St Patricks Day will be here before you know it and I am going to get a jump on it and write a little about Ireland, my history with it and two actors, I worked with, my favourites: O’Toole and McGoohan…both Irish of course..
When I was a child of about 8 0r 9, my aunt and uncle moved to Dun Laoghaire
Dun Laoghaire is a suburb of Dublin and they moved into a house, with a large garden and in the garden was a Martello Tower. This is the tower, where James Joyce wrote ……..his wonderful books, essays etc. People would come to look at this famous monument and whenever I was around I would happily offer to be their tour guide and take
them up. Just to explain – the Tower – was a Martello Tower……these were built around the British Empire (remember Ireland belonged to England at the time they were built) and were built largely to protect England and its properties from an invasion by Napoleon. By the time I got to Southern Ireland, better known as Eire, the Southern Irish had got rid of us Brits. Anyway I would happily jaunt up to the top of the tower with strangers until my aunt, fearful of some dark deed being perpetrated on me by persons unknown, put a stop to it. But I loved it, thought it was all very romantic and Irish. There is a romance about Ireland, which I have always loved and I have always felt an affinity to all things and people Irish, don’t know why, I have no Irish blood to my knowledge. But I have always loved their wildness and freedom of spirit, their poetry and writing. My favourite modern playwright is Irish – Martin McDonagh. Anyway that’s my James Joyce and his tower story and my wonderful introduction to Eire.
Years later I found myself back in Dun Laoghaire, where we stayed, while filming the interiors of The Lion in Winter at Bray Studios. Peter O’Toole was Irish and passionate about the country. I know the gainsayers will say that Peter wasn’t really Irish, being born and brought up in Yorkshire, but who cares, his father was Irish and nobody was more Irish than Peter. We filmed at Bray, because of his support of the Irish film industry and local businesses. He wore something green every day and had the passion and temperament of an Irishman. On our first night there, he hauled me off for a quick tour of Dublin, a Guinness and to meet a few favourite Irish friends, some of whom were playing on stage. I had picked up a “bug” on the flight over and distinguished myself by throwing up in the wings of the famous Abbey Theatre. I was quickly shuffled back to Dun Laoghaire to recover. I think the thought crossed Peter’s mind that I was “wimping” out on him….he had personally tested with and helped decide on all the young actors, who made up the cast of the production, with Peter and Katharine Hepburn. But a day, with my head in the toilet or on the pillow quickly put paid to all that and our first scene of shooting….the first scene shot on the entire picture… went like a dream and he visibly relaxed, happy and confident again. I have more O’Toole stories but will save for another time. I adored him.
My other favourite actor to work with was Patrick McGoohan. He was thrilling and powerful as an actor and I loved working with him too. He and O’Toole worked so well with their fellow actors, giving, challenging and generally driving the scenes along with amazing energy. I think it was all about the energy you put into a performance, that I learned the most from both of them. There are actors who drift on to a stage or set, who are so lacking in inner and outer energy that I want to slap them. They are boring and uninspiring. I wont name names, but I would avoid them if possible. Mumbling and being “introspective” in your work is meaningless in terms of letting the audience “in” and you only succeed in driving them away in due course. I was warned that I wouldn’t like Patrick, that he was a “bully” and intimidating. But I never been one to dodge a challenge and thought he sounded rather interesting. I was so right, he WAS interesting and a thrill to work with. But…you had better be on your toes, know your lines and hit your marks each time. I did all the required things and we got along well.
I will write more about both men another time.
Last little story about Ireland and its charm. I was staying at a lovely hotel in Dublin for the last days of our shoot there, called the Hibernian. (Great history…check it out…going back to the mid 18th century). I was eating dinner alone, when I heard and recognised the deep and wonderful voice of a famous actor Michael Macliammoir. He was eating dinner there too. He was famous for his great one man show: The Importance of Being Oscar. This charming and interesting man, had made a career out of playing one of the most famous Irishmen of all: Oscar Wilde. He and his companion seeing that I was alone, quickly invited me to join them and I spent a marvellous evening with this talented actor , who recounted many great stories of the theatre. How lucky was I!
I plan to return to Ireland, hopefully this year. I have two “friends” there – never met – one the writer Michael Feeney Callan, who has written the best biography of Robert Redford, I have ever read and we “met” when I wrote him a “fan” letter after reading the book. (Michael not Robert ). The other is a “friend” on Facebook, who is now a good friend….and has been for a long time…..he tirelessly writes plays, which seem to be produced in Ireland, Chicago and many other places : Jimmy Keary and I can always count on a lovely wall calendar from him each year with pictures of Ireland.
Here’s a little poem by the great Irish poet: WB Yeats:
All for now. Next time all about Oscar…not Wilde…the other one …awards on next Sunday.