By Madeline O’Connor
BEHIND every strong man is an even stronger woman, or so the saying goes. It’s one that would ring true for Dubliner Brendan O’Carroll
As Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie prepares to hit UK cinemas this Friday, its creator has been reminiscing and remembering how much he owes of his success to his late mother, Maureen.
He was only nine when his mum whisked him off to the posh Bewley’s Café for his birthday (the family lived an impoverished existence and he was permitted one coffee a year) and gave him free reign to scoff down eight éclairs.
That morning, he’d been in court for stealing a roll of sticky tape and a bicycle bell from a store, and it wasn’t till he got home that evening that his no-nonsense mother would be sending him to borstal.
The shocked boy spent three weeks there, but was given an easier time than others as the priests in charge soon realised he could serve mass in Latin, which he did – getting up at six thirty each morning.
The 58 year old Finglas comedian has called his character from the smash-hit show Mrs Brown’s Boys as “my mother without education”, and it would seem Agnes Brown, the larger-than-life matriarch with the curly wig and big breasts, is a world away from his own mother – but in reality was based on Maureen O’Carroll in more ways than one.
A fascinating woman, Maureen– who had a total of eleven children – was a nun, then left the religious life to become a teacher, then entered politics to become Ireland’s first female shadow foreign minister.
In the film, Brendan said Mrs Brown’s decision to save a single Dublin street’s market stalls – incurring the wrath of bankers, politicians and property developers, was directly inspired by Dublin’s Moore Street, which was full of ‘really tough women’.
It was there that his mother, in the trailblazing political phase of her life, was able to get a home built for the homeless, at which a young Brendan and his siblings would volunteer.
He believes it was her drive to succeed that was one of the main ingredients in his own recipe for success, and the creation of his feisty, foul-mouthed matriarch Agnes. She was, he has said, a great believer in ‘you’re not really alive until you have a challenge’, adding that she believed in bringing her children up not to be afraid.
Before Mrs Brown’s Boys was dreamed up, Brendan was working as a stand-up comedian, but the inspiration for his winning character came on the spur of the moment when he was working on a radio show and was asked to come up with a humorous character.
He based the character he came up with on his late mother Maureen, who had died aged 71 and she would go on to spawn a theatre show, a series of books, then a host of film and TV jobs for Brendan in Ireland, before enjoying huge success on UK shores.
The actor’s career has had many bumps along the way, including bankruptcy and being arrested by police before it became clear his former business partner had committed suicide. But through it all, the comedian has taken Maureen’s motto and run with it – the show he created and stars in has become one of the big success stories of British television.
The Mrs Brown’s Boys special got the top ratings on Christmas Day, with 9.4 million viewers tuning in to BBC1 and Brendan now worth £8million.
Meanwhile, the comedian has revealed he is already hard at work on two different spin-offs from Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie.
One film, Wash and Blow will follow the story of Rory, Dino and their hair salon, with O’Carroll in the role of salon owner Mario. Another will look at a new Chinese character, Mr Wang, who appears in the film adaptation hitting cinemas this weekend.
Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie is in cinemas from this Friday.