Andrea Riseborough at the British Independent Film Awards
By David Hennessy
There was success for the Irish at the Sunday’s Moet British Independent Film Awards in London. Broken, a powerful drama written by Irish playwright Mark O’Rowe and starring Cillian Murphy, took two awards including Best Film.
English actress Andrea Riseborough took Best Actress for her role in the thriller about an IRA informer in 1990s Northern Ireland, Shadow Dancer. However, one of the night’s biggest honours went to Michael Gambon who received The Richard Harris Award. This award is given each year to an actor that the academy feels has contributed highly to British films, throughout their career. Past winners include Daniel Day Lewis, Bob Hoskins and Ralph Fiennes. Gambon was born in Cabra, Dublin before moving to London with his family at the age of 5. He is known for his roles in Dancing at Lughnasa, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover and the Harry Potter films where he took on the role of Dumbledore after Harris’ passing.
“It’s amazing how much you’ve done,” Gambon reflected after receiving his award. “I’ve been an actor 50 years and I can’t believe that. It seems like [clicks fingers], time flies through, doesn’t it?”
What has been his highlight of half a century in cinema? “With the new James Bond, Daniel (Craig). I stood on top of one of those big buildings and pushed him off [Layer Cake]. Things like that, I remember.”
Established in 1998, the awards were marking their 15th year with many previous award winners present in support. The Irish actor James Nesbitt was on hosting duties for the seventh time, himself a BIFA winner for his powerful performance in Bloody Sunday in 2002. Chris O’Dowd hosted last year in his absence, of which Nesbitt commented: “Many say he is a charming and charismatic actor. I don’t see it myself but there’s no accounting for taste. Or if you’re Jimmy Carr, there’s just no accounting.”
The reason Nesbitt could not host last year was because he was busy filming The Hobbit, released this week. James shared with The Irish World how demanding the shoot of Peter Jackson’s latest epic was: “We were there for two or three months before we started shooting. We did a pretty vigorous training regime, we did horse riding, we did stunt training and all so my wife could watch the trailer and ask: ‘Which one are you?’”
It was Rufus Norris’ Broken that had led the nominations with nine in total. Written by IFTA and Rooney Prize for Irish Literature winning screenwriter Mark O’Rowe, it stars Tim Roth and Cillian Murphy. The film’s lead character, Skunk, a pre-teenage girl, witnesses an assault on her cul-de-sac that sets off a chain of events that will change her quiet neighbourhood forever. Roth plays her father who feels the strain of life as a single parent while Murphy is the teacher she has a crush on. Gritty and very bleak at times, it also contains some extremely warm characters and laugh out loud moments. The film was awarded Best Film while Rory Kinnear took Best Supporting Actor.
“I feel absolutely bloody great,” director Rufus said of the film’s success. “It’s fantastic. Hopefully, it’s more likely that I’ll get to make another film. Evenings like tonight are great because all the people out there, all the films that have been made are labours of love. It’s really very hard to make an independent film in Britain. It’s very lovely to come together and celebrate each other and it’s great for us. Hopefully, it increases our chances of making another one.”
Famed for his work in theatre, Rufus Norris explained why he chose Broken to make his cinema debut: “I love the fact that it’s dark but it’s full of hope. It’s got that juxtaposition of optimism in a dark place. I like the fact that there are bad acts going on but there are no bad people. I think this story is a great one for looking at people behaving badly. No one behaves brilliantly in it but there’s a reason for it. Often we do things out of love. It doesn’t come out that way but that’s what the inference is.”
Working with a young and unproven actor or actress is always a risk and Rufus revealed the lengths he went to in order to find the girl with the right qualities to play Skunk in the film, the innocent eyes through which the audience observes its dark subject matter: “We saw 850 girls for that role and it got very, very late, we still hadn’t found her and there was quite a lot of pressure from the producers to say: ‘We’ll go with her (to any auditionee)’. I was like: ‘No, she hasn’t walked in yet. When she does, I’ll know it’. And she did.” With her nomination for Most Promising Newcomer, Eloise Laurence certainly repaid his patience.
For the full story, pick up this week’s (Dec 15) Irish World