David Hennessy talks to the actor David Wilmot about those controversial comments by his director on The Guard and Calvary, John Michael McDonagh
“I suspect he was a little bit misunderstood,” says the actor David Wilmot of the controversial comments by John Michael McDonagh who directed him on The Guard and Calvary. McDonagh commented that Irish films as a whole lacked intelligence and technical accomplishments, saying that he did not wish for his film Calvary to be viewed as Irish. The comments received a harsh reaction from those in the Irish industry.
“He’s a writer/director and I suspect his criticism was directed towards other writer/directors. I thought the response was a bit hysterical. I don’t think film industries around the world labour under the illusion that all their work is good, I don’t think anybody does.”
David came to prominence acting for John Michael’s brother Martin, playing Padraic in the original production of The Lieutenant of Inishmore for which he was nominated for a Tony Award and won a Lucille Lortel award for Outstanding Actor: “The only thing I can say is that I did Martin’s work and there was a resistance to his work in the theatre scene when I was involved in his early stuff and now I sense there’s a resistance to John’s work in the Irish film thing. Whatever those reasons are, whether they’re sinister or just as simple as jealousy, I see that pattern where people in Ireland have an issue with these London-Irish brothers coming in and with such gusto and verve winning over audiences. It seems to annoy people because the stuff is very popular, there’s no doubting that. That seems to wind people up. You wonder if people prefer things that nobody goes to see but everybody feels good about themselves.
“I would be surprised if John was surprised by some of it, having seen his brother go through it years ago. All I know is that when John came to make Calvary, he tried to get everybody that was involved in making The Guard crew-wise. I definitely know he wasn’t making any comment on the proficiency of Irish crews because that wouldn’t make any sense. He tried to get everybody who worked on The Guard. Every department, he tried to get those people back because he was so happy with their work. I know there’s no issue there.”
Asked if working with either McDonagh brother has its similarities, David says: “Martin’s never directed me but he’s been very present so he has a very strong hand. I think there’s a similarity between them, between their mood but they would probably deny it themselves.
“There’s a hardness to their stuff that I think is brilliant. I love it. I always feel lucky to work with either of them. In fact, I think they’ve had quite an influence on me. There’s definitely a similarity there. A bit of it is London, a bit of it is Connemara.
“The McDonagh stuff is very extreme in a way. They’re kind of tough cats.”
Martin McDonagh brought his play The Cripple of Inishmaan back to great success last year with Daniel Radcliffe in the lead role. Martin has since become a successful film director with films like In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths. Could we ever see a Lieutenant of Inishmore film? “I would be very surprised if that happened, not that I know much about it, but I would be very surprised if there was ever a film. I remember when I was working with him, he got a lot of offers and that’s when he was young and he was kind of adamant a play’s a play and a film’s a film. I think he certainly has integrity. I think they both do.”
David’s latest film Gold is featuring in the London Irish Film Film Festival. Also starring James Nesbitt and Maisie Williams of Games of Thrones, the film reunites David with Kerry Condon who he worked with on that first production of The Lieutenant of Inishmore.
“We do indeed (go way back). It was fantastic to work with her. I think she’s a fine actress. We did the play all in all for two years. We did 14 months at the RSC and then we went to Broadway. I did a film with Kerry when she was 16 called Rat, one of her first jobs, so I know Kerry a very long time. “She would be one of my best pals. When the director said we’re casting Kerry Condon, I was just like: ‘That’s amazing that’s brilliant because you have a shorthand then and if you have to do anything, there’s a lot of trust there and then obviously you just a laugh anyway, it makes work a bit of a laugh.
“Absolutely all of them were great. I didn’t know Maisie. She’s brilliant. Jimmy was really up for it. It was brilliant shooting Gold and I loved it.”
The film sees David play a man who returns to his family after an absence of many years to find his wife and daughter have moved on: “It’s kind of walking the line a bit because there’s kind of heavy scenes in it and the character I play has previously attempted suicide and becomes estranged from his daughter and is not someone who naturally copes in life, but then everything is kind of done with a light touch so the comedy is light and then the melancholy stuff is light.”
For the full interview, see the November 15 Irish World.
Gold is showing as part of the London Irish Film Festival at Clapham Picturehouse at 8.30pm on Thursday November 20. For more information, see our guide here.