Amy and Bod's New Adventure
The future is bright for so-smart Amy Huberman and her rugby-god husband Brian O'Driscoll.
The Merrion Hotel in Dublin seems like an apt setting for Amy Huberman, and not just because she looks so delectable curled up in an oversized armchair with a dainty cup of tea moving toward that wide, sensuous mouth. It's the backdrop to a scene in her new book -- a warm and witty Sex and the City-ish novel called I Wished For You. But, more important than any of that, it was here that Amy first saw The Face Of BOD.
It was six years ago, when she was an actress on the way up and he was Ireland's most eligible bachelor, staking out his place in the rugby pantheon. They were set up by some mutual friends, at his instigation, she later learned. They later went on a date to a comedy show. "He'd seen me interviewed on something about The Clinic. And I was brought here. It wasn't a do, just a social thing. He pulled a few strings that I was completely unaware of. I thought it was very romantic and quite ballsy on his part actually. He charmed me. I think we were both smitten. It all came out later." Hosannas were sung; angels played lutes, texts were sent.
And it made us think there must be something more to Huberman than mere talent and looks. BOD could surely have reached down from on high and plucked anyone's rib to create his ideal mot. What separated yer one from a legion of other Loreto-and-UCD-educated terrace dollies, many of whom actually watched rugby? Well, an earthy sense of humour by the sounds of it. She's not precious about herself, gleefully relating an anecdote in which she took her own book from the shelf in a bookshop and secretly placed it at the top of the bestseller section. And then expectantly watched to see if anyone bought it. Or what about the time someone tweeted to ask her if she ever found herself thinking about ROG (aka Ronan O'Gara) when sleeping with BOD. "Always" came the reply (at the time she was sitting, bored in her trailer, on the set of Moone Boy). She could only roll her eyes at the journalists who conspired to take that a little too literally. "I don't think about ROG when I'm in bed with Brian," she deadpans to me. "Sorry ROG, you're lovely, but no!"
And anyway, she can't have spent all that much time on the terraces. By way of proof, she shamefacedly admits to me that she does not know much about rugby. For a moment, I can't decide if this makes her our best WAG -- a word she despises -- or our worst. "It's true," she laughs. "I still don't know the rules. I mean I know the basics, how to follow a game. Seriously, I just look around and if people are clapping, it's good. Brian didn't want to go out with someone who was going to be a fan."
Later, she adds: "Do you know what it is, though? The reason for my ignorance? When I'm at a match I'm too busy talking to people to really pay attention to what's going on. I'm not listening to the commentator or learning anything. But if I'm at home with Brian he can explain to me what's going on and I learn so much."
Never was this skill of divining rugby scores through frown lines more needed than during the Heineken Cup of last year. If Leinster won and made it to the semis, BOD would not be available to go to the royal wedding, to which they had been invited as a couple. If they lost, he would. They were only being invited she says, because William knows Brian and she felt it would be "weird" if she went alone. "I wanted them (Leinster) to win because it was the Heineken Cup but when they actually did win a little part of me died. I said to him (through gritted teeth) 'I am SO happy for you.' He convinced me that I was invited in my own right -- it wasn't 'Brian plus one'. And he didn't want them to think he had a match and just wasn't going. He said I should go and represent the both of us and it would show he wanted to go but couldn't. And it turned out to be incredibly nerve-wracking and surreal. You probably saw more of it on TV than I did. I was sitting behind a pole. Once it was over, it was over -- I wasn't doing Rock the Boat with Harry."
Like Wills and Kate, Amy and BOD have endured their fair share of impudent baby speculation. They've been married for two years now and she is 33, the age that used to be known in medicine as "advanced maternal age" (don't blame us, blame mother nature). BOD recently admitted that he would be happy to be a house husband when his career is over and seems primed for fatherhood.
She doesn't exactly bristle when the question comes up, but seems weary of it (shortly after the interview, it emerged that Amy is expecting a baby next year). "Yeah I do [find that the frequent questions about children presuppose that every woman wants children]. And also [they presuppose] that you can have them. That's what I always think: What if someone is actually having problems having kids? I think it should be every woman's prerogative to do what she wants. Back in the day, giving up work was not easy, now balancing things [babies and work] is not easy -- are you prepared to combine the two? I know I am. I don't intend on having 12 children, if we have a couple of kids that will be good."
