Speaking English

Meet the actor, Barry Ward!

From 14 to 25 March 2018 Moscow welcomed Irish Film Festival. Among the presented films there were short movies starring Barry Ward. After the films he kindly answered the questions from the audience.

The first question which must be asked is what’s going on in the short film “My Father, My Blood”? Your interpretation.

Your guesses are as good as mine. It was very different on the page to what you’ve seen on the screen. And originally it was a father and a girl who he was raising as a dog. And we feel she was very fearful and wild. We showed it that the girl was raised like a boy. When we were improvising this boy’s stuff came out.

The woman that he killed at the beginning put some kind of a spell or a curse on him and it had such an effect on him. It was interesting to put it at the beginning of the movie which it wasn’t originally. It gives it more weight, so I think it was worth making.

But the big thing, the real question is what happens in the scene with the bonfire, with me and daughter. When we filmed that, it was purely physical battle, so it was really the father accertaining power and nothing more than that. And then the camera deliberately moves down and you can’t see what’s going on so that’s gonna be your own imagination. Which I think is really good film-making because if you are a minimalist the audience really have to participate. What exactly goes on in that scene depends on your imagination.

And afterwards there was the young girl, Jordanne Jones is the actress’s name, when she bleeds into the river. And there was a question what exactly we want to say with that because there could be a lot of things. But we had a lot of fun when we were making it. The props came with loads of blood. And probably it was originally a different story. We concluded that in the film we were making we said that it was the daughter’s first period. And I guess the father is trying to keep this child down, oppressed, sacrificing that she is growing over and naturally the father can’t really do with that. And then, when she attacks the young girl on the beach, I think the father is thinking he has failed.

I think the writer and director’s inspiration really came from the location. The landscape plays a big part in the film. The place where the film was shot is in the west of Ireland called Burren.

In a lot number of the short films presented today, we saw amazing Irish landscapes. Do you have your own favorite places in Ireland as for the nature?

I’ve always loved Burren where we shot the film, have been fascinated by it. And always thought it would make a really great setting for a movie. It may be great for a sci-fi film.

And the Cliffs of Moher where really big dramatic cliffs are falling to be the Atlantic Ocean and the next stop, thousands of miles away, is America. It’s really stunning.

And also I made a movie three or four years ago, called Gimmy’s Hall, which was all around Sligo and Leitrim. The location was a stunning landscape.

And I am from the city, from Dublin, and I love natural realism movies, movies in high rise flats and big complexes.

Another short film with a child and the film “Time Traveller” were just amazing. How do you feel when you have to work with children who are not professionals?

There’s a saying in film making: Never work with children or animals. And I think it’s because they are not predictable so you don’t know what you are gonna get and the film is an expensive media. So it’s not ideal for this kind of work. But I love working with children and animals precisely for this reason. They are so unpredictable. They force you to be really present at the moment and you can’t lie. I think it leads to very good performance. And the kid in the “Time Traveller” movie was a real traveller, he was a member of the travel community. So when I met the writer and director he told me he was thinking of casting a real traveller kid and I said “Yes, you have to because it would make me be better at pretending to be a traveller”.

So we met maybe five kids and I worked with them and we had a lot of improvisation. And then me and the director watched the tapes and discussed who was best and how to get best performance from the kid. And we could see from the improvisation what he would react to and how he would react.

And we found the best policy. The kid was fast and he would answer back real quick answers but we needed to get stillness from him so that the camera could explore his face. So we discovered that whenever I asked him some rhetorical questions he would a kind of get confused and stopped for a moment and that’s when we filmed him.

Which of your all films is special for you? Which do you like the most?

I look back and it was fun to make them all. When you make films, they cover a part of your life and become memories. The very first job that I did as a 13-year old boy in the TV series “Family” is still probably the best. Jimmy’s Hall was a very important movie for me because it opened the doors and it was a story where I felt a very strong bound with the character, I really wanted to portray it. It was special for me. And «Time Traveller» gave me the most thrill when I watched it.

What was the turning point in your life when you finally realized that you wanted to be an actor and make films?

It’s always changing and revolving and there isn’t really a landmark or a point that stands out. Maybe the first job in a group cast which was my first experience in acting, filming. But I still didn’t think it was my career or that I did the right thing with acting. But in 1999 I made a film with Cillian Murphy and he was super enthusiastic as an actor and he’s an amazing talent. He could convince me to pursuit. And it’s because of him that I could have fallen in love with that and I have become so passionate about it. And it’s since Ken Loach’s “Jimmy’s Hall” that I have started to get bigger roles and much more diverse.

In one of your recent works “The End of the F*** World” you play the father living in a trailer, again. So what is with you and the trailer? Would you like to live in a trailer in the middle of nowhere? Why are you always in trailers in the films?

Do I look like someone living in a trailer? Actually it’s only a coincidence that those two jobs came. In the “Time Traveller” it was important for us to show that the father was sensitive I guess. Because in Ireland in press and the media the travelling community has quite a bad time, they are discriminated against and the stereotype is of very violent fathers. We tried to portray it in a better light. And in “The End of the F*** World” the character plays more like a new aged hippy which I had a lot of fun playing.

I couldn’t live in a caravan in the field. I would get too lonely. I love big cities and people.

Actor Barry Ward was born in Dublin. He started acting career at the age of 14 with the world famous BBC series «Family» by Roddy Doyle. By 16 he had finished playing in the BBC series “Plotlands”. After that followed the critics appraised short film «Lipservice», and then the American feature film “Sunburn” with Cillian Murphy starring.

