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'Next, I'll be joining a band with Michael Fassbender'

Lenny Abrahamson doesn't do endings. At least, not the kind that leaves everything neatly wrapped up in a box. Just look at 2004's Adam & Paul, or 2007's Garage -- both of which left audiences asking that all-important question: what happens next? No surprises, then, that What Richard Did -- the Irish director's third, and perhaps finest feature -- carries on the tradition of signing out with a question mark.

"Well, if you're in real worlds -- if you're telling real stories, they never have an ending," says the 45-year-old filmmaker, "because life always continues. I always like to go out at a moment when the audience's breath is really gathered. So my endings tend to be not the ones where you breathe out and you get gently deposited back on the pavement outside the cinema. I tend to just land people outside, going, 'What have I just been through?'"



HARROWING

Indeed, What Richard Did was always going to be a tricky movie to make, not least because of its source material. Loosely based on writer Kevin Power's Bad Day in Blackrock, which was, in turn, inspired by real-life events involving the death of Brian Murphy outside Club Anabel at the Burlington Hotel in 2000, the film tells the story of a seemingly confident yet secretly delicate south Dublin rugby player named Richard Karlsen (Jack Reynor).

The lad is 18 and has just finished school. He's got the perfect teammates -- his best friends both on and off the pitch.

He's also got the ideal -- and financially cosy -- home life.

And, in the summer months leading up to the start of university, the kid bags himself the girl of his dreams. Right before he fecks it all up, destroying not only his life but those of the people he cares for most. It's a harrowing story, but the level of professionalism and craftsmanship -- both in front of and behind the camera -- shows.

"It's a very, very different story," says Abrahamson of the comparisons between his film and the real-life Anabel tragedy. "Sadly, there are other cases where people died within those groups, and this film has as much or as little connection to them as it does to Anabel's. So, I'm comfortable that we've broken the connection, but of course, the perception will continue to mean that we'll talk about it, and that's fine."

For Jack Reynor (20), getting inside the mind of a boy who allows for his insecurities to get the better of him involved creating a new and original character. The young actor was never interested in digging up the past and researching the death of Brian Murphy.

"No, absolutely not," says Reynor. "I didn't think that it was necessary to look at any events in the past for any sort of inspiration.

"I just wanted to make up this guy who is just a really good kid, who you just didn't want to see go through all this. Right from day one -- right from the moment I was cast, I just wanted to try and make it so you would empathise with him."

Which somehow manages to work.

Indeed, Richard's violent outburst in the film has horrific consequences for his friends and family, but Reynor's extraordinary performance means we still walk away worrying about what will happen to him.

"He's a guy who's been trained to see himself a certain way and is not used to failing," says Abrahamson. "Most of us are used to making dicks of ourselves quite frequently in childhood and teenage life, but Richard isn't, and therefore when he lets himself down, that's catastrophic and he gets so wound up that, at that moment, he just sees red, which all young males are capable of, I think, and that's a huge tragedy and it is about a flaw in his character but it's one I think we can kind of identify with."

Reynor (who previously starred in Kirsten Sheridan's Dollhouse) attended Belvedere College as a teenager so was he somewhat familiar with his character's social environment? "I wasn't that kind of character," he explains.



excellence

"I had grown up in Co Wicklow, just down past Blessington and that was the world I was from. But, you know, when I went up to that school, I just observed the behaviour that was there and observed the society that those guys were in. And it was this kind of extreme sort of drive for excellence in everything, all the time.

"They had to be the best they could be at absolutely everything which puts a lot of pressure on you, as a person.

"So, I'd seen this growing up and had a perspective on it whereby I could look at that objectively and take the elements that we needed for the film and just try to invest them into Richard."

As for the future, well, the film festival buzz has already started. Abrahamson's next directing gig is a comedy called Frank, starring Domhnall Gleeson as an aspiring musician who joins a band led by Michael Fassbender.

And Reynor -- who recently signed to US talent agency William Morris Endeavour -- has his own busy schedule to attend to. But for now, it's all a bit of a secret.

"I actually booked my first Hollywood gig just there, so I'm out to New York now," smiles Reynor. "I'm gonna start shooting that and it's going on until Christmas so I'm really excited about it. We'll see how it works out ... "

What Richard Did is in cinemas now


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