26 November 2020 The Irish Film & Television Network
IFTN talks to ‘Maudie’ Director Aisling Walsh
09 Sep 2016 : Katie McNeice
From the multi-award winning ‘Song for a Raggy Boy’ to BBC’s ‘An Inspector Calls’ and ‘A Poet in New York’, Walsh has established herself as a leading Irish talent in film and television alike.

Her latest project ‘Maudie’ starring Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke is one of eight Irish titles screening at TIFF 2016, having just enjoyed a hugely positive response at Telluride.

IFTN catches up with Walsh on what inspired her to portray the life of Maud Lewis on screen, her dual career in both film and TV and her upcoming screening at TIFF 2016.

IFTN: How did you come to tell the story of Maud Lewis?

Walsh tells us she is formally trained as a painter and always wanted to make a film on the life of an artist. Once she read the script for ‘Maudie’, which was penned by Canadian screenwriter Sherry White (Relative Happiness), she became immediately drawn to the project.

IFTN: You’ve worked with Sally Hawkins before on ‘Fingersmith’. Did you always have her in mind for the role?

With absolute certainty Walsh says Hawkin’s name was the first she wrote down to portray the iconic figure of Maud Lewis. Having outlined the story to the actress and shared the script, Hawkins called to confirm her interest in the role a week later.

Hawkins’ previous collaboration with Walsh as Sue Trinder in period TV drama ‘Fingersmith’ alongside Irish talent Elaine Cassidy is drastically different from the recent ‘Maudie’. Walsh praises the 40 year-old actress’ ability to immerse herself in her respective roles, with her portrayal of arthritic Maud Lewis already earning her acclaim at the project’s recent Telluride screening.  

“Sally can transform herself utterly when she takes on a role,” says Walsh, “She becomes it. That has been one of the most incredible things about this project.”

IFTN: What was your experience of shooting in Newfoundland, Canada and do you have any further plans for co-productions?

“We did shoot in Newfoundland, which is such a different place. There are so many Irish people here. Irish is in the soul and the land of it. It’s rather an extraordinary thing to be able to do, and that is how we are able to make these films.”

She tells us ‘Maudie’ initially started as a Canadian project, with the funding parties coming to her and the project eventually reaching Parallel Film Productions as well. Walsh states she doesn’t know if the project would have been completed if it were not for the collaboration between Ireland and Canada, with co-production treaties really keeping these independent films alive. On the prospect of further co-productions, her enthusiasm is clear.

IFTN: Can you tell us how your experience of directing for film compares to television, and how you have come to work in both?

Walsh tells us she was the first Irish student to graduate from National Film School in Beaconsfield in the 1980s. Around this time she wrote and directed one of her first short films ‘Hostage’ (1985) and later went on to helm ‘Joyriders’ (1988).

It was not a particularly good time to break into the film industry at the time she says, as there were not many women directing.

“I don’t see a huge difference. Although TV may be on a smaller scale it is still a craft. I can’t wait five years between projects, for my soul. I need to keep working on projects and with actors.”  

Walsh’s credits include a wealth of television projects including ‘An Inspector Calls’ and ‘A Poet in New York’, of which she is incredibly proud. To work in television at the top level of BBC in particular, has been an honour for the director.

She says the gap which has existed between film and television for directors, preventing them from moving between the two, has also started to disappear.

The interesting thing about working in television at the moment she tells us, is how it continues to grow. ‘Maudie’ took thirteen years to come to fruition for instance, while her feature film ‘Song For a Raggy Boy’ took a decade to complete, in a way making it almost a life’s work.

IFTN: What does it mean to head to Toronto with such a strong Irish line-up behind you?

Walsh tells us she has a lot of friends there at the moment, which makes such a huge difference. Hawke and Hawkins will also be in attendance for the screening of ‘Maudie’ next Monday September 12th, with the project team incredibly excited for the days ahead. She tells it is a good time for Irish film, which continues to go from strength to strength since last year. 

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