Take me to your boozer

Where there was Glen Hansard coo­ing and strum­ming, now there’s vinyl-clad Si­mon De­laney sup­ping around ru­ral 1950s Ire­land. The Car­ney broth­ers tell Don­ald Clarke about de­cid­ing to just be funny again and de­tail the long evo­lu­tion of their new com­edy

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film -

DON’T TELL John Car­ney that Zonad doesn’t look much like Once or Bach­e­lor’s Walk. Three years af­ter the for­mer wowed at the Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val, nearly a decade since the lat­ter se­ries en­er­gised Ir­ish TV, Car­ney has joined forces with his brother Kieran – a col­lab­o­ra­tor on Bach­e­lor’s Walk – to de­liver a de­light­fully nutty, low-bud­get com­edy about a faux-alien with a taste for pints and sausages. You will have seen ads on the side of buses fea­tur­ing Si­mon De­laney, the tit­u­lar faker, wear­ing a dis­turbingly shiny vinyl jump­suit.

“This is def­i­nitely some­thing that peo­ple will ei­ther love and hate,” John says. “If any­one else says ‘Oh it’s not like Once or Bach­e­lor’s Walk’, I’ll go mad. If you’ve seen the poster, you shouldn’t ex­pect Glen Hansard to come in and sing a song or Don Wy­cher­ley to wan­der in moan­ing. Look, it’s a Mel Brooks rip off, or what­ever. For any­body to say it’s re­ally dif­fer­ent is mad­ness.”

Kieran (older, slightly more re­served) and John (more ag­i­tated, but equally at home in scuffed Dublin 6 cor­duroy) have, I would guess, been work­ing on Zonad for longer than Stan­ley Kubrick worked on 2001: A Space Odyssey. In­deed, the film’s pre­his­tory has taken on the qual­ity of a leg­end.

As long ago as 2003, the broth­ers – work­ing with Bach­e­lor’s Walk col­league Tom Hall – knocked to­gether an ul­tra-cheap ver­sion of the film fea­tur­ing ris­ing star Cil­lian Mur­phy. Look hard on the in­ter­net and you will find scrappy clips from the project.

“It was kind of a pi­lot ver­sion of a real film that might be an in­ter­net film. We made it with a hand­held cam­era in my flat. Ev­ery now and then, I’d go to bed and maybe Tom or Kieran would di­rect a bit. The plan was to find out what def­i­nitely wouldn’t play in the script.”

So where is this im­por­tant arte­fact? A col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the Car­neys and sap­phire-eyed idol Mur­phy is, surely, some­thing worth analysing in depth. It tran­spires that Zonad 1.0 no longer ex­ists.

“It is quite gen­uinely lost,” Kieran says. “That’s not just a story. It re­ally has gone miss­ing. Ac­tu­ally, I’d sin­cerely love to see it again.” His brother takes up the tale.

“It’s very sim­ple,” says John. “We hired an Avid edit­ing ma­chine. We digi­tised the film and cut it on to one VHS tape – which was in the Avid. Then they took the ma­chine be­cause we hadn’t paid the bill. We never saw the tape again.”

John and Kieran are men of some ac­com­plish­ments. The for­mer was, of course, once a mem­ber of The Frames and is cur­rently pre­par­ing a Hol­ly­wood com­edy en­ti­tled Town­house star­ring – all go­ing smoothly – The Hang­over’s Zach Galifianakis. Kieran wrote the hi­lar­i­ous play Af­ters, which be­came a hit on the Lon­don fringe in the mid-1990s, and is now adapt­ing Paul Mur­ray’s novel An Evening of Long Good­byes for the cin­ema. But, when telling sto­ries of their crazy, crazy an­tics, you catch flavours of the squab­bling teenagers they once were.

It’s in­ter­est­ing to note that di­rect­ing duos – think the Coens, the Wa­chowskis, the Dar­dennes, the Maysles, the Far­rellys – are in­vari­ably broth­ers. “Well, it’s like putting on a play with your fam­ily,” John says, turn­ing to Kieran. “Re­mem­ber when I first bor­rowed a video cam­era. It was you and me and our brother Jim and our sis­ter do­ing a Sher­lock Holmes pas­tiche. Then we’d go back and watch it with seven friends. We’d laugh at the con­ti­nu­ity and at our sis­ter dressed up as this Vic­to­rian har­lot.”

Kieran man­ages to sneak a word in edge­ways

“The part­ner­ship did de­velop from Bach­e­lor’s Walk – the two of us and Tom,” he says. “But I think it was eas­ier here be­cause we are just try­ing to be funny – noth­ing else. There’s no great the­matic agenda. So there’s less to ar­gue about.”

The boys have, to my mind, suc­ceeded in their aim “to be funny”. Early re­views have been pos­i­tive, but, at any screen­ing of Zonad, you will en­counter more than a few Once fans shak­ing their heads at the mad­ness of it all.

“I am de­lighted by the re­sponses,” says Kieran. “It’s re­ally grat­i­fy­ing that peo­ple are hat­ing it or be­ing re­ally gen­er­ous about it. That’s much bet­ter than broad ac­cep­tance. Any in­dif­fer­ent project can se­cure that.”

Quite so.

Si­mon De­laney be­gins his earthly ad­ven­tures in Zonad. Be­low: John and Kieran Car­ney

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