Co-writer and director Mark O’Connor has labelled new film Cardboard Gangsters as an Irish success story, and hopes its international success will continue in Ireland.
The film, which had its much anticipated Irish premiere Dublin’s Odeon Point Village this week, is set to take Irish audiences by storm, having already picked up awards at film festivals in Manchester and, perhaps more surprisingly, in Los Angeles.
The film, which stars John Connors (King of the Travellers, Love/Hate), Fionn Walton (Out of Here, What Richard Did), and Kierston Wareing (Fish Tank, East Enders) follows a group of wannabe gangsters as they attempt to gain control of the drug trade in Darndale, chasing the glorified lifestyle of money, power and sex.
Jay Connolly (Connors) is a part-time DJ and low-level drug dealer. When his welfare is cut off he decides it’s time for him and his gang to enter the big leagues. This attracts the attention of the local King Pin and sets Jay down a violent and bloody path.
“Honestly the Irish premiere is more exciting than anything because I want Irish people to see it and I want to see how they react,” said O’Connor.
“Because this is a homegrown film, it’s Irish cinema, all the music is Irish, this is Irish film making, so hopefully people will enjoy it.”
O’Connor, whose previous work includes Between the Canals and King of the Travellers, has been delighted by the film’s international success.
“That was a complete shock. Even to get into those festivals and then to win those awards was unbelievable because this was a very local film and it’s got very strong accents so we thought people wouldn’t understand it, but for some reason there was something in it that just translated internationally and they just got it,” he said.
“I wasn’t taken aback by Manchester because they’re used to that gritty cinema, I knew they’d like it, but Newport in LA, I didn’t think they’d like it.
“So I was taken aback by that, and how an American audience could actually understand what we were saying.
“The road to get here was very difficult, to get it funded and then to get it made. We only had 15 days to shoot the whole film, and it was a 95-page script and it was multiple characters and multiple locations.
“Hopefully……Irish people go into the cinemas and watch this because that’s who we made it for really, we made it for people from here.”
“Five years ago I started writing it, and now it’s finally here so I’m kind of glad that it just has wings now and I can let it fly.” Connors told RTÉ Entertainment.
“I just want to see the reaction of Irish audiences, we’ve done amazing internationally – we won Newport, we won Manchester – but it was meant for an Irish audience and there’s a message there for the Irish youth and people from areas like this, so I’m excited by that.”
Co-star former EastEnders actress Kierston Wareing, who played Kirsty Branning on the BBC soap from 2012 to 2014, said she was “proud” to be part of the film.
“The way Mark [O’Connor] was working, I just got that feeling. All the acting was there, the storyline was there and everything was there and I just had a good feeling about it,” she told RTÉ Entertainment.
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The Essex-born star also revealed that she enjoyed the experience of filming in Darndale on the northside of Dublin.
“I loved it, the cast is such a good bunch, they’re a great laugh and the neighbourhood were fantastic.” she said.
“They obviously watched Love/Hate so they were aware of John [Connors], they were aware of what was going on and they were like ‘What’s going on here?’
“And then they got to know what I did in the UK so all these little children were following me around. They were great characters, I loved every minute of it. It’s a job I’m going to remember, let’s put it that way.”