‘Sing Street’ opened in Irish cinemas this month to rave reviews, the film tells the story of Conor, a teenage boy who sets up a band to impress a girl, with the hope she will star in their music videos. Taking advice from his older brother, Conor goes on an odyssey of musical discovery, all while feeling the rush of first love. While they were back in Ireland for the festival, we caught up with the two young stars of ‘Sing Street’ – Ferdia Walsh-Peelo and Lucy Boynton – to find out more about this uplifting, joyful film.
Fredia, you have a background in music, was this part of the reason you wanted to do the film?
Ferdia Walsh-Peelo: Yeah the music, and the character of Conor is so great as well. I mean, it relates to me on such a personal level as well. I was 14 when I shot it and I have two older brothers, so that relationship in the film… There’s just lots of personal things in ‘Sing Street’.
Lucy, who doesn’t want to be a muse?
Lucy Boynton: Rafina is such a fantastic role, and such a unique role. Being able to play that side of it – the glamorous muse – but also someone who’s so dark and hurt and vulnerable… Getting to play that contrast in the same character was so exciting. It’s such a feel good film, and a great comedy…
What was the audition process like for you both?
LB: Mine wasn’t quite as heroic as his… Five hours queuing…
FW-P: I wasn’t already a superstar like Lucy, so I had to queue up! [laughs] I queued at an open casting where they were just auditioning everybody who wanted to audition, in Dublin city centre. There was such a big queue and I turned to my Mum and I said “Will we leave it?” and she was like “We will not!”. I queued for something like five hours. I had a great time everyone was great; from that moment onwards it was the kick off. I made so many friends from that point onwards. I was recalled then a few times, at one point I was in Spain when I got called and that’s when I flew over and auditioned with Lucy, and before I knew it I was on set with a camera in my face, not knowing what I was doing. [laughs]
LB: I sent self tapes, and John [Carney] would then send feedback with tweaks. My main thing was convincing him I wasn’t too old for the role. Thankfully he came around.
Did you know John Carney’s previous films, ‘Begin Again’ and ‘Once’?
LB: ‘Begin Again’ actually came out the summer that we were auditioning, so during the process. I saw it and I was like “Dammit, now I really have to get this role!”, so that was a bit of added inspiration.
FW-P: I have always been a fan of ‘Once’ since a young age; since I was able to see it. It was great working with him, he’s done so much; he’s done that thing of playing in a band, he’s played in The Frames, he’s got a great past. He’s a cool guy.
How much of the 80s music featured in the film – A-Ha, Duran Duran, Hall & Oates – did you know before you started work on the film?
FW-P: It was more just the amazing original soundtrack in the film…
LB: That was more what we were aware of during the filming of it.
FW-P: There are a few tunes that were thrown into it in the editing room, like the Duran Duran tunes, and there are loads of references, but the main thing is the brilliant original soundtrack.
The songs in the film are so good, do you have a favourite?
LB: I love ‘To Find You’, the slow song. That breaks my heart every time.
FW-P: ‘Riddle of a Model’ is great fun. ‘To Find You’ is a gorgeous song actually, that’s definitely one of the best songs in the film.
Did you have a favourite one to perform
FW-P: In the movie they were all great fun to perform, we had so much fun with ‘Riddle of a Model’. All those music videos… Performing all those songs was fun, but I just remember especially on ‘Riddle of a Model’, we were down this alley in Phisborough and John was going around with these tiny hand-held cameras – literally from the 80s – and we were shooting terrible shaky shots of us. It was such a fun day.
How did you prepare for the film, other than learning the songs, did you watch anything in particular? There is a feel of a John Hughes movie about ‘Sing Street’…
FW-P: Yeah, it has that heart! John Hughes has it in his movies; you get that kind of thing in ‘Back to the Future’ and ‘The Goonies’ and stuff. They’re these big heartfelt movie that is really inspiring in some ways, and ‘Sing Street’ has that as well.
LB: There were different influences for different bits of the film. For example, this film has been compared to ‘The Commitments’ a lot, and I understand that. In ‘The Commitments’ it feel like you are just getting a glimpse of these well rounded characters, which is what we wanted for this film as well. When we were getting to know each other in the rehearsal period we watched a couple of Wes Anderson films, for that upbeat timing, the quick back and forth.
FW-P: …Which we did a lot of in the film.
The film is full of energy, was it like that on set?
LB: It really was, and I think that comes from a crew and a cast that all want to be there. They all loved the script; it was a passion for everyone involved. Going to work every day with that in mind, you can’t help but have that infectious energy. It makes such a difference when you come to work loving your job, and John’s energy is totally infectious. He’s a mad genius.
Lucy, you are English, but you have an Irish accent in the film, how challenging was it to get this right?
LB: It was such a point of stress during filming I was like “Someone’s going to pick up on something”… During the audition process, [in] the first tape my accent was just awful, so during those few months of auditioning I made sure to get it better and better. I watched a bunch of Irish films and I watched a lot of interviews with Irish actors, then also being on set surrounded by an Irish cast and crew… If there was a word or a phrase I couldn’t quite get my head around I had a huge variety of people around me. The thing with Raphina’s accent was that we didn’t want to make it too specific to an area, because the whole thing about Raphina is that you shouldn’t be able to pinpoint her.
Ferdia, you character changes the way he dresses several times depending on what he is listening to. Which was your favourite?
FW-P: I can’t choose, they’re all so much fun! I love the ones that were really stupid and didn’t look good, like the blonde hair. The ‘The Cure’ one was one of my favourite looks, it was cool, but maybe it was a bit too cool; I liked it when he just looked crap. [laughs] I love the Bowie look at the end; it’s really quirky.
What do you hope audiences take from the film?
LB: The main thing that you hope the audience gets is that you can take them on that journey, so they feel all of the highs and they get the comedy and they leave feeling good, but that they also appreciate all of the darker moments, all of the more poignant moments.
Ferdia, do you want to stick with acting?
FW-P: Yeah, absolutely. I love it. it’s something I have been doing for the past year now. I’m just going for it. I’m waiting for the right roles, and that can be tricky. I have so many options; music is something I want to do as well. I just have so many options. I’m in a great position.
And Lucy, what’s next for you?
LB: I’ve just finished a film called ‘Let Me Go’, we just wrapped in Vienna last week. I have got a film called ‘February’ coming out later this year, and another film called ‘Don’t Knock Twice’ coming out after that.
Words: Brogen Hayes
‘Sing Street’ is now showing in Irish cinemas