VIBE IS GOOD
A film about the godfather of Belfast punk shows how the joy of music is a universal language that is bigger than politics
AN ALL-DAY date featuring a breakfast fry-up and several pints of Guinness was the secret ingredient behind Irish actor Richard Dormer’s lead performance in a film about Belfast’s punk era of the 1970s, Good Vibrations. Dormer enjoyed a famous Ulster fry – including two fried eggs, black pudding and soda bread – followed by some pints of Guinness with the man he would be portraying, Belfast music impresario Terri Hooley.
Hooley became known as the godfather of Belfast punk after opening record store Good Vibrations in the 1970s. His intention was to defy the violent period known as The Troubles, when there was vicious fighting between Protestant and Catholic paramilitaries across Northern Ireland.
“Basically I met Terri for a breakfast, we had an Ulster fry, then we went to a bar and had a few pints of Guinness in the morning and then the afternoon,’’ Dormer says. “Terri was aware I was going to be playing him and he was nervous of me and I was nervous of him.
“During the day lots of his friends were coming into the bar and there was a lot of loose talking. I got the essence and spirit of who Terri is, from that day. We met for a few more pints, now and then, after that.’’
Dormer, who has achieved worldwide fame for playing haunted outlaw character Beric Dondarrion in the third season of Game of Thrones, vividly remembers Hooley’s rendition of his supposed London punch-up with John Lennon in the 1960s. Hooley, an active peace campaigner at the time, was annoyed that Lennon was a supporter of the hardline guerrilla Irish Republican Army. The fight only ended when Hooley’s glass eye landed on the floor.
“Terri never stopped telling stories about the famous people he had met and had allegedly met,” Dormer says.
“Apparently he met John Lennon at a party in London, they ended up in a punch-up when John Lennon suggested the IRA needed support. There was also a story about Terri sharing a joint and a bottle of rum with Bob Marley. Terri knew a lot of people and a lot of people respected him because of his passion and he was trying to make a difference.’’
Good Vibrations follows Hooley’s life, beginning when he lost his eye from a childhood accident. The movie focuses on the early years of the opening of the shop and Hooley’s support of young local bands, such as The Undertones.
Dormer says Hooley’s life story is one that should be recounted from generation to generation, as it shows that music and life are bigger than politics. “I’m delighted that Good Vibrations is still going strong because we finished filming three years ago,’’ he says. “I hope that in 50 years’ time the reaction is still the same, that with the joy of music, anything is possible. If you follow your dreams you can always find joy and hope in any trouble or adversity. Ultimately life and music are bigger than politics and music is a universal language. Terri is really a visionary, God bless him.” Dormer was especially inspired by
Good Vibrations’ rare uplifting theme for a story based in Belfast in the traumatic 1970s. “Growing up in war-torn Northern Ireland, at the beginning of The Troubles, it was like the film was my childhood and identity,” says Dormer, who grew up 13km southwest of Belfast in Lisburn. “I loved the sense of light and energy in the script and Terri’s great sense of humour and his great attitude to life shines through in film.”
Dormer, 44, jokes he has become an overnight sensation after more than 20 years in the business – mostly with stage roles in Ireland and England as well as playwriting. The character of Hooley marks his debut in a film lead role, but he says he receives most of his recognition from playing the one-eyed Brotherhood Without Banners leader, the Lightning Lord, who wields a flaming sword.
“It’s weird because of all the things I’ve done, because Game of Thrones is such a huge phenomenon, that is what I’m best known for,’’ he says. “Growing up, I thought I would be an artist or writer, and I fell into acting by accident because a drama teacher at my school told me I could make a living out of it.”
Good Vibrations opens on Thursday