Scannain talks: Pressure with Danny Huston

Danny Huston is Hollywood royalty. A fine actor in his own right but as I walked in and shook hands with him there is no getting away from the fact that the man, and his name, cast a long shadow. He is tall to boot and looms over me with the kind of brilliant smile that should have had casting agents dialling non-stop to get him to play the Joker. Alas, he is quiet and polite and our conversation ranged over quite a few topics. Our allotted 15 minutes turned into a seriously enjoyable 25 minutes. He was over in Dublin principally to talk about his new film. I began by asking him about his new film Pressure a fine romp about a group of men are trapped in a small pod on the sea bed, after diving down to fix an oil pipeline and becoming separated from their ship. What attracted him to this film?

“Well, he says, “it was funny doing the research for this film I learnt that because there is a lot of helium in the oxygen that they breathe they all talk with really high helium voices. In the documentary I watched after about 5 or 10 minutes you got used to it and it wasn’t as ridiculous but when you first see it and see all these grown men speaking like it is a sort of Monty Python version. It was actually quite fun to explore but no, that is not the reason I wanted to do it!”

He warms to the conversation for real after that amusing tangent. “It was the claustrophobia, the tense environment, these four men in a closed space and figuring out their inner demons, the horror of being so deep under water I though it a really kind of cool film chamber piece to explore with Ron (Scalpello the director) and Alan (McKenna the writer). But all the reasons I loved it I hated making it because it was incredibly uncomfortable to make but the positive is that in a way I have made friends for life and I loved spending time with them but there is an element of being stuck in an elevator.”

I mention to him that at the beginning of the film his character is one person that I would not like to be stuck in an elevator with. He laughs. “Well initially he is the voice of doom and you know that he has some darkness to him that you don’t necessarily want to be around but he is also the most experienced and that is important. You are relying on him to get you out of the situation.”

With the formalities of the film done I broaden the conversation out to ask the obligatory question of how it feels to be back in Ireland. “I love it. Absolutely love it. There is so much nostalgia for me here. I spent so much of my youth here and so many great memories of my father come flooding back. At the hotel up the road from here (The Shelbourne Hotel) I came here with my father to watch a boxing match as he was premiering Fat City: a film about boxing and the fight was a Muhammad Ali fight. We saw Fat City then we went to see the fight with Ali and I don’t remember the name of the other guy (Al ‘Blue’ Lewis) but he was beaten badly. After the fight we went back to the Shelbourne and we were closing the elevator door and a guy gets in all bruised. It was Ali and he turned to my dad and said ‘Mr. Huston I just want you to know that you made a film that is so real and so true about boxing and I thank you for that’ and he got off the elevator. We went up one more floor and by this time I had started crying. It is memories like that that come flooding back to me when I am here.”

I tell him that an Irish filmmaker called Ross Whitaker has made a documentary about and around the fight called When Ali came to Ireland. “I would love to see that” he says and I don’t doubt him for a second.

I mention my own love of The Dead: John Huston’s film of the Joyce short story and how I consider it one of the great Irish films (apologies for the gushing just watch the film if you have not). “I remember my father being asked around the time did he chose the film as his last film with such an ominous title as The Dead. And he growled ‘absolutely not’ but in fact it turned out that it was.

Conscious of time and the need to move away from final films I asked him about his terrific director actor partnership with the superb English filmmaker Bernard Rose. I mention that it is rare enough to get a chance to talk about the films as not as many people have seen them as they should. His eyes actually seem to brighten up at the mention of Rose’s name. “Well I absolutely love him” he says “and I love the collaboration that we have had and it is ongoing. We have just finished a film called Frankenstein where I play Dr. Frankenstein set in Los Angeles and I am sort of a plastic surgeon and we print out our monster on one of those 3D printers and he is perfect like the statue of David and then I notice a slight blemish on the side of his neck and things start to go wrong. We have literally just finished that. I adore him because he is a ground breaking filmmaker. We did one of the first digital films together and we felt that we had just discovered the wheel. It was like ‘wow we don’t need anybody, we don’t need permission’ and we did the films in our backyard practically. That is the reason why they were modern day adaptations: primarily because we didn’t have the money to make them any other way! Necessity is the mother of invention. A lot of times his films aren’t necessarily commercial but they stick with filmmakers”.

It is good thing I say that Rose is still out there fighting the good fight, getting films done. “He is a rebel and a fighter. And with Frankenstein it is also a return to horror for him (after Paperhouse and Candyman) and I have to say it is pretty out there and pretty gruesome.”

Amen to that. Still it is not all art-house fair. It is quite apparent that Huston is enjoying himself these days with roles in shows such American Horror Story and Masters of Sex and films such as Big Eyes. You can add Pressure to this as it is a film that will not disappoint fans of genre thrillers.

Pressure is in cinemas 21st August, and available to download from 24th August & on DVD 31st August. The film stars Huston, Matthew Goode, Joe Cole, Alan McKenna, and Daisy Lowe.