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From Hollywood to leafy Rathgar

Eighties' actor Andrew McCarthy, star of the classic coming-of-age films St Elmo's Fire and Pretty In Pink, is full of surprises sitting in Brooks Hotel on Drury Street on a bright October afternoon.

First off is the fact he's not staying in the hotel, but in his home in Rathgar which he bought five years ago and visits often.

"I feel your pain, I bought a house in Rathgar in boom times so I know full well how Irish people have been hit financially," McCarthy says.

An award-winning travel writer, earlier this month he wrote a piece for the Los Angeles Times on how we Irish are dealing with our "down, up, down" economy.

"I've been visiting since the Eighties and have seen Ireland go from recession to boom to recession and no country or person gets rich quickly gracefully," he says.



Intrigued

McCarthy is instantly recognisable as the Eighties heartthrob who starred opposite Robert Downey Jr and Molly Ringwald in the decade's hit youth movies. At 49 and casually dressed in a cardigan, the dad-of-two seems very at ease with being middle-aged.

He's here to chat about his new book, The Longest Way Home: One Man's Quest for the Courage to Settle Down, a travel book which at its heart is about his quest to find the courage to settle down and get married.

The next surprise from McCarthy is that the reason the former 'Brat Pack' actor has a Dublin home is because he is married to Clontarf-reared scriptwriter Dolores Rice.

Blonde writer Dolores is currently working on a novel and has written a screenplay about the life of Marianne Faithfull for Oscar-nominated director Jim Sheridan.

The couple met in the Great Southern Hotel in Galway in 2004, and Dolores made an instant impression on him.

"I had a film in a festival and so did she, and she came over and introduced herself and the meeting lasted all of one minute," McCarthy recalls.

He was sufficiently intrigued to track Dolores down on email and to arrange to meet up with her.

"We spent three days together and it was instantaneous and shortly afterwards we set up home together," says McCarthy.

"She was like no one I had ever dated before, and was open and straight-talking. Ireland is where I feel most myself so it probably isn't too surprising I married an Irish woman," he says.

Even so, getting married wasn't without its complications for the couple. The Longest Way Home chronicles McCarthy's travels through The Amazon and Patagonia and Kilimanjaro as he tried to sort out his mixed feelings about many things in his life, including acting, writing and love.

I suggest struggling with commitment issues makes him officially an Irishman and he can forget about his New Jersey roots all together and he laughs.

"I first came here in the Eighties, to Clare, and felt an instant connection with Ireland. I tell people Ireland is everything you ever expect it to be, and more," he says.

The couple have a daughter Willow, six, and McCarthy has a son, Sam (10), from a previous marriage. However, the couple were four years engaged before McCarthy finally said 'I do'.

His feelings of ambivalence led to his new book. "I was fully committed to Dolores and we had a daughter and yet I was struggling with the idea of a wedding."

Such wariness also afflicted him during his long engagement prior to his first marriage. In fact, he feels ambivalence has been the main theme throughout his adult life and that he even experienced a "push-pull conflict" while enjoying the fame of being a pin-up actor in the Eighties.



Ceremony

He also starred in the Eighties' rom-com Mannequin and in Less Than Zero, which was based on the Bret Easton Ellis novel of the same name.

He and Dolores did finally wed in Dublin in August 2011, first in the register office and then with a ceremony in Dartmouth Square in Ranelagh, followed by dinner for their family and friends in Patrick Guilbaud's.

"We had a week-long celebration which involved a ceili in a hotel in Rathgar as Dolores loves dancing and loves Irish music and the children had a ball," McCarthy says.

"Of course, it felt perfect when it happened and it was the perfect wedding for us," he says.

When in Dublin, their favourite pub is Kehoe's on Anne Street, and they regularly go to the Gate Theatre and for walks with their children around St Stephen's Green.

While the couple are in New York, they live in an apartment in a chic brownstone and hang out in local coffee shops and go for walks in Central Park.

"Acting let me feel fully myself for the first time, even if I was playing other people, while writing has helped bring me to what I truly feel," McCarthy says.

"It doesn't get better than being in love, and yet with all these things I've felt a pull-and-push dilemma and ambivalence. Even while fully committed, I have felt at odds with things," he says. "Some of us just have to go away from where we live every now and then to get in touch with who we really are," he says of his motivation for writing The Longest Way Home.

Though he spends a lot of his time on the road as a travel writer for National Geographic, he is still involved in directing and acting.

Next month he will begin directing a new women's prison drama called Orange is the New Black, which has been created by Jenji Kohan who wrote the series Weeds, starring Mary-Louise Parker.

He has fond memories of being a big star in the Eighties but doesn't look back with nostalgia on those heady days. "I'm not a nostalgic person, I move forward and where I'm at is the most important place. I'm finishing off a novel, travel writing and directing and taking my children to school and spending time with Dolores and it all feels pretty good," he says.

When asked how he has kept things so low-key while living here he answers, "I'm not Brad Pitt, who's going to notice me?"


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