Making a Killing
After Portlaoise-native Robert Sheehan asks Declan Cashin to follow him to the loo, the Killing Bono star reveals his love for Larry Mullen, what it was like working with the ‘wonderfully eccentric’ Nicolas Cage, and how he has set his sights on a superhero role
Pardon our French, but some actors are prone to talking shite in the course of a movie's promotional junket. It just comes with the territory. However, within moments of Day & Night meeting Robert Sheehan to discuss his new flick Killing Bono, the young star is, quite literally, talking shite.
"I keep drinking all these things purely out of greed," he begins, nabbing a glass of juice from a table of refreshments in a suite in Dublin's Merrion hotel. "I have a crazy bladder so if I have to rush off to the toilet, just follow me, and we'll keep going with the interview.
"That's how people make friends. I love when you're at a party, and you get talking to people in the jacks. It's always the most intimate conversation. I was at a house party recently, and myself and a couple of mates just ended up taking poos in front of each other. But the cistern was broken, so as one was pooing, the other was filling up a basin to pour down the toilet. That's the kind of thing that bonds you."
It should be noted that Sheehan is delivering that anecdote in the same cheery, everyday manner as you'd describe the weather, but his energy and sense of humour shouldn't come as any surprise to the TV viewers who know the handsome, curly-haired actor as the foul-mouthed delinquent Nathan Young on E4's black sci-fi comedy-drama Misfits. In fact, they'd probably expect no less, but more of that anon.
Right now, the 23-year-old Portlaoise native is all about Killing Bono, a partially true comedy-drama set in the late 70s and early 80s when a fresh-faced U2 are fast becoming the biggest rock group in the world. Sheehan stars (and does his own singing) as Ivan McCormick, a schoolmate of Bono and the lads, who is in a rival band with his ambitious, envious brother Neil (Ben Barnes).
The two brothers move to London to try to launch careers that they hope will equal, if not surpass, the success of Bono (played in the movie by an uncanny Martin McCann), but sibling tensions, together with Neil's propensity for making calamitous career decisions, threaten to ruin everything.
The movie is only loosely based on music writer Neil McCormick's own memoir of the period, I Was Bono's Doppelganger, meaning Sheehan didn't feel the need to spend time getting under the skin of the real Ivan (who is a musician to this day).
"We weren't making the truth of his memoirs," he explains. "Our director Nick Hamm said to Neil [adopting a theatrical English accent], 'Darling, the problem with your life is it doesn't have a third act, so we're going to give you one!' So Ben and I decided to strike up our own dynamic, where the two of us just figure out our own brotherly buzz. But we did meet Neil and Ivan near the end of filming."
Alas, Sheehan didn't get to consult with Bono et al either. "I've never even been in the same room as U2," he laughs. "But they saw the movie in Australia and apparently loved it. It was great to hear that they'd actually given it their blessing. They even gave us some songs. Those rights don't come easy -- you'd either have to know them or be shagging them. Neither of those options was available to me. I wish! Larry Mullen, you sexy devil. Larry's the handsome one, the eye candy, isn't he? I hope he reads this."
While the character of Ivan in Killing Bono constantly struggles as he tries to hustle his way into a tricky industry, the actor playing him has had a much smoother entry into an equally hard-to-crack business. He started acting at aged 14 with a role in Aisling Walsh's Song for a Raggy Boy, and from there worked solidly throughout secondary school on short films and Irish and Canadian TV series including Foreign Exchange, Young Blades and The Clinic.
"I got my first part easily enough," he says. "It was harder on my mother who had to drive me to Dublin for about five million callbacks, and then the subsequent driving for more auditions. Sorry, mother dear.
"But as a young fella you don't think about the difficulties of fashioning a career for yourself. It's not on your mind. After the Leaving Cert, I went to Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology to study film-making, but I dropped out after a year. I'd done some acting during the year, so I didn't really put much work into the course. And then I decided to just keep on doing the acting."
The work came steadily -- The Tudors and Red Riding (opposite new Spider-Man Andrew Garfield) included -- before he was cast in one of the lead roles in the BAFTA-winning Misfits. His aforementioned character Nathan is id incarnate: he says and does what he likes -- the more shocking the better -- and his behaviour is rarely checked by silly things such as ethics or conscience. It's a scenery and limelight-devouring part, and Sheehan goes at it with gusto, making Nathan an oddly sexy anti-hero for the Asbo era.
He keeps his Irish accent for the role too, which probably makes it harder for people to distinguish between him and his cheeky smart-arse alter ego. "That's how you're beamed into their living room," he says. "You've become a familiar face to people as that person. I have had a few people go, 'You're just like your character', and I'm like, 'What?! Oh my God, really?' I suppose when you're playing someone like that all day, every day, you tend to keep some of the mannerisms."
The actor lives in a friend's house in Hackney, north London, while film- ing the series, but says that while he gets a "daily amount of attention", he isn't so famous yet as to have to stop taking the Tube. But while he may have started out in acting on a 'let's see how it goes' basis, Sheehan admits to becoming much more professional in attitude during the past couple of years.
"I think, as I get a little bit older, I'm starting to embrace the ideas of self-improvement, and going back to that very basic but very true principle that you get out as much as you put in," he says. "You have to do good work or it'll be over in a flash. You can't slack off: like in any other job, the people who advance are the ones who put the effort in."
Then we saw a different side to the versatile Sheehan when he played a small-timeDublin criminal avenging his brother's death in Stuart Carolan's well-received four-part TV drama for RTE, Love/Hate -- a role which saw Sheehan star opposite Aiden Gillen and Ruth Negga. A second series is due later this year.
Last year, Sheehan also starred in Season of the Witch, which bombed at the box office, but gave him the chance to work with Hollywood heavyweight Nicolas Cage. "Wonderfully eccentric, but in a very, very disarming and lovely way," is how Sheehan describes the famously, erm, unpredictable star.
It's this kind of experience that gives Sheehan the confidence to keep aiming high. "I had the very amazing pleasure of meeting Christopher Nolan [director of The Dark Knight and Inception] in LA for an hour a couple of years ago," he says.
"We just had a chat and a bit of banter. I'd love for him to cast me. Imagine an Irish Batman? Mind you, Cillian Murphy screen-tested for the role originally. Chris said he saw those blue eyes, and thought, 'Imagine those peering through the mask?' Chris, if you're reading this, give me a call!"
Killing Bono is released nationwide on April 1
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