Brendan Gleeson talks about The Secret Of Kells

Brendan talks juggling his passion for Irish cinema with big blockbusters, like Harry Potter…

Brendan Gleeson continues his midas touch with ‘The Secret Of Kells‘, a new animation from Irish production house ‘Cartoon Saloon’. spoke to him the morning after the Oscars, Brendan was curious about our live blogging but admits he switched off the TV after In Bruges failed to win in its screenwriting category…


Did it surprise you that In Bruges got so much recognition at the Oscars, Baftas and the Golden Globes?

Everything Martin McDonagh touches, turns to gold, he’s just so good. I knew it was going to be quality. I had no idea whether it was going to get all of the award nominations that it did. It’s slightly frustrating that when it came out it didn’t really get the whole launch it should have. When it did happen, after the film had come out – it was such a compliment that it had stayed in peoples mind for so long. So it was fantastic credit and re-enforcement for all this to happen.

You don’t do these things thinking that you’re going to get an award out of them. I knew it was going to be quality – because of the writing and the actors involved. We had a ball on it. We felt that this was the real deal.



How did you first become aware of ‘The Secret Of Kells’?

I had Paul starting chatting to me about it, a young man – and I was very impressed by him, as an individual. There was no neediness about him or anything like that. It was like ‘listen we want to do a movie, would you like to get involved?” and I just said “yeah sure, send me the stuff” . There was something about the project that just clicked. He was very down to earth and very realistic in how long it would take and the work involved. He was very ambitious the way he was going to go about one of the most difficult ideas possible, and I just thought ‘this fantastic energy’.

I loved the idea of the material that they were trying to explore. I’d say it’s about 2 or 3 years ago since we did the recording for it, myself and Mick and the kids, and since then I’d seen little bits of images. It was very difficult to get a sense of the film from that. It’s only when you go on a journey with it starts to come together.

It creates it’s own world. It’s not all little twirly Celtsey bits; it’s of itself – the nature of the animation is just amazing, unique and original. It’s got its own stamp, so from the beginning and I knew I was going to be ok with this.


Had you any guidance as to how the look of the character might be?

They were sending me stuff. See this is the other thing, it wasn’t just a question of ‘we want to do this, if we get the money, maybe at some stage’. No, it was; ‘we’re going to do this, 100% guaranteed’. They began sending me pictures, and concept drawings and after I’d read the script we sat down for a cup of tea and had a chat about things. In the mean time, then it totally morphed and changed, they had the gumption to say that some ideas we were working on weren’t going anywhere, and we should start from a different tack.


With the script, did you do any read-throughs as a cast, or was it done individually?

Well I went in with Mick. It only took about a day, In a way my involvement was small, spiritually I was around but the hours I put in were very short, almost too short. It was like, ‘Is that all I need to do?’


Did you have a particular type of voice in mind for the character or did you want him to sound like Brendan Gleeson?

The guys just let me go for it. There was an interesting energy to the character because he was kind of the ogre up to a point. At the same time, he was driven by a certain fear and a certain passion, so I think it would have been easier, and more interesting way to go to make him more bombastic. But actually he was of a very kindly nature.


The only other animated style project you’ve done before is ‘Beowulf’, was there any similarity between making the two, or are they worlds apart?

They’re very different, but at the same time there is that level of trust; because you don’t know what to expect, your image has been taken in vain. With Beowulf, you do the work and then it disappears for two years before you see anything back. It was more like black box theatre in the sense that you acted out each scene fully, while being photographed. And that was the basis of what happened. This one was more like radio reading in a sense and the lads then worked it. There was some similarity – but on a different level.


So Beowulf wasn’t a one-day job, like that one?

No, it was more like 6 weeks, which is still quite short. If you were to do that, in terms of shooting it in real life, on a real location it would be more 6months. So it was actually very easy compared to something like that.


You manage to successfully juggle big Hollywood movies (Harry Potter etc.) with smaller budget Irish movies. You must get a lot of people wanting you to work on their projects and a lot scripts through your door? How do you pick the gems amongst the 1000s of scripts that come your way?

Well it’s just instinct really, sometimes I turn down some things that go on to do really well, but it’s the nature of things really. If it’s similar to something I’ve just covered I try not to repeat performances if I can. Sometimes, it’s just not at the right time; but fundamentally, you know when you read something if there’s a touch of class to it. I try not to patronise things but if I don’t think its right then I don’t think I should do it.


The Secret Of Kells is at Irish cinemas everywhere now.