She herself was one of three children, and grew up with two brothers (one of whom, Mark, is also an actor) in Foxrock and a few other places as her father, Harold, moved the family around. He was born in London to a Polish-Jewish family and became a fashion designer with his own label -- Huberman for Henry White -- which specialised in women's coats and outerwear, and was eventually stocked as far afield as Bloomingdales and Harrods. Amy's mother, Sandra, comes from Wexford and qualified as a teacher, but later worked as an in-house model for the fashion label. Amy's central character in I Wished For You may be a fashion-obsessed Southside princess, but she tells me her own climb onto the best-dressed lists only came later.
"At the pinnacle of (my father's) career I was not into really well-tailored coats. I was a teenager and I just wanted to be in bomber jackets and X-Worx jeans (the mention of which will provoke a nostalgia rush for anyone of her 1979 vintage).
"I also couldn't afford clothes: I don't think people had a lot of disposable income to spend on fashion. My mother was a very innately glamorous person but I was in my 20s before I even discovered fashion."
After her school years in Loreto College, Foxrock, she went to UCD to study social work and social policy but wasn't that into the degree. Instead she threw herself into the college's famous DramSoc, where she became friends with another wannabe actor who would go on to great things: Chris O'Dowd. She says that DramSoc provided a respite from the degree but also from the rugby culture that she found nauseatingly pervasive in UCD -- "all those schools just feed into there". Oh, the irony.
She did a post-grad in media and meanwhile auditioned for and won a part in On Home Ground, an RTE series. She was then cast as receptionist Daisy O'Callaghan in The Clinic, a role which won her critical praise and many admirers (including BOD, obviously). After that she yearned to get away -- it seemed like all of her friends were on gap years in Australia -- but at the same time wanted to keep her toes in the work pool back home. The solution was London, a place where she already had a coterie of friends (including O'Dowd) and where there were plenty of sofas she could crash on.
She had just been involved in filming another unnamed project she describes as "sh*t" and was working in a shop. It was anxiety about her future and frittering away the years that prompted her to start writing. "I was disappearing to work on it. I'm sure people thought I was a weirdo. I never dreamed that it would be a published book." Hello Heartbreak went on to become a number one bestseller and added an unexpected string to her bow (she says she "would be honoured" to be mentioned in the same breath as Cecelia Ahern and Marian Keyes). In 2006, she moved back home to be with O'Driscoll.
The marriage, the book, the roles all fed into a notion about Huberman that her passage through life was a little too gilded to be palatable. And, as likeable as she is, a nation can so easily turn on its prima WAG.
So when she was dropped at the last minute from the NBC sitcom Animal Practice, the failure, though very public and humiliating at the time, may have actually been a boon for her on a number of fronts. It softened her in the public's eye -- she became less Little Miss Perfect and more of an ordinary mortal. And second and more important: the sitcom was, by all accounts, total rubbish. The critics savaged it and on the very afternoon Amy and I meet it is, finally, cancelled by NBC. "I mean I'd never actually want it to fail -- for the sake of people I know who work on it," she says. "But, yeah, maybe it made the blow easier. Things have a way of working out as they were supposed to. I don't always get what I want -- there are more jobs than Animal Practice that I've gone for that I didn't get."
Not that it seems to deter her. You kind of have to admire her moxy in working so hard when it would be so easy to just become a professional wife. In fact, she rarely accepts red- carpet invitations and is conscious that the more she and BOD present themselves as a celebrity couple, the more their privacy will appear up for grabs. And as her husband inevitably winds down his career there is bound to be a time of transition in their lives. In the days before we meet, O'Driscoll appears on Ray D'Arcy's radio show and says that he wouldn't mind being a home husband in the future. I wonder aloud if this would affect his image as our uncrowned king? And how would she feel about it?
"I think he is so comfortable in his own skin that he wouldn't give a crap what people thought," she tells me. "But I don't think he'd be satisfied to just stay at home and be a house husband. I think when he says that, what he means is that he'd travel with me for work and keep his business interests going. He is incredibly supportive and knows my love of it. He has had the career he always wanted and he wants that for me too. I'm very lucky that he's like that because a lot of men wouldn't be as easygoing as that."
She takes a thoughtful little nibble on one of the buns, which have just arrived. "It's going to be an adventure for both of us."
'I Wished For You', by Amy Huberman, is published by Penguin, priced €15
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