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Tuesday 2 September 2014

Sheridan: Anglo has inspired my Tiger movie

Oscar-nominated director attends bankers' trial as he plans boom satire

Niamh Horan

Published 20/04/2014 | 02:30

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Amid the flash bulbs and the commotion that greeted the climax of the Anglo trial last week, you may have noticed a familiar figure slipping in to the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to watch Sean FitzPatrick's fate unfold.

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It was six-times Oscar-nominated Jim Sheridan and – in an exclusive interview with the Sunday Independent – the director has revealed he plans to make a new movie about the Celtic Tiger crash.

And, more importantly, the characters behind it.

"I always joked with Johnny Ronan that I'd put him in a movie one day," he said.

The world-renowned director of My Left Foot, The Field and In The Name Of The Father wants to make a "Swiftian satire" of Ireland's boom to bust to capture how and why Ireland's fairytale unravelled so dramatically.

"I went to the Anglo trial because I was thinking about a crazy movie about the madness of it and the Celtic Tiger years. It's a very hard thing to do because people aren't really interested in movies about money so I am trying to find an emotional way into it and the people behind it. I'm interested in seeing all those people who appeared to never grow up. They were like kids in a candy store."

Speaking about the Anglo trial, Sheridan added: "I am mystified at how the law works in Ireland – or doesn't work. And I'm really just trying to educate myself about that and I'm trying to find out where the accountability is in Ireland. People are beyond angry, they don't have money and they can't laugh at it so I was thinking the only way they could laugh at it is through 'black humour'."

Johnny Ronan
Johnny Ronan
Niamh Horan and Jim Sheirdan. Photo: Tony Gavin
Niamh Horan and Jim Sheirdan. Photo: Tony Gavin

Sheridan says he lost millions in the crash on "paper" but was lucky because – he quipped – he wasn't "organised enough" to invest it.

He also described a surreal conversation he had with developer Johnny Ronan at the height of the boom.

"Johnny Ronan, probably the most famous household- name developer, used to carry around copies of The Field and give it to various people and say 'that's what we think of the land'. So I said to him one day, 'Johnny, you do know the Bull is a fucking psycho?' And he said 'yeah, but he's our psycho'," Sheridan laughs. Ronan went on to earn the nickname 'Old Bull' in his inner circle of friends.

Elsewhere in an honest, and at times emotional, interview, Sheridan also described the moment, at 17, he saw the tragic accident that was linked to the death of his brother Frankie.

"I had this weird experience which I have never spoken about before. When I came home, my mother had him in her lap and his face was black and blue and I had this really contradictory experience of feeling really sorry for her and also for the first time being excluded from my mother's total attention, it was like 'wow'," he recalled, explaining that his brother died from a brain tumour a year later in hospital.

"My dad found out there was no hope from reading a chart at the end of his bed."

Describing how his parents became pillars of the local community, involved in youth activities such as sport – and eventually theatre – he said: "My dad would bring the kids swimming and my mam would go with him and she would come back and say 'oh, they were nearly drowning, I had to pull them out of the pool'. And I always felt they were saving kids because they couldn't save my little brother."

Speaking about his long career working behind the camera, the director also gave a revealing insight into how one of the world's greatest actors, Daniel Day-Lewis, would prepare for a role.

"I went in the first morning to the set of My Left Foot and Eugene Lambert was teaching Daniel how to paint with his foot and I was amazed at how long Daniel kept painting. So I came back just before lunch and they were painting away and I came back after and he was still at it and when I left at six he was still painting. So I went home and tried myself and I got a cramp after 10 minutes and I realised this guy is insane. The pain! Daniel wouldn't even tell you he endured the cramps. He would be too private to reveal that it might hurt him. He would just keep going."

Sheridan also describes the extreme lengths the three-time Oscar-winner was prepared to go while filming In The Name of The Father.

"I got to a point where I was like 'I can't write this scene where Gerry signs his life away. It's very hard for the audience to buy that'. So Daniel just nods and says 'can you get somebody to keep me awake? I asked Pat Henry, the trainer, to keep him up for a night.

"So two or three nights later Pat is still throwing water at him, shaking him and waking him up. When we came to the scene, it was in his physicality and you can't act that. He was like someone fucking ready to cry at any minute of the day. All I had to do was touch him."

Sheridan was speaking ahead of the launch of the inaugural Dublin Arabic Film Festival, which takes place from May 8-11. The festival will show nine movies across two venues, Lighthouse Cinema Smithfield and the Chester Beatty with Omar Sharif as special guest at the opening night.

Sheridan said: "It is the first year for the festival but it is hoped that next year it will be even bigger, so that it will help lay the foundations for a festival that can grow and showcase Arab life and culture to Irish people."

Tickets and information can be found on www.dublinarabicfilmfestival.ie

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