Tuesday 20 February 2018

'Ireland is home for us' - Dominic West is all set to run the family hotel in Limerick

He played alcohol-addled Jimmy McNulty in 'The Wire', adulterous author Noah Solloway in 'The Affair,' and a sealion in Disney's 'Finding Dory' -but in real life, Dominic West is preparing for a more important role: running the family hotel in Limerick. He tells Stephen Milton why he can't wait to move to Ireland

Dominic West says Ireland is already pretty much home to them.
Dominic West says Ireland is already pretty much home to them.

Dominic West is eager to share the good news. Gently rocking in his seat, the star of 'The Wire', 'The Hour' and 'The Affair' waits until I enquire about the ongoing sale of Glin Castle in Limerick - the 700-year-old ancestral home of his wife, Catherine Fitzgerald.

Last April, following the death in 2011 of Catherine's dad, the last Knight of Glin Desmond Fitzgerald, and after a long struggle to maintain the historic stronghold, the couple and Catherine's mother, Madam Olda Fitzgerald, conceded defeat and put the sprawling property on the market with Sherry Fitzgerald. The guide price was €6.5million.

However, the family have reversed their decision. The sale is off and there are now plans underway to open the castle as a boutique hotel.

"No, we're not selling any more, I'm happy to report," West reveals. "We've done a marvellous U-turn.

"Selling up was absolutely heart-breaking for all of us, especially my mother-in-law and my wife and luckily, we're reopening it as a hotel, all going well, some time next year."

The castle has previously been rented out in its entirety to rich and famous clients like Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithful and Talitha Getty. Now future guests will enjoy the sweeping views over the Shannon estuary from one of the nine historical bedroom suites for a far more economical price.

Not to mention a personal welcome by West, who plans to run the hotel himself.

"I'm going to manage it. I want to be in charge or as much as my schedule will allow. Obviously there will be someone in place far more experienced and qualified than I coping with the day-to-day.

"But we want to be there. We're going to be heavily involved. That's why we're moving home to Ireland."

Despite his Sheffield upringing and an education at David Cameron's alma mater Eton College, the actor - who currently lives in west London with Catherine, a landscape designer and their three children, Dora (10), Senan (8), and seven year-old Francis - has long considered himself Irish, thanks to his heritage and close ties with the country.

"My mothers parents are Irish and my dad's mother was Irish-American, so she was first generation American. I went to Trinity to study drama, that's were I met my wife.

"I've got two sisters living in Dublin, all my cousins are in Dublin. We spend a large amount of time there already, it's for all intents and purposes home for us."

Could this decision to move and leave the UK behind be a knee-jerk reaction to Brexit?

He arches an eyebrow and smiles. "I guess we all have no choice", he laughs. "No, we were always going to end up there. Become citizens of Ireland. We haven't got the children their Irish passports yet but we're looking into it.

"We're even going to send them to the Gaeltacht. They don't speak a word of Irish, though neither does my wife. Apparently it's fun there.

"Everyone's so proud, they want to speak Irish. And I'll happily pick up a few words here and there if I can."

In a dark, airless hotel suite in central London, the 46 year-old - who shot to fame as Detective Jimmy McNulty in 'The Wire' - is in promotional mode for his latest offering, 'Finding Dory', Disney Pixar's big money sequel to 2003 animation juggernaut, 'Finding Nemo'.

Already scoring well over ¤670million on its Stateside and China releases, the follow-up sees Dory [Ellen DeGeneres] - the adorable bluefin suffering from short-term memory loss who in the original helped Marlin the clownfish reunite with his missing son Nemo - on a hunt for her long lost parents.

Wearing a dark suit and white shirt, unbuttoned a little to reveal a smattering of chest hair, Dominic boasts a small role as one half of sealion duo, Fluke and Rudder, alongside his 'Wire' co-star Idris Elba. Together the sealions guide Dory on her quest. Director Andrew Stanton thought the pair were ideal to portray the marine mammals as 'thuggish Londoners.'

"I couldn't get it out of my head," Stanton said. "These sealions being sort of street, kind of thuggish Londoners. It just seemed funny to me."

However, West was skeptical Elba would be available. "When they mentioned him, I thought, 'well for starters, is he even going to turn up, he's so busy.' He's off conquering the world, it's hard to keep up.

"Thankfully he managed a make a window and the idea of us being in a scene together was great because we actually didn't share too many scenes together in 'The Wire', we were more antagonists, always plotting. So that was nice to have a laugh with him and Andrew in a sound booth for a couple days." With some of his best-known roles - not least a Golden Globe-nominated performance in steamy marital drama, 'The Affair' - unsuitable for a younger audience, 'Dory' was an opportunity for the actor's young kids to watch him at work.

Plus, it didn't hurt being the sequel to one of their all-time favourite movies.

"When I told them, they were agog! Jaws were on the floor, game over. It won me a lot of kudos, I'm not complaining about. Especially my daughter Dora, she was particularly impressed.

"It's one they've watched every day for 13 years, multiple times a day, two three times at least. And I told them not to say a word to their friends but they told everyone."

In the light of recent tragic events, West - who also has an 18-year-old daughter, Martha from a previous relationship with aristocrat Polly Astor - was also pleased to be part of a feelgood summer blockbuster that he says "the world needs right now".

"I think I, like everyone else feels quite disillusioned and sad at the news over the last few weeks and months. There's a cross global lament for everything that is happening - terrorist attacks, Brexit. You can easily wake up with that thud in your stomach.

"But then I woke up the other day and thought, 'Oh great, I'm going to see 'Finding Dory' for the first time with my kids and I couldn't be more excited.' And I hope people will feel the same. It breeds a certain positivity."

Soon to be seen later this year in period biopic 'Genius' with Nicole Kidman and Jude Law, fans of the star can also look forward to the third season of 'The Affair' hitting TV screens in November.

A binge-worthy hit for US network, Showtime, West is pleasantly surprised at that show's success.

"You never predict these things. It's only when you get clocked on the street, that's when you get it, that's when you know, 'Okay then, something's happening here.' It's a marvelous gauge.

"I got it funnily enough, after 'The Wire' aired, because it was mostly ignored while it was on and then gained an audience after.

"But now, I'm getting recognised a lot more, thanks to 'The Affair'. People are being very subtle, little coy, side-glances. And it's happening in the strangest places.

"I went to a football camp with my sons last summer and kept getting all these looks from mums, followed by whispers and smirks. Which is great, means they're all watching. I love it.

Previously Dominic claimed his wife Catherine refused to watch his numerous risqué scenes with actress Ruth Wilson, saying: "I don't really want her to. It's embarrassing."

But, he says now, he was just kidding.

"I said that as a joke. She's watched a couple episodes and it's just my job to her. She completely understands.

"Will she watch it all, of course not, she doesn't have 30 spare hours to dedicate. She's a very busy woman."

'Finding Dory' is in cinemas July 29

Irish Independent

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