Domh­nall Glee­son: Os­cars, Star Wars and sib­ling ri­valry.

Domh­nall Glee­son has hardly taken an act­ing break since join­ing the fam­ily busi­ness in his teens, and with the huge fame that came af­ter ‘Star Wars’, he’s in even greater de­mand. The Ir­ish star dis­cusses push­ing him­self, Os­cars, and Win­nie the Pooh

The Irish Times - Weekend Review - - FRONT PAGE - Tara Brady

Ev­ery­thing’s com­ing up Domh­nall Glee­son. And to para­phrase the ti­tle of one of his best-loved movies, it’s about bleed­ing time. Good tid­ings we bring: the 34-year-old Dubliner, and son of na­tional trea­sure Bren­dan Glee­son, will be im­pos­si­ble to avoid at the mul­ti­plex in the count­down to Christ­mas.

We’ve only just re­cov­ered our wits from watch­ing him boss Tom Cruise around in Amer­i­can Made, only to turn around and kill his brother and fel­low thes­pian, Brian Glee­son, in Dar­ren Aronof­sky’s re­lent­less mother!

It’s a role the sec­ond-gen Gleesons have had a lifetime of prac­tice for.

“We’ve had our ar­gu­ments over the years,” jokes Glee­son, the older of the sib­lings. “I’ve never hit him quite that hard. We’ve steadily worked to­wards this. And now it’s on film for­ever.”

The crit­i­cal fall­out from mother! has been even blood­ier than the Gleesons’s Cain and Abel rou­tine. The con­tro­ver­sial film is one of only a dozen movies to re­ceive an “F” Cine­maS­core from movie­go­ers, an au­di­ence re­sponse that prompted home stu­dio Para­mount to re­lease a state­ment de­fend­ing the project. Most crit­ics have been rather more tol­er­ant. Oth­ers, no­tably the New York Ob­server’s Rex Reed, have de­nounced Aronof­sky’s mad, bad al­le­gory as “the worst film of the year”.

Jam-packed sched­ule

“But that’s amaz­ing!” cheers Glee­son. “It’s great that peo­ple are fight­ing about this movie and talk­ing about this movie. Ev­ery­one gets on with it dif­fer­ently. That’s com­pletely why you want to be a part of some­thing.”

To­day, Glee­son is in Lon­don work­ing a jam- packed pro­mo­tional sched­ule for Good­bye Christo­pher Robin just be­fore he re­peats those du­ties on an equally jam-packed pro­mo­tional sched­ule for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Draw­ing from Ann Th­waite’s lit­er­ary bi­og­ra­phy, Good­bye Christo­pher Robin chron­i­cles the real-life ori­gins of Win­nie the Pooh. The Hun­dred Acre Wood that houses the honey-lov­ing ur­sine may be an im­por­tant psy­cho-geographical des­ti­na­tion for mil­lions of read­ers. But it was a brave new world for our Domh­nall.

“I wasn’t a fan be­fore,” he ad­mits. “We had Bran the Dog and a lot of Ir­ish- lan­guage stuff. Chicken Licken. Straw­berry Short­cake. Only be­cause there was a Straw­berry Short­cake book in my grand­par­ents’ house. And that was the ex­tent of my read­ing un­til Roald Dahl and Enid Bly­ton kicked in.

“So I missed out on Win­nie the Pooh al­to­gether. That was bet­ter for me. This was brand new, I wasn’t go­ing in with any bag­gage. I wasn’t think­ing: how can I fit in all this stuff from my child­hood?”

Rub­bish par­ents

The film, as di­rected by Simon Cur­tis ( My Week with Mar­i­lyn, The Woman in Gold), touches down in France 1916, where the au­thor AA Milne ( Glee­son) is try­ing to sur­vive the War to End All Wars, then Lon­don, where the writer strug­gles with shell shock, and even­tu­ally Sur­rey, where Milne and his so­cialite wife Daphne ( Mar­got Rob­bie) make for largely rub­bish and fre­quently ab­sent par­ents to the un­for­tu­nate child of the ti­tle (Will Til­ston).

Thank good­ness nanny ( Kelly Macdon­ald) is around to pick up the pieces.

“They were a bit messed up,” nods Glee­son. “It was a dif­fer­ent time. And I hope that comes through. They were dam­aged. He had a lot of trauma.

“War changes peo­ple. It changes ev­ery­one but it changes some peo­ple more than oth­ers. They were look­ing for so­lace in each other, not in their child. So the child got left be­hind a lit­tle bit. I think that hap­pened a lot dur­ing that time. Par­ents were dif­fer­ent with their chil­dren.

“Even if AA Milne wasn’t the cre­ator of this fa­mous thing, I still would have been in­ter­ested in this story, in­ter­ested that the bridges were big­ger to get over in or­der to re­ally con­nect with some­body.”

In this spirit, Milne is pic­tured car­ry­ing his cry­ing in­fant son up a stair­case rather as if one might hold a pile of dog poo af­ter los­ing a par­tic­u­larly stupid bet.

“We had a fake baby for some of it, and I’d make sure to fum­ble him and some­times drop him,” says the ac­tor. “So when it came time to shoot the scene with a real baby, they said: you know you can’t drop the baby, right? I know! I’m a grown up!”

Not too long af­ter his Straw­berry Short­bread pe­riod, there were school pro­duc­tions and an early turn as a cab­bage-eat­ing cab­bage in a play called, well, The Cab­bages. At Malahide Com­mu­nity Col­lege, he played Doody in Grease and the Fool in King Lear. Still, he re­mained un­sure about fol­low­ing his fa­ther into the fam­ily busi­ness even af­ter both fea­tured film in Martin McDon­agh’s 2004 Os­car-win­ning short film Six Shooter.

