“These days the Offaly-born actor can’t walk down a street without being accosted by eager females. It’s a thing”
from there I fell arseways in to the business.”
It’s no wonder Robert Sheehan followed his bottom. In person he seems far too pretty and mouthy for civilian life. He tried his hand at university but dropped out after a year of film school at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology.
“I kept getting acting work,” he shrugs. “So what else I was I going to do? College wasn’t right for me.”
Since then, domestic movies such as Summer of the Flying Saucer and Cherrybomb have kept Sheehan off the streets – but television has made him a household name. Across the water, the erstwhile star of Red Riding may be the last best hope for Hip Hibernia. At home he’ll soon be dodging Aidan Gillen in the second season of RTÉ’s Love/Hate.
“You can always work as an actor,” says Sheehan. “There’s a perception that actors don’t work, but it’s actually as stable as any other job. If you’re an innovative person, wherever you are you’ll find work. People come up to me and ask me ‘how do you get in to acting?’ Go perform something on the street. If you really like acting you’ll act somewhere. There are no limitations. There will always be backs of pubs. Don’t be afraid to make a cock of yourself, as Sean Connery might say.”
Sheehan’s nonchalance has served him well. His 2011 kicked off with Season of the Witch, a major film featuring him, Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman as beleaguered 14thcentury knights.
“It was a very, very luxuriant production indeed,” purrs Sheehan. “Everything was extravagant and mind-boggling in terms of time and resources. We shot in the Alps. I thought they were going to move them. It was -16 [degrees] when he shot in Hungary. My family came out to visit me and nearly died of the cold. But we had our five-star hotels.”
He was less comfortable with the studio lust for numbers. “When I was doing interviews in America journalists kept asking me about Season of the Witch totals. It had opened well but wasn’t doing so well in the second week. Was I worried? What was I going to do? Season was shot when I was 20: that’s three years ago. I don’t know anything about box office and stuff like that. Once it’s made and passed on to the distributors it’s theirs to sell. I’m not Nic Cage. I’m not the guy in the poster. I have the luxury of not caring. And I never want to care. Once you do you become a studio executive, not an actor.”
Killing Bono, he says, is different. “It’s the one I do want people to like.” Based on journalist Neil McCormack’s account of growing up alongside his infinitely more famous Mount Temple school chum, director Nick Hamm’s film escalates the gentle rock rivalry of I Was Bono’s Doppelgänger in to a full-blown caper.
“The memoir was just a starting point. Neil McCormack has already written in the Daily Telegraph about Nick calling him up to say ‘Darling, your life doesn’t have a third act, so we’re going to give you one’.”
In Killing Bono, Sheehan and Ben Barnes ( Prince Caspian) essay Ivor and Neil McCormack, a sibling-based act swallowed up by the great Irish rock gold rush of the 1980s. Suffice to say, the McCormacks do not become the next U2.
“They kept us away from the real McCormack brothers,” says Sheehan. “We met them near to the end of filming, They make a cameo in a scene set in a strip club. They were lovely but we were performing as them so it was bit
awkward, to be honest. Sorry boys. We’ve spiced up your life and we’re doing your songs.”
The resulting tintamarre was, alas, not all Robert Sheehan’s own work.
“I can plough through chords on a guitar,” he says apologetically. “But I played tin whistle and banjo growing up, so guitar is not my main thing. I used to play tin whistle in the pub on a Monday night when I was a kid. There was a big gang of us, so I’d do a bit of whistle and banjo and bodhrán. The principal of the school always let me come in late on Tuesdays, because he knew I was playing the pub until all hours.”
The eponymous rock god, we are told, has given the thumbs-up to the Ulster-made project, though for Sheehan he remains as distant as ever.
“I’ve still never been in the same room as U2. It’d be nice. I’m a big fan. Especially the early stuff, like Boy and The Joshua Tree. But now I’m in the film where someone is trying to kill them.”
Bono will have to wait. For the moment there are half a dozen film engagements in the offing for Sheehan, including Suicide Kids with Ashley Walters and the title role in David Baddiel’s upcoming Romeo and Gertrude. There is also the small matter of nailing his driving licence.
“I’ve got my learner permit. I was on holiday in Cambodia recently and this French bird ordered me to drive her around on a dune buggy. If I can survive Phnom Penh city on a dune buggy I reckon I can transfer those skills.”
He stretches out a little further on the couch. “Otherwise I’ll just have to go everywhere in a dune buggy.” You have been warned. I wanted Mind Bokeh and Ambivalence Avenue to complement each other. I didn’t want to make Ambivalence Avenue: Part Two. I wanted to merge them, but there’s definitely an overlap between the two. After finishing Ambivalence Avenue I wanted to make an album that contrasted with it – to rely on synths and drum machines rather than guitars. I’ve learnt more new techniques and acquired more equipment, so I’ve got this wider palette of things I can achieve. It’s also about getting more confidence. I like every track to have its own idenity and not to repeat things too much but, that said, there are certain sounds that are worth revisiting. You can hear that Light Seep on this record sounds like a sequel to Jealous of Roses. I’m interested in photography and a photographer friend told me the word – pronounced bo-kah. It refers to the blurred section of a photograph, and it can mean “haze” or “blur”. The song of the same name is an improvised, ambient track and it makes me think of blurred, man-made city lights. I also wanted it to relate to the human mind and how we perceive things. Even though my albums have changed over the years, there are certain themes I’ve never left. This flickering spots of light is right there on Fi on Mush Records [his first album] and is still here on this.