We talk to the leading man from Terry McMahon’s award winning film…

With Patrick’s Day, MOE DUNFORD has made his calling card. “It’s just great to work on such a film,” the Irish actor tells Movies.ie. It takes a little while for Terry McMahon’s powerful drama PATRICK’S DAY to completely find its feet, but when it does, it packs the kind of emotional punch audiences rarely find in an Irish film.

Already a festival favourite, Patrick’s Day has picked up awards from the Galway Film Fleadh to the 2014 Woodstock Film Festival, including one at the latter for cinematographer Michael Lavelle and one, Berlin’s EFP Shooting Star, for its leading man, Moe Dunford. And for once, all the awards are well deserved. “It’s great when you get any kind of recognition for the work you’ve done,” says Dunford, “and this was such a team effort, each and every award just made all of us feel good. I was particularly delighted though when Michael picked up the Haskell Wexller award at Woodstock. Michael Lavelle did such an incredible job here, perfectly blurring that line between dream and reality. The guy’s a genius.”

Opening on the eponymous annual Irish holiday where everyone and anyone from Planet Eire raises a toast to oul’ sod before, more often than not, raising their fists, followed by their lunch, dinner and tea, we first meet birthday boy Patrick as he’s taken from his care home by his doting mum (Kerry Fox). After dropping off their belongings at the hotel, the two soon join the rest of Dublin in the diddley-aye celebrations, Patrick excited and delighted enough to get lost. As mum tries to convince a laconic Garda Detective (Philip Jackson) to put out a search party, Patrick finds himself in the bedroom of a fellow hotel guest, forlorn air hostess Karen (Catherine Walker). One beautifully-lit cherry-pop later, and Patrick is in love, mum is incandescent with rage, and his unsuspecting eternal sunshine, Karen, finds herself stuck in the middle of a strange and strained Oedipus time bomb.

“There was a feeling, right from the start of the 16-day shoot, that we were making something special here,” offers Dunford. “The fact that we only had 16 days put a certain kind of pressure on everyone, but it actually seemed to inspire us to do better. And it helps when you’ve got a great director like Terry, who was just so involved with each and every person there, from the cast to the crew. Terry just kept us lifted. “And then there was the script, of course. That had us all happy to be there too. You don’t get people like Kerry Fox flying over for a small Irish film unless she’s really in love with the script. It’s not like we were paying her millions.” When it came to playing schizophrenic manchild Patrick Fitzgerald, Dunford didn’t look to the movies – ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST’s McMurphy being an obvious comparison – but to those closer to home.

“Yeah, Patrick is kinda based on a few people I knew growing up. Also, my older brother, my better, he’s a really caring guy, and he’s always himself, you know. So, I wanted to bring that quality to Patrick. And there are so many Patricks out there, so many people struggling with their own issues. And it’s hard for this generation to just be themselves. Social media puts a pressure on people to stage-manage their own lives, to brand themselves, and then the real self gets lost. I think Patrick is just all love, all heart. And that cuts through all the madness here.”

When it came to Patrick’s schizophrenia, Moe was determined to be respectful. “Terry has had experience, working in this area early on, so there was a great awareness of the condition – those with schizophrenia, and their family and friends trying to deal with it. When it came to Patrick though, his fight against the condition, so he can prove his love, that’s really what drove me the most. That’s where I really wanted to concentrate for this role.”

Having made his mark in such TV shows as THE TUDORS, RAW and VIKINGS, Dunford’s move into cinema will continue later this year, with the release of Rachel Moriarty and Peter Murphy’s TRADERS. For now though, Moe is clearly still basking in the glory that has come with PATRICK’S DAY. “I learnt so much on this film,” he finishes. “It was always a joy, even when the set was closed, and my character had to go down some very black holes. I just remember getting home, the day after we wrapped, and my son just loved the Groucho Marx glasses that I had for the role. He just threw them on and sauntered off. That felt like a good way to bid farewell to Patrick…”

PATRICK’S DAY is released in Irish cinemas on February 6th, 2015

Words: Paul Byrne