Rock and role
Irish actor treads carefully when playing a Newfoundlander in Maritimes-made comedy
TGleeson, 59, is an Irish actor best known for playing Mad Eye Moody in the Harry Potter films or maybe for playing Mel Gibson’s savage lieutenant Hamish in Braveheart. He is more fervently celebrated for his work playing closer to his Irish roots as a conflicted hit man in In Bruges or a sketchy cop in The Guard. Gleeson recognized potential problems in taking on the role of an unemployed Newfoundland fisherman scheming to get a doctor to move to his depressed village (for example, staging a bogus community-wide enthusiasm for cricket) in The Grand Seduction. For one thing, the movie is a remake of a 2003 Quebec movie, Seducing Dr. Lewis. For another, the prospect of an outsider coming in to play a Newfoundlander could potentially raise some hackles. Remember when John Travolta wanted to make a movie of the Newfoundland-set The Shipping News with plans to change the setting to Maine? In a phone interview, Gleeson says one of the keys to his participation in the film was the casting of Mark Critch in the role of the town’s harassed bank manager. Gleeson watched Critch, of This Hour Has 22 Minutes, demonstrate the intricacies of the Newfoundland accent on YouTube and was hooked. “It struck exactly the right tone of knocking a laugh out of the way people are, but not laughing at them in any way and in fact just enjoying the diversity of accents and culture here,” he says. “This is the kind of film that had certain in-built kind of dangers, in that it could have descended into something twee and a little bit unworthy if you weren’t careful.” Gleeson says he has long been fascinated with O use an apropos cricket expression, the prospect of Brendan Gleeson coming to Canada to star in the comedy had “sticky wicket” written all over it. the old and new,” he says. Gleeson was savvy enough to recognize that the Quebecers who made Seducing Dr. Lewis might see the remake as a wholesale appropriation of a story originally intended to reflect the north coast of Quebec. “It couldn’t just be taken and plunked into Newfoundland without due regard for the fact that it’s a different culture,” Gleeson says. “So I actually wrote to Raymond Bouchard (who played the role corresponding to Gleeson’s) before I started it, just by way of saying I loved his performance in the Quebec version and we weren’t trying to second-guess it in any way, but just to explore the maritime culture of Newfoundland as against Quebec and hoping that we would succeed. “But the fit seemed perfect,” Gleeson says. “When we got up there with the fishing villages and all of it, I was comfortable with the feeling that we weren’t trying to impose something from outside on it. It had to emanate from inside that culture.” The Grand Seduction opens in theatres Friday.
From left, Brendan Gleeson, Taylor Kitsch and Gordon Pinsent.
Mark Critch, left, with Kitsch.