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A sit down with Ireland’s latest silver screen star, Domhnall Gleeson

Rising Irish star Domhnall Gleeson. Photo: Domhnall Gleeson

Rising Irish star Domhnall Gleeson. Photo: Domhnall Gleeson

What are you doing now?

‘‘I’m working on a film, Brooklyn, with Saoirse Ronan. I’m in the last third of the story. It’s an adaption of a novel by Colm Tóibín.  Love Saoirse, and I loved the novel.  Tóibín writes women so well.

It’s about a girl in the 1950s leaving Ireland as there’s nothing for her here.  It’s a story that is mostly about women, and the cast list is almost all women. It feels strange to say that I’m not sure I’ve been in many movies with many women in it, or one with a female protagonist, with the exception maybe of Never let me go.

In the structure of the novel, the first two-thirds take place in Brooklyn, and in the last third she comes home to Ireland to deal with a personal tragedy, and the world opens up for her at home.  We’re filming this part in Enniscorthy.’’

Are you the love interest?

‘‘I guess so. My job is to make him a realistic alternative to her life in the States.’’

What about your role in Calvary?

‘‘I did a lot of prep for Calvary but only one day filming.  I play a murdering, rapist paedophile – a cannibal as well… just the kind of guy you want to live next door to! You have to be very careful doing research for that.  I watched a lot of interviews with people that had done horrific things and getting their point of view on it, it was pretty interesting.’’

Irish cinema has had a lot of attention of late.  You could almost say that a sort of Irish brat-pack has emerged, which includes you. How do you feel about that?

‘‘I don’t know, I have never thought about it in those terms. There are lots of really good Irish actors around at the moment, but I don’t feel we have ever really had a dearth of talent, it’s always been there.

 

I think in a way what’s changed is that some of the projects being made here have improved. People like John McDonagh, Martin McDonagh and Lenny Abrahamson are just amazing and they’ve given Irish actors an opportunity to show what they can do, and to work on good work, which makes you a better actor also.

In Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror story, you played two characters; first as internet-addict Ash, who doesn’t seem to pay much attention to his girlfriend, then, ‘puppet’, Ash, after his death.  How did you manage it, or rather, what were your methods?

‘‘Well I spend a lot of time on my mobile phone! I think their relationship [Ash and Martha] is good at the beginning, but is just taken over by technology. He doesn’t live his life away from technology as much as he should – so that’s easy to relate to.  But the thing afterwards is a total unknown – it doesn’t exist.

That was a weird thing to take on and that was about trusting Hayley [Atwell], who I was acting opposite, about trusting Owen [Harris] who was the director, and about trusting the script which was the best script I’d read in ages.

It’s a funny way to go to work in the morning – I had to shave all the hair off my legs.  I got back to my trailer one day and there was just this razor, and it was the saddest lunch-break that ever happened.’’

About Time allowed us to see you in your first real, ‘leading man’, role.   How do you feel about this shift in your career?

‘‘It’s exciting, because you get to do something different, and it shows a certain level of belief in what you’re doing from people who make movies for a living. At the same time, it is also just the same job – you just turn up on set more often.

 

All you’re trying to do is do the best thing for the story and express yourself in a certain way.  Getting to do that five days a week as opposed to two days a week is lovely.  It means more practice, and you get more comfortable. I really, really enjoyed the process on that film.’’

We last had some laughs from you with Immatürity for Charity, your comedy sketch fundraiser. 70,000 euro for St. Francis hospice in Raheny, well done!  What’s going on with that?

‘‘Once a month, you get that extra 20 quid or 50 quid from somewhere, or somebody that has just found the sketches online.  It’s really nice, because to me, it’s like we’ve put one of those boxes in the supermarket, one of those that everyone puts their change into? Well it’s like we’ve put that online but when we get extra in, it makes me really happy.’’

When can we expect more comedy from you? Will you have time for something like Noreen?

‘‘At the moment I’m not writing anything, apart from with my friend Michael Maloney, we write comedy sketches all the time, just to keep busy.

Comedy-wise, unless somebody hires me to do a comedic role, I don’t see myself writing anything for myself, just because there are people that are better writers than me.  So I’d rather work on their comedy than my comedy!’’

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