Last week Scannain was on the red carpet for the Dublin premiere of Terry McMahon’s superb mental health based drama Patrick’s Day. We caught up with the director and some of the stars who were there to support the film.
So Terry what was the inspiration for Patrick’s Day?
“I used to work in a psychiatric institute and saw how, despite the noblest of intentions, the parents or guardians or staff would treat the people very well, but as soon as those people aspire toward intimacy or sexuality their aspirations were treated like an aberration due to their mental illness and not a human right.”
How important was it to get the actors behind the characters right, how long did you search for Patrick, or Karen or Maura before you settled down on Kerry, Catherine and Moe?
“Well you don’t settle on Kerry Fox, you genuinely reflect on her even working with you and I felt the same way with Catherine and Aaron Monaghan and Philip Jackson. Moe Dunford was an unknown entity which turned out that he may be a one in a generation talent.”
When you’re making a film it can be quite disjointed so when it all came together and you finally got to see it completed how was that experience?
“I’ve never watched it with an audience. I wouldn’t do that to them. Why is she twitching, why is he yawning? Leave them alone let them experience it for themselves.”
How was it Moe getting into the mindset of someone who I would say is repressed, how did you find that?
“Repressed, oppressed because of the conditions around him. Patrick is a beautiful character, he spoke to me. I know a lot of Patricks, you don’t have to go far to find a Patrick in Ireland. It was always very important to treat the subject matter with respect. Patrick to me is not about his condition, it’s about how he fights his condition and how when he falls in love how he now has something to fight for. That was really important for me to get across, to keep him vulnerable, to keep him like all of us.”
How was it working with Kerry and Catherine and developing those very similar yet different relationships?
“I fell in love with both of them, they are two fantastic actors and so giving and so in the moment and supportive for me in my first lead role. I’m in awe of them and Aaron Monaghan who plays my best friend Freddie on my first day, I’ll never forget this, he looked at me and he said,” You nervous?” and I said, “ no, I’m okay I’m ready for this……yeah I’m nervous” and he just went, “mate take it one day at a time”. He was there for me like a brother, for the few days he was with me he was there for me. He’s one of my favourite actors in the world, little did I know that one day would turn into sixteen days, so we had to keep it light. It’s a great honour to be a part of this movie, we’ve just come back from Dungarvan, we had our screening there last night and the response has been amazing. To bring it back home to Ireland, that’s what it’s all about.”
How was it portraying Karen, who’s this very broken individual? Where was your mindset when you doing those scenes?
“In one way she’s broken and another way she is incredibly strong. She’s trying to make a decision for herself and it’s the only decision she feels she can make. It was fantastic, obviously it was a quite a sad place to be in. Karen has a very tough exterior and then what’s going on inside is as you said very broken, very fragile, very hurt, very disappointed, very let down and lot of what you hear Karen say is a front and so because of that you spend a lot of time in that place. With Karen it was one of those experiences where it wasn’t until after the movie finished where I realised, “Oh that’s why I was feeling that way”. You get muddled between that place and a couple of weeks after a sort of cloud lifts and you go “ah”. She was a fantastic character to play.”
How was it working with Moe and developing that fragile relationship that teeters on chaos?
“Absolutely wonderful, he’s amazing. He’s extraordinary in Patrick’s Day, so lovely. What’s so beautiful about their love story is that they see the light in each other and they see through layers of crap that everyone else has put upon them. They realise for the first time someone is actually looking at them. It’s a beautiful love story and it’s an immediate story because it all happens so instantly. Weirdly I think Patrick knows much more than even Karen because he’s so much more open.”
So congratulations on Patrick’s Day Philip. What was it like playing a character like John?
“In the beginning I felt a bit weird playing a policeman, a British policeman in Ireland. My first question was, “Does this happen?” Apparently it’s more common than you might think. Possibly he hasn’t done so well, maybe that’s why he’s here. Then you learn he has very emotional reasons to be here. When the events of Patrick’s Day happen it really does him in. He is a strange fellow and he’s on a kind of mission because he has this strange idea that the Irish are too easy to amuse. I actually had to get Terry to explain this to me.”
As one of the more morally ambiguous characters in Patrick’s Day would you say there is a villain? For example some could see Maura (Kerry Fox) as the villain?
“You have to think of how she is and how Kerry plays it that there are legitimate reasons not just that he has this mental illness, there are reasons to do with her background. After all you don’t really know what happened with the father. You have to give people the benefit of the doubt but some people could see the film and think of her as Myra Hindley. It’s an unusual film and I’ll tell you Terry is one of those directors that can a film like this happen. He’s an artist and he’s fantastic.”