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IFTN talks to ‘The Siege of Jadotville’ Actors Jason O’Mara & Sam Keeley
22 Sep 2016 : Deirdre Hopkins
The feature film debut from Richie Smyth hit the big screen in Ireland on Monday, September 19th and will release to Netflix on Friday, October 7th.

IFTN catches up with Irish talents Jason O’Mara (Wakefield) who plays Sgt. Jack Prendergast, and Sam Keeley (Anthropoid) who portrays Bill the sniper.

They talk us through how they became involved in the project, the legacy of the Irish soldiers who fought at Jadotville and the complexity of shooting such destructive battle scenes.

IFTN: How did you get involved with the project?

Following an initial meeting with Alan Maloney of Parellel Films and a Skype meeting with Director Richie Smyth, O’Mara became tied to the role of Sgt. Jack Prendergast. He states the character’s role evolved as the script developed, with moments presenting themselves for Sgt. Prendergast even throughout filming.

O’Mara: “There is a lot of passion behind it. Everyone got involved because they believed in it, and in the story, and also believed that these men deserved more recognition than they got. That was driving it all the way through, in the sense of passion and pride as well.”

IFTN: Tell us about working with Richie Smyth on his debut feature

Keeley: “We had a two-week boot camp stint where we all gelled together as a unit, learned how to fire guns and move like soldiers. That was really important. With Richie, you wouldn’t think it was his first film, he handled it with such ease.”

O’Mara echoes this and gives particular praise to the highly complex action sequences.

IFTN: Filming in South Africa must have been a bonding experience

O’Mara: “We were really out in a field, in the middle of nowhere. The town of Jadotville was three quarters built by the time we got there to do boot camp and it was finished on our first day of filming. We destroyed it over the next eight weeks!”

O’Mara also tells us there are extraordinary stories behind some of the props used in filming. A machine gun he fired throughout the battle scenes was actually used in the 1961 siege, for instance.

IFTN: Was it filmed sequentially?

While some dramatic scenes could be manipulated by shooting in certain directions when needed, Keeley tells us the majority of the action scenes had to be shot in sequence in order to reflect the damage done to the set throughout the battle.

An exception to this is the prison scene in the closing minutes of the film, which posed an issue to the team in terms of knowing exactly how to present costumes and makeup without having filmed the battle scenes. Watch the full interview below.

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