As re­cently as 2006, hav­ing al­ready s c or e d a Tony nom­i­na­tion wi t h McDon­agh’s The Lieu­tenant of Inish­more, Glee­son seemed to edge to­wards a career on the other side of the cam­era. A writer and star of the RTÉ Two sketch show Your Bad Self, in 2009, he cast his brother, Brian in What Will Sur­vive of Us, a short film on the theme of dat­ing and anal sex.

“I’m writ­ing some­thing now with Brian and with my com­edy part­ner Michael [ McEl­hat­ton] who I did all the sketches with,” says Glee­son. “It would be a sim­i­lar char­ac­ter to the guy from the anal- sex short.”

So that’s what you do with Star Wars clout: you res­ur­rect the anal-sex guy?

“Ex­actly, who wouldn’t want that? If Star Wars can be used for any­thing, it’s that. I do love it. I haven’t had time to do much lately.”

He com­i­cally leans into the voice recorder to clar­ify: “The writ­ing, I mean. Haven’t had too much time for it.”

He’s right about time. Save a lean six months fol­low­ing his turn, aged 19, as a clue­less heavy met­aller in the West End pro­duc­tion of McDon­agh’s The Lieu­tenant of Inish­more, Glee­son has sel­dom been out of work.

In the moviev­erse, work begets big­ger work. Roles in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hal­lows Parts 1&2 and his cur­rent oc­cu­pa­tion of a Peter Cush­ing-shaped gap in the Star Wars canon have en­sured global promi­nence and cos­play op­tions.

“I’ve never met any­one dressed as Bill Weasley or Gen­eral Hux,” he says, dis­ap­point­ingly. “I guess they are not the most ob­vi­ous ones to pick from those uni­verses.”

Has it checked in on the con­ven­tions in char­ac­ter?

“No, no. And then be ter­ri­bly dis­ap­pointed when I re­alise that no­body is dressed up as my char­ac­ters? It’d look a bit des­per­ate. I’d be let­ting the side down.”

Oddly, most of the peo­ple who come up to him on the street are not do­ing so for the jug­ger­naut fran­chises: they’re just big fans of About Time, Richard Cur­tis’s lovely time-trav­el­ling rom-com from 2013.

“I speak to peo­ple all the time about that film. And it re­ally means some­thing to them. At the time, when it came out, it was this nice, silly rom-com. But it has lasted. That’s when the work is most sat­is­fy­ing. When it mat­ters to peo­ple.

“I re­ally hope Christo­pher Robin does the same. I sus­pect the re­views will go many dif­fer­ent ways. But I’ve seen peo­ple weep­ing in a cinema watch­ing it. That’s hard to do. Or at least in a way that isn’t just ‘shoot the dog’.”

Os­car-nom­i­nated bo­nanza

In 2015, Glee­son found him­self in no fewer than four Os­car- nom­i­nated pic­tures, in­clud­ing The Force Awak­ens, Ex Machina, Brooklyn, and even­tual win­ner, The Revenant. How on earth did he man­age that?

“It’s not like I picked them all out,” he says. “I guess you look for the best peo­ple. If you fol­low the best peo­ple, you can con­vince the best peo­ple to work with you. It’s not al­ways go­ing to pay off. Some­times good things will hap­pen. And some­times things don’t come to­gether at all. I do know that I push my­self. I work hard.” He re­ally does work hard. He lost so much weight – 27lb in seven weeks – for his role in Un­bro­ken, An­gelina Jolie’s sec­ond World War pris­oner-of-war drama, that the contact lenses crafted for his char­ac­ter no longer fit­ted. (Post-pro­duc­tion, he un­der­stand­ably went “ab­so­lutely men­tal on donuts”.)

While mak­ing Amer­i­can Made with Tom Cruise, Glee­son was buzzed by an over­head plane, with less than five me­tres to spare. For the shoot of Ale­jan­dro Iñár­ritu’s Os­car- win­ning The Revenant, Glee­son win­tered in the re­mote wilds of Al­berta, Canada, where both cast and crew re­lied on snow­mo­biles to re­lay mes­sages and where tem­per­a­tures rarely made it above - 30 de­grees. (His Revenant co-star Will Poul­ter cred­its the ever- cheery Glee­son with keep­ing morale up dur­ing the ar­du­ous pro­duc­tion).

“Un­bro­ken was par­tic­u­larly gru­elling be­cause the diet was just so bad,” he says. “But The Revenant was just so long. It just kept go­ing. Be­ing at mi­nus what­ever, be­ing in that land­scape, get­ting in­juries: over time, it added up and snuck up on your body. It was like an en­durance test. It’s a dif­fer­ent kind of act­ing. I wouldn’t be look­ing to do it.

“The only rea­son you do those things is be­cause it’s nec­es­sary for the story or it’s there in the orig­i­nal book. And in those films, it was.”

He laughs: “I wouldn’t be go­ing out of my way to do it all over again.”

Good­bye Christo­pher Robin is out now on gen­eral re­lease

I re­ally hope ‘Christo­pher Robin’ does the same. I sus­pect the re­views will go many dif­fer­ent ways. But I’ve seen peo­ple weep­ing in a cinema watch­ing it. That’s hard to do. Or at least in a way that isn’t just ‘shoot the dog’

PHO­TO­GRAPH: IAN WEST/PA WIRE

Above: Glee­son at the world pre­miere ■ of Good­bye Christo­pher Robin in Lon­don last week. Left: On the red car­pet at The Force Awak­ens pre­miere.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.