17 May 2022 The Irish Film & Television Network
Ireland's 'Million Dollar Baby' Brían F. O'Byrne
11 Feb 2005 :
Brían F. O'Byrne
Brían F. O'Byrne

IFTN talks to Irish actor Brían F. O'Byrne, the Cavan native who recently won a Tony Award for his role in the Broadway hit 'Frozen' and is currently starring alongside Clint Eastwood in the multi-Oscar nominated drama ‘Million Dollar Baby.’

Your role in ‘Million Dollar Baby’ as the Priest Father Horvak, is a small but significant part in guiding the emotion in the film. Can you describe the influence your character has on the story and Clint Eastwood’s character, Frankie Dunn?

He’s the only person that you see in the entire movie that Frankie opens up to and is able to show his vulnerability to.

How did you find working with Clint Eastwood first, as a director and second, as an actor?

It’s very difficult to know what he’s like as a director because he’s so laid back, even his acting is laid back. It was the most laid back film set that I have ever been on, in fact it was like you were just hanging out with Clint Eastwood, y’know?

Were you intimidated?

I wasn’t, because he is such a nice guy. Of course there were moments when the light might hit him and he would turn around and you would just be flooded with memories of seeing him as ‘Dirty Harry’ or be hit with the fact that “this is Clint Eastwood,” but no I wasn’t intimidated.

Did you spend time with any of the other actors Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman?

None at all. I have no idea who they are (laughs)

So you were only on set for four days?

Actually, I was really only on set for six hours, Clint is renowned for bringing in movies under budget and ahead of time. I started work at ten, had an hour lunch and I was finished at six thirty. Just one day!

Eastwood has described the scenes with your character as some of the most difficult for him to shoot, I understand he decided to do them without rehearsal and in one take, how did you find this way of working?

Yeah, he did an extraordinary thing when there was one very emotional scene where he didn’t rehearse it. He kinda blew me away because he went from zero to sixty immediately basically. He broke down and nailed it on the first take and then he did one more take exactly the same. I looked and there were people behind the camera who he has worked with for years and they were crying. I was blown away because I wasn’t anticipating what happened to happen, so that was extraordinary to be around.

How did you find Clints quick paced way of shooting?

You don’t realise it’s so quick because the notion of things happening quickly is when people are panicking. The only time you realise that is when people are going “c’mon c’mon we have to keep this going, get this done, lets keep moving locations!” That’s when you feel things are moving fast. With Clint, he’s just there, so you don’t feel like it's going quickly at all.

Clint Eastwood & Hilary Swank  
Eastwood & Swank
The implications of your character’s conversations with Frankie are quite important to the narrative development in the film, his character draws Frankie deep into his moral dilemma, did you feel any pressure with this weighty load to carry? I was doing a play at the time and I had just won a Tony Award the night before.
So I had to leave that, get on a plane and a few hours after that and be on set. Honestly, I was thinking about the play, I had to take off a few performances so I was mostly thinking about the play.

Critically, this is your most well received feature film, how much satisfaction do you get from this even though it was such a small part?

It’s nice, but its nothing got to do with me really. Y’know I would love to take credit for the success of ‘Million Dollar Baby’ but I think there are a few other people higher up in the poll. (laughs)

How did you get cast in this key role?

The casting director saw me in a play and also had cast me in Colin Tobin’s ‘Blackwater Lightship’. I put myself on tape because Clint doesn’t audition people face to face. He doesn’t meet them because he says that he likes actors so much that he would find it difficult for him not to give every actor he meets a part. So I went on tape and I guess he liked it.

How has winning the Tony Award in 2004 for ‘Frozen’ affected your career?

My price just went up (laughs)…I’d been nominated twice before and I think that being nominated is the real honour but people do treat you differently when you have actually won one. How has it affected my career? Well I think it’s too soon to tell right now.

You also play a priest in ‘Doubt’ your current Broadway role, how is that going?

Yeah it’s going well, we are on a move out to Broadway now. I have cornered the clerical market.

Playing a catholic priest on stage and the big screen, are you careful not to re-hash old stage-Irish clichés?

That’s for other people to decide, I should hope I am. Also, the character in ‘Doubt’ is an American.

How do you compare working on stage to film?

It’s an easier life working on film, but y’know stage is our medium whereas film is really a director and editors medium.

Would you like to spend more time working in Ireland?

It doesn’t bother me either way, it’s nice to come home to see family and friends but I go wherever the work is.

How much contact do you have with other Irish actors and industry professionals in the US?

Very little.

What’s next for you after ‘Doubt’?

Doubt will probably go in for a seven month run, that takes me up to November and I am in discussions for another play which will take me up to June of the following year. There are a couple of other things that might be happening as well, I’d say things are percolating.

‘Million Dollar Baby’ is currently showing in cinemas across Ireland.

View the Million Dollar Baby’ trailer (.mov)...Click Here

Film & TV Credits for Brían F. O'Byrne (aka Brian F. O'Byrne)
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
The Blackwater Lightship (2004)
Easy (2003)
Intermission (2003)
"Oz" (1997)
In an Instant (2001)
The Mapmaker (2001)
Bandits (2001)
Disco Pigs (2001)
The Grey Zone (2001)
An Everlasting Piece (2000)
"Amongst Women" (1998)
Electricity (1997)
The Fifth Province (1997)
The Last Bus Home (1997)
Avenue X (1994)

By Tanya Warren.

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