24 July 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network
Actor Barry Ward talks to IFTN at the Galway Film Fleadh
15 Jul 2015 : Seán Brosnan
Barry Ward in ‘Blood Cells’
IFTN were at the Galway Film Fleadh last week where they caught up with Barry Ward, lead actor of ‘Pursuit’ and ‘Blood Cells’ which both screened at the festival.

Ward is perhaps best known to Irish audiences for his acclaimed performance (in his first lead film role) in Ken Loach’s period drama ‘Jimmy’s Hall’ – a film that is still doing the rounds internationally and is currently on limited release in the US.

Starring in very central roles in two completely different films at the Fleadh – British film ‘Blood Cells’ is a haunting psychological tale about a man on the outskirts of society while ‘Pursuit’ is a balls to the wall action-centric re-imagining of the Diarmuid and Grainne tale – it was no surprise to many that Ward was one of five nominees for the Bingham Ray New Talent Award at the festival.

Here, he talks to IFTN about the power of literature in understanding characters, his career before ‘Jimmy’s Hall’ and his very busy current schedule which includes projects such as ‘Shooting for Socrates’, ‘The Truth Commissioner’, ‘Rebellion’ and ‘Never Walk Alone’.

IFTN: First off, tell us about ‘Blood Cells’ – the evocative psychological British film from Joseph Bull and Luke Seomore that places you in the lead role of drifter Adam that has just screened here at the Fleadh….

Barry Ward:‘Blood Cells’ was a project I had been working on for two years – two of my friends in London (Joseph Bull and Luke Seomore) made it. We had made a few short pieces of work together and music videos and stuff like that and they came to me with this idea that they had been working on for a while and they thought I would be good for the lead. And I was delighted because it was my first ever lead in a movie. It was before ‘Jimmy’s Hall’ but then it was a case of funding so I did ‘Jimmy’s Hall’ in the meantime. They then got funding – we made it for £200k, they initially wanted £1million I think - but we got offered that and we said that would probably work so they did fantastically well to do it on that – they had to call in a lot of favours.’

Can you tell us a little about how you got into the headspace of Adam – a very psychologically damaged and lost individual?

‘Yeah, Adam is a very damaged person- he’s a drifter who exists on the margins of society and is heavily dependent on alcohol. For any character I always look to literature for inspiration and for this I read all about despair and existentialism. I found Kierkegaard (19th century Danish philosopher and author Søren Kierkegaard) to be particularly helpful with that. I was also reading psychology books and I found a great poem by Ted Hughes called Existentialist Song which was kind of a great summation of that frame of mind. I also had a copy of Hamlet in my pocket the entire time. It’s about procrastinating and was kind of apt for this as Adam was constantly putting off going home.’

Did you read Hamlet then or procrastinate on it?

[laughs] Oh, I read it! Well, I was dipping into specific speeches to help me with the character but I had read it before.’

Paul Mercier’s ‘Pursuit’ also screened at Galway this year then – another film that places you in the lead but a completely different kettle of fish to ‘Blood Cells’…

‘Pursuit’ was such a great film to work on – it was brilliant fun. I probably haven’t watched an action movie since Arnold Schwarzenegger’s heyday so I really didn’t think I would be into it but I loved it. I got to drive fast cars and shoot guns – it was fantastic! And of course working with Paul Mercier and actors I admire like Ruth Bradley, Liam Cunningham, Brendan Gleeson and Dara Devaney was great too. It’s just a mad film – action from beginning to end – and it was great to work on.’

Two lead roles this year – you are not doing too badly considering Ken Loach’s ‘Jimmy’s Hall’ – your first lead role – only got released last year and is still doing the rounds in the US – how much does that film mean to you now looking back?

‘Before ‘Jimmy’s Hall’ nobody would touch me I couldn’t get a film role to save my life. I was doing a lot of theatre but I wanted to get into film for ages. With ‘Blood Cells’, it was mates that came along and said they wanted me to be the lead but these things so often fall by the wayside so I wasn't putting all my eggs in that basket even though it was a big confidence boost. I then found myself auditioning for Ken Loach.’

‘Jimmy’s Hall’ gave me my career. As a struggling actor, you can have confidence lows and general mental well-being lows but for someone like Ken Loach to come along and give you a seal of approval is very validating. It was such a great part and I was so f**king confident going into it because no-one gives a bad performance for Ken Loach – he doesn’t let it happen. I had total faith in his methods so I was like “this is great, I am just going to let this happen here”. I wasn’t nervous one bit.’

Following hot on the heels of ‘Jimmy’s Hall’ then was Northern Irish soccer film ‘Shooting for Socrates’ which was released to cinemas in June – what can you tell us about that?

Yeah, I did that immediately afterwards and that was kind of a dream job in a lot of respects because football is such a big passion of mine and I got to play Northern Irish striker Jimmy Quinn. So, I was kind of living the dream – I was getting paid to play football!’

And just touching the tip of the iceberg of what you have coming up then – tell us about ‘The Truth Commissioner’ which shot in Belfast and Dublin earlier this year?

‘I was really excited by that script because it was kind of an old fashioned political thriller that don’t really get made anymore. There’s a great team behind it so when this script came along I was really excited and I got to team up with Simone Kirby again who I had worked with on ‘Jimmy’s Hall’.

Having such eclectic roles ahead of you such as five part 1916 drama ‘Rebellion’ (currently filming) and Deadpan’s soccer comedy ‘Never Walk Alone’ – is there any career strategizing involved now – do you think “well I have done this so I should now do this” or is it just taking the scripts as they come?

‘Not really, I am just so delighted to be working after wanting it for so long! Whatever is there I am going to seriously consider doing it if I am available! I do look for the good things that are appealing but I am very aware that not every script is going to tick every box. So, no there would be absolutely no strategy involved – maybe I should start actually! [laughs].’

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