“I sup­pose I was a ghastly show-off. And then I went into an ado­les­cent de­cline. I was painfully shy. I never quite re­cov­ered from that. It never left me

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

WHAT­EVER WAY one looks at it, the movie Black­thorn has been a long time com­ing. An au­tum­nal western chart­ing the last days of Butch Cas­sidy, Gil Ma­teo’s Bo­li­vian ad­ven­ture picks up long af­ter the point where Paul New­man and Robert Red­ford bowed out in a hail of bul­lets.

For Belfast-born ac­tor Stephen Rea, too, Black­thorn is long over­due. A life­long fan of the horse opera, he’s waited decades to get in the sad­dle.

“No­body re­ally does westerns nowa­days. It has ceased to be a genre hasn’t it?” says Rea. “When I was a kid that’s what cinema was. As boys we played cow­boys and In­di­ans. That was how we dressed up and imag­ined our­selves to be. The movies were westerns. I also loved the Mus­ke­teers. And even­tu­ally I got to be in a Mus­ke­teer film but I was Car­di­nal Riche­lieu be­cause the mo­ment had passed where I could play a Mus­ke­teer. But that was quite good any­way.”

He sus­pects fash­ion will dic­tate that Black­thorn is “prob­a­bly my first and last and only western”. But that’s okay, too. The sole oater on Rea’s glit­ter­ing CV is spe­cial of its own ac­cord. Rea and ac­tor-play­wright Sam Shep­ard have been firm friends since the 1970s when they first worked to­gether in London. They’ve fre­quently col­lab­o­rated dur­ing the in­ter­ven­ing years and yet, Black­thorn marks their first on­screen buddy-up. Like we said: Black­thorn is a long time com­ing.

“Yeah,” nods Rea. “We’ve known each other since the early 1970s. We were both in London and very young. He wrote a play and di­rected me in it. Ge­og­ra­phy of a Horse Dreamer. About a guy who was chained to a bed with gang­sters stand­ing over him writ­ing down the win­ners for horse races. Bob Hoskins was in it. I’ve worked with Sam quite a bit in the last few years but this is the first time I’ve ever acted with him in ei­ther theatre or film. And it was an en­tirely great ex­pe­ri­ence, you know.”

The Black­thorn shoot was ex­treme. On­screen the salt flats of Bo­livia look so oth­er­worldly they could be mis­taken for an out­take from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

“We were 15,000ft up and fight­ing to breathe,” says Rea. “I ar­rived to do a scene and as I got there a stunt­man was be­ing tak- en to hospi­tal. He hadn’t fallen off a horse or any­thing. He’d just suc­cumbed to the al­ti­tude. Some­times it would take you 10 min­utes to walk from here to that wall [He points to a wall no more than three me­tres away.] It’s more pro­found than catch­ing for breath. You can’t sleep. You feel nau­seous all the time. I woke up – this wasn’t even at the high­est al­ti­tude – pro­jec­tile vom­it­ing. The In­di­ans have dif­fer­ent bod­ies to us. They’re shorter and they’ve adapted, I guess. Euro­peans never get used to it.” It was, de­spite the dis­com­bob­u­la­tion, a dream job, he says.

“It was an in­cred­i­ble place. I guess it looks like Ire­land must have done 70 or 80 years ago. It’s pop­u­lated by peo­ple just sub­sist­ing on the land and what they have. It’s re­li­gious. But when you only have two lla­mas and your fam­ily I sup­pose you bet­ter be­lieve in some­thing. The Span­ish have gone and they’ve stripped the place of sil­ver and re­sources but they’re still there. It’s heart­en­ing. One does have a won­der­ful job that you get called up to make a movie in Bo­livia and you get to see the place.”

Rea is a re­li­able col­lab­o­ra­tor. He first worked with play­wright Ste­wart Parker in col­lege. In 1980 a con­tin­gent in­clud­ing Rea, Tom Paulin, Brian Friel, Sea­mus Heaney and Sea­mus Deane, founded the Field Day Theatre Com­pany. He has, per­haps most vis­i­bly, over the years, been some­thing of a muse for di­rec­tor Neil Jor­dan. The pair has worked to­gether on An­gel, The Com­pany of Wolves, In­ter­view with a Vampire, The Butcher Boy, The End of the Af­fair, In Dreams, Michael Collins, Break­fast on Pluto, On­dine and The Cry­ing Game, for which Rea re­ceived an Os­car nod.

Jor­dan wrote An­gel for Rea hav­ing seen his range on stage. And yet both men seem to at­tribute the suc­cess of their work to­gether to “turn­ing up”.

“I don’t know,” shrugs Rea. “You learn some­thing ev­ery time you do the job. I’ve been lucky to work with lots of great peo­ple over the years. Great writ­ers. Great di­rec­tors. I’ve been very priv­i­leged.

“Work­ing with the great Robert Alt­man was an ed­u­ca­tion in it­self,” re­calls Rea. “He was just an orig­i­nal.

“He had just had a heart trans­plant when I worked with him. He was ap­pallingly thin for a man of his size. He couldn’t drink and lamented not be­ing able to go out drink­ing in Paris. I ended up go­ing drink­ing with his wife: she could drink for two. But he was so coura­geous, per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally, you know. You learned some­thing ev­ery time you watched him. He loved ac­tors. If he saw act­ing he backed off and didn’t try to con­trol it.”

Born into a work­ing-class Pres­by­te­rian fam­ily, Rea, the son of a bus driver, had no

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.