack and Ralph’ was the most insane shoot I have ever been on. I was cast as Paula, a girl who worked in a pharmacy, a description which was replaced by director Jeff Doyle’s simple message ‘See you in Sexual Paradise at 10.30 tonight’ the morning of the shoot. What?! ‘Oh yeah, did I not tell you that?’ So, we shot the scene in a sex shop, and I was upgraded to goth, which was great as I look totally different, and it was hilarious being on that set. I haven't actually seen the film yet, so am looking forward to seeing it in Cork at the festival.

Where did the acting bug come from?

Well, I was one of those Tap Dancing Annies-in-the-school-play-aged-9 type of kids. I realised whilst shooting a short in May that the location of the Old John Player factory that I'd been actually on that same stage when I was 5. That was a really kind of nice feeling to be in there. Coupled with the realisation that it's always been there, the bug. I could actually remember the smell of the place before going on stage as a kid - how weird is that? Or maybe it was just the smell of damp? Beautiful - that'll take you back to the Eighties alright.

And where did Andie McCaffrey Byrne come from? And when? Nothing on IMDB...

I came like Superman from another planet, and my parents found me in a field and I......Tallaght. I'm from Tallaght, which, in fairness, is producing some pretty great actors at the moment.

Would you feel part of the Irish film industry, or would you rather be an international player, just like that McDonagh lad...?

Ireland has so many great things happening. ‘Love/Hate’, for one, which I pop up in soon - shamesless plug alert - and which was just amazing to be a part of. I don't focus too much on the industry, as such; I'm just looking for the next story, the next character, that grabs me, and won't let go. Having said that, there is not always enough work here to keep you going all year round. I'm great with accents and could do almost any, which has opened more doors for me, and I've been to London and back quite a few times now for auditions, and some pretty great meetings. That feels like the next step, so I'll be heading back over soon with my cockney accent award - take that, Paul Butler! - under my arm, and me Irish charm.

Where to next?

Well, Superman needed to go back to his own planet, and then saved the world. I'm thinking something along the same lines. Perfectly doable, I believe.

Paco Torres’ ‘Saol’ plays the Cork Film Festival November 14th [booking: http://www.corkfilmfest.org/2014/festival-events/saol/].




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