We caught up with Brendan Gleeson to talk about his latest movie

Irish actor Brendan Gleeson is having a very busy 2014. He popped up opposite Tom Cruise in summer blockbuster ‘Edge Of Tomorrow’. His Irish movie ‘Calvary’, where Gleeson plays a priest given a short time to live was a smash hit at the box office and this month see’s him work opposite Taylor Kitsch on ‘The Grand Seduction’. We caught up with him earlier in the year at an advance screening in Dublin to talk about the new movie.

How were you seduced by ‘The Grand Seduction’?
There was a long history to it. Initially, there was an Irish producer on board. The first I heard of it, I was sent the French version, the story itself was interesting, but I felt you had to be really careful with it; it could either be really twee and patronising if you weren’t careful, or it could be a great laugh if you got it right. It kind of followed me around and at one stage I was saying ‘I wonder if we would be able to do it in Ireland’ but it would have been really difficult to do without getting paddywhackery going. I was probably wrong in that, because someone from the island communities told me that it’s really difficult to get a doctor to stay. I was over in Montreal and Don McKellar was suddenly on board and I went to meet him, I got really enthusiastic about what it could be, so we said ‘let’s do it’. We squished it in…. ‘Calvary’ was happening anyway, and I had just finished ‘The Smurfs 2′- where I was a duck and all that stuff – I was looking forward to getting home and getting set up for ‘Calvary’, but we squished it in.

Although it’s set in Newfoundland, the film feels as though it could be the story of Ireland’s economic woes. Was this something that appealed to you as well?
Yeah, it was all very identifiable, but I did feel like it wouldn’t be right telling that story in Ireland, because you can get on a Ryanair flight and go to London, and there are all sorts of connections… Even the Aran Islands have a plane that goes over and back. I just didn’t feel right translating it all the way over to the Irish scene; there were too many things that were not quite right.

Murray felt like a bit of a rogue, albeit a harmless one. Did you use Irish roguery as a jumping off point for the character?
[laughs] Yeah! If you go to anywhere that is challenged by nature and its own isolation. It’s not exclusively Irish, there is always roguery involved with people who are trying to outwit nature, and you are trying to be smart about how you get through the storm. I felt it was definitely something that was there, but Gordon Pinsent isn’t Irish, so he was doing his own little bit of roguery [laughs]

What was it like to work in such a remote part of the world?
Newfoundland is just amazing. I got really fond of the people. They are kind of like we were about 30 or 40 years ago; there’s a kindness and simplicity to the way they deal with people. It’s not that they are simple people, they are totally complex people. It’s just easy. They treat you well on the understanding that you won’t be an idiot about it. It’s beautiful.

There’s a huge Irish connection with Newfoundland…
BG: Massive, yeah.

They spoke Newfoundland Irish there until fairly recently, was that something you were aware of when you were trying to get the accent right?
BG: Yeah it was, and actually where we shot was a bit weird. It was up Trinity Bay they are more like the West Country. Every bay is different, and even within families sometimes… The road networks were very limited up until maybe 60 years ago. Everything was the sea, and so communities had their own integrity and the accents stayed totally the same, but they really vary. Where we were – in Trinity Bay – had the more English accent, I think there are about 187 different viable dialects in Newfoundland and now there are 188! [laughs] In the end, I knew how I was talking, and I just hope it doesn’t wreck their heads over there, but there is such a variety about how they speak.

Words – Brogen Hayes
THE GRAND SEDUCTION is at Irish cinemas from August 29th