On the Boyle
Veteran Irish actor Brendan Gleeson is not your average action hero, writes Vicky Roach
CHARACTERS such as the small-town cop with a cowboy-sized attitude in The Guard don’t come along very often.
‘‘ Once I had read the script, it was just a question of getting on with it,’’ Irish actor Brendan Gleeson ( pictured) says of the lead role of Sergeant Gerry Boyle.
The Guard was written by John Michael McDonagh, brother of In Bruges writer-director Martin.
The opening scene grabbed Gleeson’s attention: parked on the side of the road, Boyle raises his eyebrows as a car speeds past but makes no effort to engage in pursuit. Seconds later, he hears the dull thud of a car crash. Sauntering over to the wreckage, Boyle pats down one of the dead men’s trouser pockets. Finding a tab of something illegal, he pops it on to his tongue.
But, as Gleeson observes, while good beginnings are important, it’s a storyteller’s ability to follow through that seals a film’s fate.
‘‘ Gerry is just such a new creation. But, at the same time, you come across these characters – maybe not written in such large font. Particularly for men of a certain age, there is a curmudgeonly settling for what they have,’’ he says.
‘‘ The thing about it is that while it’s obviously funny, the guy [ Boyle] has quite a lot of depth to him as well. He had a soul. He has genuine aspirations and standards of behaviour. Actually, he is one of these guys who is rather too unforgiving of other people’s lack of standards.
‘‘ And he’s caught in a rut. He’s kind of waiting for a chance to play High Noon.’’
An actor doesn’t put together a list of credits such as Gleeson’s – the 56-year-old Irishman has played everyone from Winston Churchill to Michael Collins and Harry Potter’s Mad-Eye Moody – without a keen understanding of the sort of material that is likely to last.
‘‘ I started into movies very late,’’ says Gleeson, who switched careers after a decade of teaching. ‘‘ I don’t have time to repeat a performance, if you know what I mean.’’
A fresh and idiosyncratic take on the American buddy movie, The Guard co-stars Don Cheadle as an FBI agent who feels the full brunt of Boyle’s merciless goading when he comes to town to crack a drugsmuggling ring.
‘‘ I don’t think he necessarily means what he says,’’ Gleeson says of his character.
‘‘ I don’t think, for example, that he believes only black people and Mexicans are drug dealers. I think the idea is to flush out the politically correct person and strip it back to see what’s behind it.
‘‘ He is also bored. He wants to make things happen, to see people to get flustered. Anything for a laugh.’’
The Guard might be McDonagh’s directorial debut but the screenplay was so polished the film got the green light just eight months after Gleeson first read it – which meant they were shooting on the western tip of Galway in November/ December.
‘‘ The weather decided, ‘ If you are going to be that cheeky, you are going to pay for it’,’’ Gleeson recalls.
‘‘ We had half the Atlantic thrown at us during the shoot. There was very little time to ease into things, but it also gave it an excitement and a spontaneity.’’