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Friday 23 August 2019

'I lost two-and-half stone and stayed in a dishevelled state' - Ian Lloyd Anderson on playing heroin addict in Dublin Oldschool

Former Love/Hate actor Ian Lloyd Anderson is a very busy man these days in both his personal and his professional life

Ian Lloyd Anderson. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Ian Lloyd Anderson. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Fran kills Dean as Siobhan hides under the caravan in series five of Love/Hate
Ian and Kim on their wedding day

Aine O'Connor

After months of glowing reviews and dare I say, buzz, Dublin Oldschool is finally in the cinema.

The film, based around Dublin drug and party culture, has a great ensemble cast including Emmet Kirwan, Seana Kerslake, Sarah Greene and Mark O'Halloran, but the quiet showstealer for many has been Ian Lloyd Anderson. He acknowledges that this is wonderful, it's just that when we meet, he has other things on his mind and apologises for the phone tucked under his thigh. His wife, Kim, is due their second child any day, "We're thinking she might go at the premiere," he says, "Just wait until my good scene!"

To some people, Ian Lloyd Anderson is best known as Dean from Love/Hate, to others for his many theatre roles. This is his first major film role and he plays Daniel, the recovering heroin addict brother of Emmet Kirwan's character, Jason. Jason and his friends are heavily into party drugs which are considered far less of a stigma than heroin but the film looks at this, the nature of addiction and the relationship between the brothers who haven't seen each other for several years until they meet in the street.

It has elements of Kirwan's own relationship with his brother who had an addiction and lost contact with the family until a chance encounter in London.

It was originally a play in which Kirwan and Lloyd Anderson played the same roles. They have toured it extensively and gotten lots of reactions, from the man who spent the entire play on his phone under his jumper to the man who cried.

"Dublin Oldschool is a weird one in theatre because people see it like it's a comedy gig so Emmet would say the opening lines, and they're not funny lines, but people would p**s themselves and it actually became almost hard to do," Ian adds.

"But it was really cool because it was bringing in people who wouldn't normally go to the theatre."

They have just performed it in Canada and during a post-show talk, a man stood up: "This heavyset dude from Vancouver said thanks and started crying, he had lost his own brother to addiction. We didn't know what to do so I said 'Come up and have a hug' so he did and it was really amazing. I was chuffed, not because the bloke was upset, but because we reached him."

Ian grew up in Baldoyle, on Dublin's northside and never seriously considered doing anything but acting. He went to drama school and after graduation although he got some work, he struggled to get an agent. But he plugged away, "and you have to get lucky too," so that now, at just turned 32, he is much in demand.

He had dreamed of having the opportunity to completely transform himself for a role and knew that playing Daniel onscreen, under director and co-writer Dave Tynan, was that opportunity, so he embraced it.

Ian says, that in terms of acting, there is little difference between film, theatre or TV: "If you can act, you can act. Without sounding overly pretentious, but it's hard not to, you're breathing a life into a character. Some people will tell you they're completely in it but I'm always aware that I'm acting."

That said, his work for the film was the closest to method acting he has ever done. "I lost two-and-half stone to play the role, I stayed in a dishevelled state for the whole day, I grew my fingernails out. Every morning I'd find the three spikiest little stones I could and put them in my shoe and leave them there.

"They do something to you physically - they make you hyper aware that you're not comfortable."

The weight loss he achieved slowly whilst doing a play in London; living alone he could eat his own meals and run the 45 minutes to work every day, then he lost a fast final stone, to just under 10, in the three weeks before shooting started. The experience has proved interesting for him, it made him hyper aware of his body.

"I have had a lot of weight issues over the years, I used to be 16-and-a-half stone, but then I suppose in some ways, I started taking my career a bit more seriously.

"I don't fret about it as much as I used to but it's part of this job. It's very competitive, I look at young actors coming out of drama school and they're like body builders, but at the end of the day, you still have to be able to act. I could have lost all the weight and still been crap in the film!"

They were very keen from when they first did the play not to make Daniel a "cartoon version" of a heroin addict.

"We didn't want to define the man as a heroin addict. He is a man who is estranged from his family, who is homeless, who is struggling to better himself, who is college-educated and has an addiction problem," he says.

"It doesn't skirt around those issues but it doesn't point fingers either, it allows him to be that and you can make up your own judgement."

It also looks at the Irish male and the relationship between brothers.

"There's the difference between what you say and what you mean, and what's not said. And I love that way that the two brothers, even though they are estranged, by their second meeting, they fall back into this pattern."

Although most welcome, his success poses certain problems, hence the phone under his thigh. "It is kind of mad, things started happening [in his career] and it's top work and it's really hard to turn that stuff down. It's what you've been working for forever, and you go, 'I've just had a family!'" His first daughter, Lily, was born eight weeks early, whilst he was doing a play in Edinburgh, so he had to shuttle back and forth.

A lot of the work is in London but he says he wouldn't move there.

Read more: ‘She goes bananas at weekends, then it’s back to work Monday’ - Sarah Greene

"My wife has worked too hard in her own field to get where she is," he says of Kim who is the vice principal in a school in Sutton. "I have a brilliant wife. I've been an actor as long as I've been with Kim so she has known the lean times too. She definitely didn't marry me for my money.

"But she has been incredibly supportive of my career, even to the point where I was asked to go for a gig in London and she said to 'go for it' and I had to go, 'not this time'. It's a lot of pressure and she has never put it back on me and, of course, there are times where it is f**king hard, but a lot of people juggle that.

Read more: 'In Ireland we don’t elect political parties, we elect gangs' - Emmet Kirwan on Dublin Oldschool, homelessness, drugs, and politics

"She's rock solid and Dublin Oldschool has kind of kicked along with me and her getting married to having kids, which is why her going into labour at the premiere would be kind of fitting, in a weird way!"

In the end, baby Lauren arrived three days before the premiere, in time to attend with her proud parents.

Dublin Oldschool is showing nationwide

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