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DoP Seamus Deasy talks John Boorman’s ‘Queen and Country’ – in cinemas June 12
11 Jun 2015 : Seán Brosnan
‘Queen and Country’ is Deasy’s sixth film working with filmmaker John Boorman
With John Boorman’s ‘Queen and Country’ released to cinemas this week (June 12), IFTN caught up with cinematographer Seamus Deasy to talk about his work on the film and working with the very distinguished auteur Boorman for the sixth time.

Having worked on past Boorman pictures such as ‘The General’ and ‘The Tiger’s Tail’ (the latter winning him an IFTA Award) – Deasy re-united with the filmmaker for ‘Queen and Country’ – the sequel to Boorman’s auto-biographical film ‘Hope and Glory’ which was nominated for five Oscars in 1988.

Here, Deasy talks ‘Queen and Country’, happy directors, being a Boorman stalwart and new film ‘My Name is Emily’.

IFTN: ‘Queen and Country’ is of course the follow-on to the fantastic ‘Hope and Glory’ – was John eager to make this a stand-alone film in terms of the look or did he want to keep consistencies with the 1987 film (shot by Philippe Rousselot)?

Seamus Deasy: ‘I think ‘Hope and Glory’ is probably one of his best films, if not his best. Because there is 10 years in the difference when ‘Queen and Country’ is set, it’s not a sequel as such but other than that its’ the same characters. ‘Hope and Glory’ was a very big-budget film whereas we had a relatively small budget – as well as that the last film was shot on film and this one was digital - but we did look at the original film and tried to match it as best we could.’

A film as personal as this was obviously gestating with John for a while, how early did you come in on the project?

‘Well, John would always have at half a dozen scripts on the go at one time [laughs]. In the end, this one happened quite quickly. There was another film of his that I thought was far more likely to happen and then out of the blue – I mean almost three months before we started shooting – I got the call for this – I mean I knew of the project but I didn’t realize it was going to happen so quickly.’

How long was the shoot altogether?

‘It was a seven week shoot – a week in London and six weeks in Romania.’

And what did you shoot with?

‘We shot it on the Arri Alexa Digital Camera – definitely the industry standard now for digital shooting.’

When we spoke to composer Stephen McKeon, he spoke of the many references within the music to past movies of John’s in this film – did the camerawork contain these references too?

‘Most of John’s films would have a lot of references to water and this wasn’t any different. I have made six films now with John. Apart from chatting about the look beforehand and how we are going to go about it – we have that kind of relationship where we work very closely together- my intention with every director is to give them exactly what they want - after all its’ their film so whatever they ask for I try to achieve or get as close to it as possible with the facilities provided.’

This was of course different to any other project you have worked on with John as it was a semi-autobiographical account of a period of his life – did that make his approach any different?

‘Yeah, it’s the only autobiographical film I have done with him and he will tell you that it is very auto-biographical – I think the only exaggeration was that Ophelia was a member of the royal family which in reality she wasn’t – but there was a very similar girl in his life.’

Your choices have been quite diverse and eclectic over the past 7 or 8 years – ‘Triage’, ‘A Film With Me In It’, ‘Perrier’s Bounty’ and ‘Queen and Country’ are all very different films – do you feel the need to stamp your mark into these films or is it always what the director wants?

‘I do what’s best for the director but I do stamp my own mark on it too. I have a style but I would like to think I am reasonably flexible too – after all every film is the director’s film.’

With the very acclaimed projects I just mentioned under your belt, do you find yourself very selective now with scripts?

‘It depends – if you have three or four scripts in front of you then you can be selective but that doesn’t happen very often [laughs]. But if you’re out of work and you only have one script, then it’s a bit harder to be selective! I joke that I never read a bad script until I didn’t get the job! You read a script and you see things in it and you hope that if you get the job that it will be as good as you hope. Not always the case of course but you have to work.’

You have worked on Simon Fitzmaurice’s ‘My Name is Emily’ which is gaining buzz ahead of its’ premiere at the Galway Film Fleadh – what can you tell us about that?

‘I am absolutely delighted to have worked on that and that is another film that is very much the director’s film. The danger with Simon because of his condition (Motor Neuron Disease) was that people would just do things the way they thought it should be done or whatever. But I made the decision very early on that this was his film and even though there were difficulties communicating, we worked out a way to communicate so that this was very much his project. Even down to compositions from time to time, he would be in his tent and word would come that he wanted to pan left or pan right or whatever and we would go with it. This project was in his head for such a long time and I think it is a fantastic achievement - a really nice film. I saw a test screening of it two weeks ago and I am very pleased with it.’

What else do you have in the pipeline then?

‘I just finished a film in Galway entitled ‘Country Woman’ (Telegael) about the Kerry babies case in 1984 and that’s being edited at the moment. I think it will be a good film – it’s an incredible story. I do lots of documentaries and I am heading off to Germany on July 1 as part of a documentary I am working on and I will also working on a documentary on the Blasket Islands too for TG4.’

‘Queen & Country’ is in cinemas on Friday. July 12.

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