Thurles thespian Kerry Condon on her Runway success
WILL SUCCESS change Kerry Condon? Not bloody likely. When your definition of success is “spending time with pets and family and all the shit people tell you is important but you never believe them”, a successful Hollywood career is neither here nor there.
“What success?” laughs the Tipperarian. “I look at my CV and think ‘Jesus, I’ve done nothing at all.’ I know people are a bit surprised by me. I was always the quiet one in my family. And I don’t think anyone thought I would make it as far as I have. But I knew I would. I always knew it even if nobody else did.”
True, Condon’s ascent has been stealthier than the blazing trails left by her Intermission colleagues Colin Farrell and Cillian Murphy. But the company she keeps is revealing. To date she can count Paul Giamatti, Helen Mirren, Christopher Plummer, Morgan Freeman, Frances McDormand and Jet Li among her movie co-stars. This year she’ll appear in multiplexes opposite Sean Penn in Paolo Sorrentino’s This Must Be the Place and on TV with Nick Nolte and Dustin Hoffman in Michael Mann’s and David Milch’s Luck.
“I love working with older established actors,” she gushes. “A lot of younger actors now – particularly the boys – I don’t get on so well with. They’re so confident, and a lot of them just really want to be famous. They don’t want to do theatre, they don’t want to put in the work; they don’t really want to act at all. They’re ready for fame. It happens overnight and they’re so primed, so trained. They want to walk out of the supermarket and get their picture taken; they want to get the free shit clothes. But that’s okay that younger actors are like that. Ha. Saves me sleeping around.”
At 28, a decade in the film business and life in Los Angeles has had no impact on her native Thurles accent or her capacity for plain-speaking. She loves her job but has no interest in celebrity, awards, or “any of that crap”. She can’t understand why anyone would want to be famous. If anything, she says, fame can only get in the way of the work.
“Living in LA and making films with famous people is just another way of living,” she says. “It doesn’t necessarily make you any better than someone who is an accountant. The actresses I really like – Emily Watson, Frances McDormand, Julianne Moore, Samantha Morton, who floors me every time I watch her, who creeps me out she’s so good – I don’t know who those women are married to. It’s not good to be overexposed. It’s not good for your work to be turning up on every magazine. Kate Winslet gets incredible roles, is very intense and her accent is always good – I don’t know why she wants to be on the cover of In Style. You’re amazing. Stop trying to make people like you. Why is it so important to be the pretty girl on the magazine too? Who cares?”
Good as her word, Condon is happy to be “contrary” about the roles she is offered, and frequently turns up her nose at high-profile pay-cheque gigs.
“I’m able to work and make money without all that. And I’m getting very fussy in my old age. I got another script the other day for a dire romantic comedy with Cameron Diaz. Now I’ll probably watch it and end up and enjoying it when it comes out. I’m pure girlie that way. But I can’t play that stuff. I can’t do those gags when there’s no truth to the scene or whatever.”
In real life, Kerry Condon detests having her photograph taken, used the back door to leave this year’s Golden Globes to go home for her dinner and feels uncomfortable when people recognise her on the street.
“What’s terrible is that I’m naked in everything I do. I know they’ve seen me with no clothes on and they know I know.”
But as an actor Kerry Condon is never selfconscious. Inspired by the armfuls of videos her mother would rent, she knew early on she wanted to act. By her teens she was writing letters to directors and producers.
“I still do that,” she laughs. “I write to Lynne Ramsay quite a bit because I really want to work with her. I wrote to Alan Parker for my first job. It’s very naive when I think of it but I really wanted to be an actor and I was in Tipperary, so it seemed like a good idea. I wanted to work. Other people try to grow up by going out drinking or going out with no knickers. I just wanted to get out there. I suppose I was driven.”
She must have done something right. At 16 she was cast as the consumptive teen seductress who pounces on Frank McCourt in Angela’s Ashes; at 19 she originated the role of Mairead in Martin McDonagh’s The Lieutenant of Inishmore, became the Royal Shakespeare Company’s youngest ever Ophelia, and starred alongside Heath Ledger and Naomi Watts in Ned Kelly. She remained friendly with the late Australian star after the shoot.
“I think of him as being really young. He was still figuring things out as an actor and as a person.”
She’s not a method actor, but she likes to stay focused. Tellingly, Sean Penn never heard her Irish accent on the set of This Must Be the Place. “It was a part that I read and I knew I could do it as well and better than anyone. I knew that feeling of being depressed and lonely and not connecting with your family and people around you. I was so happy to get it. Paulo [Sorrentino] was