On the Boyle

Vet­eran Ir­ish ac­tor Brendan Gleeson is not your av­er­age ac­tion hero, writes Vicky Roach

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Movies -

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.’’

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