Do you like presenting your films in Russia? And how do you find the feedback from Russian audience?

I was here two years ago with “Pursuit”. I always find the audience cinema literate. The audience often sees some things that I would not think about. It’s always interesting and stimulating. And I also think that here people are far better read than most people at home.

You played in Britain in the series “Britannia” that was recently finally translated into Russian. Will your character appear in the next season and what’s his background?

It was a crazy shoot. It was completely changed, I mean my original character Sawyer who is a salt farmer. His druidic past was alluded to him, I mean he was a druid in the past first. But then it all changed while we were shooting. All the scripts changed. It was a chaotic shoot given the massive scale of production. Season 2 begins filming quite soon. There are ten episodes and I am currently in negotiations. There is a part already when my character reappears.

You both play in the theater and make films. Which do you prefer? And what are your plans for the nearest future?

Most actors would answer that they prefer the theater but I’ve never liked the theater. I did a lot offers and couldn’t get film or TV so I did like 10 years of just theater. And I was doing a play when I met Ken Loach for “Jimmy’s Hall”. And when he cast me I walked away from the theater and haven’t done a play since.

Why don’t you like playing in the theater? And how did you find working in films?

Before I started playing in films I did a TV show so I wanted to pursuit but it just happened there was more theater work around for me than film and television. The theater is a good base and sometimes the work is good. But I never believed I was good on the stage. I didn’t ever believe in the world we were creating on the stage. I felt somehow removed, I could never lose myself on the stage. That’s what I find in films. I can really immerse myself in the role, in the world. I can really live it. And I think it gives results in a better performance.

The last play I did was 4 years ago and I may do some in future. I love reading plays. I think it’s about the right play coming to me at right time.

As for the plans in two or three weeks time I start shooting a feature movie in Ireland. It’s called “Extraordinary”. It’s a supernatural comedy. The cast with me are mostly comedians so I can have to get funny.

Is it hard for you to be funny?

Yeah! It’s gonna be a big challenge because they are used to it and they do it all the time. So we’ll work!

In most short films that we watched today the Irish are shown so sad and unemotional. But here you are so cheerful making jokes. Is it only beer that can save Ireland from sadness?

We have loads of funny films in Ireland and live films, just these ones were chosen for the festival.

Do you often speak Gaelic in everyday life?

I don’t speak it and only 5 % of the population on the west speak it. We learnt it at school but I forgot most of it. But the guy who made “Pursuit” was an Irish school teacher and he made a short film in Irish. And my Moscow agent just gave me the script to read on the plane and while I read the translation in English, it’s a feature movie in Irish and I really want to relearn it.

The next question is about the conflict in the Northern Ireland. How deeply are you involved into it? Can it make you stop playing in particular scenes or decide against participating from the beginning?

I grew up in Dublin which is 300 miles away from the place where all the troubles were happening. And I was very young when most of it happened so I didn’t have huge emotions. And now there are a lot of movies coming out about the conflict, for numerous reasons. One of which is it’s enough time that has passed so people are able to explore the conflict through stories and films. But obviously you have to be careful and sensitive to both sides and not to portray either side as too bad. You have to approach some understanding and offer some depth to the complexity. I think to oversimplify either side of the conflict would be a very bad thing. And I think out film “Maze” tried very hard to avoid that and I think it succeeded.

And we played that movie in Belfast with members of the audience from both sides of the conflict and it was very well received. People were happy of how the things were presented. There are of course hard-liners on both sides who might be unhappy with it but they just don’t have to come to the cinema.

At the end of the evening Barry gave a brief interview specially for our newspaper.

Do you have a lot of fans? Or maybe a fan club?

It seems like I do. Someone gave me some presents, a bar of chocolate and honey.

It’s St.Patrick day and you are in Russia. How come?

Because this festival is on. And I was supposed to go to a concert tonight in London. I live in London.

So why did move to London?

I love it! Dublin is a nice city but London is like ten times in size. So I love big cities. I like New York a lot but I think London is a better city actually. Maybe I’d really love Istambul.

I was searching for some interviews with you in the Internet but I didn’t find any. Are you hiding?

Yes. I like keeping anonymous. It’s cool. But there are actually a couple of interviews because I did two Sky shows recently. The media really promoted the shows and I did a lot of interviews. They are online I think.

Do you have enough time for everything? For life? For travelling?

Well, I was in Finland last week, going to Rome next week and then Chicago. I love Italy, made a film in Italian called “L’accabadora”.

Do you spend a lot of time in England? Or are you always travelling?

I live in London with my girlfriend and son. So I am always there and move round for work.

Do you plan to work in the United States?

I don’t know. I’ve been there to LA and I have an agent there. And I have some meetings. But I don’t like LA, it’s a strange place. I think New York is better for me.

I’ve read in an interview that you like reading.

Yes, I love reading. At the moment I am reading a Russian author who has received a Nobel prize recently, Svetlana Alexievich. The book is called “Secondhand time”. It’s all interviews with people she recorded. A really brilliant writer. And I’ve read Bulgakov, short stories.

Did you study playing in theater?

No, I studied philosophy in English while acting at the same time. And now I am doing a Master’s degree in Script writing.

Do you plan to do your own movies?

I’d like to.

You’d like to write or film?

Well, yes, maybe also direct. After having done much work as an actor I think I will be confident as a director.

Would you like to start with short movies?

Yes, exactly. I am writing at the moment. If I write something that I think is worth shooting, I will shoot it.

Where do you find ideas?

Everywhere. My mind is full. I just need to shape them.

We hope to see something soon.