Everyone’s favourite farmer talks about his voice work in new Irish animation ‘The Secret Of Kells’

Thanks to many years spent on RTE’s farming drama Glenroe the voice of Mick Lally is recognisable to the entire nation. His relationship with wife Biddy made him a household name in the late 80s. Since then he’s leant his acting skills to many TV, Theatre and movie projects including Oliver Stone’s Alexander. He voices Brother Aidan in the new Irish animated movie ‘The Secret Of Kells’ which opens nationwide this Friday.


Tell us about ‘The Secret Of Kells’?
Basically, despite the fact that it could be regarded as a very Irish film because it is based on an Irish myth, but it is a universal story about the pursuit of excellence and artistic endeavour and to do the best that you possibly can, albeit with very meagre resources. This poor child Brendan had to go out into the forest to get berries from the various trees to make the coloured ink for the manuscript [The Book of Kells]. Brother Aidan encourages him to get involved in the whole project. I thought the film was beautifully illustrated.


This was your first work with animated film, what was it like?
I had forgotten completely about it. It has been over three years since we did the voices. I had forgotten about it until the invitation to the screening had come in the post a few weeks ago. The thing that struck me about the film was the length of it, I thought maybe half an hour at the max was what they were aiming for. Full feature length! You don’t get that too often. When we did the voices I don’t think it was animated, if it was, it was in a very rough cut way. I had a storyline about who I was playing and what I was supposed to do and after that we had a synopsis of the scene and the tone of voice you might use. I think it was a day down in Kilkenny, and I got through it and did it and then I forgot about it over time as you do with acting anyway. I didn’t really think much about it until I saw it last night (at JDIFF) and I was taken aback and really, really pleasantly surprised by it.


Did you think the film would turn out as beautifully animated as it did?
Not at all, I had no idea! It was just such a great surprise.


Who will enjoy the film more? Adults or children?
You think it’s too long for small children but maybe its not “bang bang” enough for teenagers or young adults. I was talking to a woman at the screening who said she had her two grandchildren there and how they were watching it, and how when the Norsemen came they were crying and putting their hands over their eyes and how they were so engrossed by it all. So I think it might be for a universal audience.


The Secret of Kells was the closing film in JDIFF, how important do you think the film festival is to a film like this?
I think it is very important. It will turn up at festivals all over the world without any problem and I think festivals will be hugely important for it and it will garner a lot of interest as a result around the world. Word of mouth can do a lot of things.


Do you think The Secret of Kells could follow in the footsteps of Give Up Your Auld Sins and be a contender at the Academy Awards in 2010?
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it got awards for animation, the animation is so good in it.


You have worked in film, TV and theatre, which is your favourite medium?
I think theatre is my favourite because of the presence of the audience. You can provoke laughter, you can provoke tears and even in silence there is interaction. I think that is different and theatre is what I really like. I have always had a fondness for the live act.


What would you like to see happen in the Irish film industry in the future?
I think, continuance, because it is never going to be easy. Hopefully men and women out there will keep writing and want to direct, and keep casting… locally!


Words : Brogen Hayes


The Secret Of Kells opens in Irish cinemas on March 6th