Friday 23 June 2017

Irish director Jim Sheridan reacts to author's criticism of his movie

Film director says he initially received similar criticism from John B Keane after 'The Field'

Twist: Eric Bana plays Dr William Grene, who helps trigger the memories of Vanessa Redgrave's character Roseanne McNulty
Twist: Eric Bana plays Dr William Grene, who helps trigger the memories of Vanessa Redgrave's character Roseanne McNulty
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

Director Jim Sheridan has answered author Sebastian Barry's claims that his movie adaptation of The Secret Scripture has changed dramatically from the author's original storyline in the novel of the same name.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent ahead of the film's premiere at the Audi Dublin International Film Festival last night, Sheridan said he received similar criticism when he adapted both My Left Foot and The Field from their original works.

Eric Bana with Jim Sheridan at last night's premiere Photo: Fergal Philips
Eric Bana with Jim Sheridan at last night's premiere Photo: Fergal Philips

Both movies went on to receive worldwide critical acclaim.

Speaking about Barry's comments, Sheridan said: "It is a no-win situation. If you change it, you are in trouble, and if you don't change it, you are in trouble.

"So it's difficult, especially with such a strong literary work as that is."

Citing from his earlier works, the six-time Academy Award-nominated director added: "It is always going to be different when you adapt a book. My Left Foot stops when Christy Brown is 17 and we went on until he was 45 and we changed everything. The Field changed an awful lot too. Things change when you make films. You can't help, it you know?"

Noel Pearson at the Dublin premiere Photo: Fergal Phillips
Noel Pearson at the Dublin premiere Photo: Fergal Phillips

Paying homage to Barry's work, Sheridan also said the generational scope of the novel proved impractical to squeeze into one movie.

"It is never easy when you adapt a book," he said. "Especially when it goes for 100 years. How do you do that? It's impossible. You can't. The literary work of The Secret Scripture would be impossible to adapt faithfully outside of doing an eight-hour mini series."

The Dublin-born director went on to say he had also received criticism for staying true to the book's ending.

"The entire story about Vanessa [Redgrave] and Eric Bana - that's in the book, you know? And, in the book, in the last few chapters, there is a sudden change that I had to write - even though, when the book came out, nobody accepted it.

Aidan Turner, Tim Vaughan-Lawlor and Rooney Mara in a scene
Aidan Turner, Tim Vaughan-Lawlor and Rooney Mara in a scene

"So I tried to make that work. And the biggest criticism we got was the part that actually stays true to the book. People maybe thought that you can't have such an 'up' ending in such a heavy story. But that's the whole book. That's the reason I did it."

Sebastian Barry declined to comment when contacted yesterday. However in recent months, when asked about the movie version of his novel, Barry said: "There is no dialogue from the book in the film, there are no scenes from the book in the film, and the backstory is entirely new... no Sligo, no father, no ballroom, the things that are important to me are not there."

He added that "it's not a bad film, it is just Jim's film".

Speaking about the comments, Sheridan said: "I don't think he was too heavy. I think he was just saying it's a different experience, which I agree with. This is a no win. If I don't change it, I lose, if I do change it, I lose, you know?

Rooney Mara and Jack Reynor
Rooney Mara and Jack Reynor

"But I must say when John B Keane saw The Field and saw all the changes, initially he was a little bit put out, you know?

"But in the longer term the family were delighted with the success of the movie - because it kept the play going."

The adaptation of the Man Booker Prize-shortlisted and best-selling novel features an all-star cast including Rooney Mara, Eric Bana, Vanessa Redgrave, Jack Reynor, Aidan Turner and Love/Hate's Tom Vaughan-Lawlor.

The Secret Scripture tells the story of a 100-year-old woman, Roseanne McNulty (played by Redgrave), who has lived in a Co Roscommon Mental Hospital for almost half of her life when she decides to write her autobiography triggering memories from her eventful past.

Speaking st the film's Dublin premiere last night, Bana said:

Vanessa Redgrave Photo: Arthur Mola/Invision/AP
Vanessa Redgrave Photo: Arthur Mola/Invision/AP

"It's the same with any film. Especially when you are working with such a strong director, you work with those kind of directors because they have a very unique vision. The book is source material and then it is adapted and the film becomes its own piece in itself - and that's what makes it exciting."

He added that he has read several of Barry's books to find an Irish voice.

The Australian actor also expressed his love of Ireland and said he had time to fit in a quick pint of Guiness yesterday afternoon before he jets out today.

The Secret Scripture is in cinemas nationwide now.

Sunday Independent

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