Friday 15 November 2019

To the Moone and back – how this Stag found success

Declan Cashin talks to Peter McDonald about 'The Stag', stripping and Hollywood

Actor, Peter Mcdonald at the premiere of The Stag during the Jameson Film Festival. Photo: Damien Eagers.
Actor, Peter Mcdonald at the premiere of The Stag during the Jameson Film Festival. Photo: Damien Eagers.
Peter McDonald and his co-stars in The Stag.
Peter McDonald. Photo by Helen Warner

As co-writer and co-star of the new Irish comedy The Stag, nobody could accuse Peter McDonald of not giving his all to the project.

The 42-year-old Dubliner nearly shows it all in the film too, mainly in an extended sequence when the film's gang of premarital revellers (which also includes Hugh O'Conor and Sherlock's Andrew Scott) strip off for a drug-induced swim in a forest – and then forget where they left their clothes.

"We were lucky though because when we shot it – November 2012 – it was relatively warm for that time of year," says Peter, who plays the macho brother-in-law from hell nicknamed "The Machine".

"Most of the time we were dealing with five or six degrees"

The other lads had no qualms about peeling off the layers either. "None of them even asked us about it, they just said they'd do it," says Peter.

"It helped I was getting naked too and jumping in freezing lakes. It was harder for me, actually – the other guys were meant to look freezing, but my character was the hard man. So I had to strut around like I was walking down the beach."

Luckily, there wasn't time for vanity on the production, meaning the flexing and sucking-in-of-tummies among the lads was kept to a minimum.

"The film came together so quickly – about four months from the first script idea to the first day of shooting – that nobody had a chance to spend months preparing in a gym," Peter says. "Even if we did have that time, we'd have encouraged the guys not to do that.

"We had to look like modern regular Irish guys. If we looked like gym monkeys, it would have taken away from the comedy and the sincerity of the film."

The Stag's nudity aside, there really is no avoiding Peter McDonald right now: he also plays the good-natured dad, Liam Moone, in Chris O'Dowd's joyous comedy Moone Boy, the second series of which is currently on Sky1 on Mondays.

That show – in terms of its humour, outlook and cultural references – is probably the most pointedly, insularly Irish television programme ever made for an international audience, and yet Moone Boy has become a huge hit in the UK and US, winning an International Emmy award last year.

"On the one hand, I'm not surprised about its success because I know Chris a long time, and he is very intelligent and a very hard worker," Peter says. "On the other hand, you just have no idea what people are going to relate to."



He continued: "But the great thing about Moone Boy is [Chris and co-writer Nick Vincent Murphy] make it look simple. Watch any episode and you'll see they have maybe 15 ideas on the go at any one time.

"Given that quality I don't think a Roscommon accent or a particular vernacular is going to prevent an international audience from gaining access to the show's universal aspects."

Peter says that O'Dowd hasn't gone "too Hollywood" – "I don't think Chris will ever be lost in show-business, don't worry!" – and he should know, being an Oscar nominee and all (he was nominated for Best Live Action Short Film for Pentecost in 2012).

"The maddest thing about the Oscars is you're sitting there and any minute you might or might not be an Oscar winner," he said.

"The best part is the Oscar luncheon a few weeks before the ceremony. It's just the nominees and a plus one, so it's a much smaller group. You can talk to people.

It's all an overdue rush of success for a man who has been in the business for nearly 20 years – audiences will recognise him from When Brendan Met Trudy, as well as The Damned United in which he played footballer Johnny Giles.

He lives with his wife Helen in London and so far has resisted the urge to move to Hollywood, though he has made one movie there – The Opportunists with Christopher Walken.

"I have never moved over there as I have been fully engaged with my career here," Peter says. "Hollywood is the Mecca of the film business, but movies and TV series are shot everywhere right now.

"But if good opportunities present themselves in America, I will definitely take them on."


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