Pat Shortt is one of Ireland’s
most popular comedians. He’s one of the bubbliest personalities on television
and as a comedian is always in high demand. So it comes as a surprise to see
him star in the new Irish movie ‘Garage’, this film from the creators of 2004’s
‘Adam & Paul’ is a startling, hypnotic look at rural life in Ireland that
will shock you from start to finish.
An actor, comedian and writer, Pat first
came to attention as one of D’Unbelievables alongside Jon Kenny. Together they
performed their unique brand of comedy in theatres all over the world. They
produced four critically acclaimed and sell-out shows as well as writing and
producing chart-topping videos. Pat then became established as a solo star with
massive sell-out shows touring the country. His comedy series, ‘Killinaskully’,
has been the most popular television programme each year in Ireland
for the past three years. He was last seen on cinema screens starring in the
hugely popular comedy ‘Man About Dog’ but his new role is worlds apart.
Pat plays Josie a harmless misfit in
‘Garage’. Josie has spent all his adult life as the caretaker of a crumbling
petrol station on the outskirts of a small town in the mid-west of Ireland.
He is limited, lonely, yet relentlessly optimistic and, in his own peculiar
way, happy.But then over the course of
a summer, Josie’s world shifts, as one thoughtless moment changes his life
Q: After the huge success of ‘Man About Dog’, you received
lots of offers to make other movies… what was it that made you pick ‘Garage’
over the other offers?
A: There were
various reasons, I do a lot of live work and a lot of films come to me at a
late stage when I’m already committed to theatre work. Plus a lot of them were
similar type roles to what I’d already done in ‘Man About Dog’. I’m fortunate
enough that I’m able to do various different things, like ‘Killinaskully’, live
shows and I have my own production company in Limerick, so I don’t have to rush into taking
anything on from an economic point of view. I can pick and choose a bit. ‘Man
About Dog’ was very enjoyable, I loved it and I’m very proud of it but then
people put you into that pigeonhole of being a comic actor and you get
Don’t get me
wrong, I wasn’t waiting for this role to come along because I’m never perceived
for this type of role but when it did come along it was so different to
anything I’d done before that I just got really excited about.
Q: How were you first approached for this project and
what were your initial thoughts?
A: Lenny told me
that I was the one person they had in mind to do it from when they started
working on the script. I was very keen on it from the first day he explained it
to me. There was always a big question at the start about putting me in such a
straight role and showing me in a light that wouldn’t be very flattering at
times. They wondered how it was going to effect my audience and the other work
I do but that wouldn’t be like me at all, I was very interested in it. It’s the
type of part that any actor would give their right arm for, they’d kill for it
because it allows you to really perform as an artist. So I said ‘yes’ and after
that the script took another few months to finalise. Lenny came down to my
studio in Limerick just before shooting to work out the
character with me, we set up a camera and worked on improv all day. I have to
say it was the hardest days work I’ve ever done in my life. I was struggling
and really trying to get a grip on the character, it was something I was
creating and I’m so used to playing larger than life characters for comedy.
Q:You play a
very complex character in ‘Garage’, he spends several scenes in complete
silence, how difficult was it to prepare a character like this?
A: As an actor he
was very difficult because of the lack of emotion and expression. For anyone of
us to have something bad happen you feel the emotion, you physically dramatise
the emotion but Josie didn’t do many of those things. There was only one moment
in the movie where something hit him, when he was eating in the garage and he
stopped to put his hand over his mouth and think ‘Oh my God’ but no sooner had
he done it he resorted back to himself again. Trying to do that consistently
throughout the movie and keep that blankness there goes against the grain of
what we all do naturally.
Q: A lot of your dialogue consists of just one word
or a ‘tsk’. How were these mannerisms scripted or were they left to your
A: It was all
scripted which made it more difficult. The script gave very little direction of
how he should react, that was up to me. What was in the script was just one
word ‘now’ or ‘true’ and that would be it. *laughs*
The first day
Lenny and Mark came down to my house for a bite to eat and an informal reading.
We kept it as simple as that, we didn’t go into any acting or work on any
accents. So all I was reading was ‘Now’ and ‘True’ and ‘Now’ over and over. Its
very hard for an actor as there is no backup to the line, in another way allows
you to work your performance alongside the director, that was the exciting part
of reading the script and equally the terrifying part. Once the character fell
into place all those beats and words fell into place with him, it was trying to
find the character to get there.
The rehearsal was
the big killer, I remember after the first day or two and thinking ‘oh f**k’, I
was repeating ‘Now, now, now, now’, one word, over and over and I started to
doubt myself but once we got a lock on it we knew, and all the dialogue came
flowing out of the character.
Q:What do you
think Pat Shortt fans will make of your new serious side?
This movie is not
too far removed from what I do, It’s a straighter role but it’s about a rural
character which they’ll identify hugely with. There’s a lot of comedy in the
start of it but it is a more serious role, I think they will relate to it from
the story point of view, it’s a really good story.
Q: Is comedy your natural home or do you prefer more
‘serious’ acting roles?
A: I love doing the
live shows and to be honest being on a live stage in front of people is what I
really enjoy doing and I really like doing my own material. For example I love
doing ‘Killinaskully’, doing a straight role in a movie is great, but I don’t
get to blow people up *laughs* and I don’t get to drive trucks through walls
and all this mad sh*t I get to do in other projects. Every project is
different, so I like to do various different types of work, but they’re all
acting at the end of the day.