Interview - Martin McCann of Shadow Dancer
20 Aug 2012
A year on from the Queen’s visit to the Republic of Ireland - the first time for a British Monarch since 1911, back when it was still part of the United Kingdom – and the past events of the troubles perhaps being previously too raw to address in film are now the backdrop of director James Marsh’s (the man behind the exhilarating “Man on Wire”) latest feature length, Shadow Dancer.
We caught up with Martin McCann at the Fingal Film Festival earlier in the year to talk a bit about his time as an actor having shared the screen with the likes of Sam Worthington, Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson in Clash of the Titans as well as stepping into the iconic shoes of Bono in Killing Bono. Now after just finishing TV series Titanic: Blood and Steel he’s back starring in tense ‘Troubles’ thriller, Shadow Dancer.CLICK: Tell me how you got into acting
Well the amateur society that I was involved in was called The Rainbow Factory. It was actually a cross community project to get Protestant and Catholic children together through drama, great project and just a fantastic way of bringing the community together.
But I had actually gotten into drama before that, my first play was in the Arts theatre in Belfast where I played the Artful Dodger so I just kinda fell into The Rainbow Factory as a way of extending my interest in drama and another way of staying out of the troubles as well. But I was bitten by the bug from about 10 or 11 and I’ve just done drama ever since .CLICK: You’ve worked with big names like Spielberg and Richard Attenborough, what are the biggest challenges you face working in the bigger productions?
Em, I think the biggest challenges are y’know the bigger the production the more the stress can be. You think this is a huge production and I’ve gotta get it right first time and I don’t wanna look like a bad actor in amongst all these great actors who are more experienced than me. So I think it’s important to remain calm and remember it’s only a film, y’know, it’s not brain surgery we’re not saving people’s lives, it’s just a film, it’s entertainment and the most important thing is to enjoy it no matter what scale the production actually is.CLICK: And how do you think growing up in Northern Ireland affected your chances of getting these roles?
I think , y’know, if I was to go to LA I’d get swamped up in the sea of ten million actors who are all wanting to be famous and wanting to be this, but I think if you’re involved in drama in England, Ireland, Scotland or Wales I think there’s a real sort of groundedness to the actors here. You know I think it’s less about the fame it’s more about actually becoming a jobbing actor because that’s pretty difficult. If you make a living at acting I consider that as having made it as an actor and I think that in Europe we’ve got a much more realistic idea of what acting is. So for the moment I’m acting in Ireland and England and that’s where I can see, luckily enough I’ve got the opportunity to go to Seville next week to do a drama for Sky Atlantic but y’know these jobs are far and few between and usually you’re stuck somewhere very cold and very icey and very miserable and very wet.
CLICK: Titanic- Blood and Steel, are you excited to be a part of that?
Titanic Blood and Steel yeah! I obviously would love to work under the director Ciaran Donnelly, and what an amazing cast, Irish cast Liam Cunningham, and then we’ve got the quintessential English actor, Mr Derek Jaggerby or is it Sir Derek Jacobi or Lord?CLICK: I think it’s Sir!
Sir! Oh my goodness! Yeah so we went to Serbia, that’s another hot country, my mum thought I was going to Siberia, she was going to buy me one of those big mink hats, that would’ve looked quite funny me stepping off the plane in one of those huge hats in the 50 degree heat but no it was Serbia, a place called Belgrade. We shot it over there, brilliant, brilliant cast even some of my other northern Irish actor friends Terry Keeley and Caolan Byrne - guys who I’ve known for most of my acting life were there and it was great to have some people I had known and done drama with as a child on that job. Y’know we had to check ourselves and remind ourselves that we were not on holiday and were there to act! But one of the best gigs I have ever been involved in, certainly the most fun and I just loved it, working for the Irish company and being with an Irish crew. Martin McCann in HBO's The Pacific CLICK: And then you’ve got Shadow Dancer. You grew up on the falls road in Belfast right in the midst of the troubles? Tell is what’s it is like starring in a film which centres around the politics in the north at that time?
It was fantastic. James Marsh is a documentary maker essentially. He directed Project Nim and Man on Wire and he’s an Oscar winning documentary maker, he won the Oscar for Man on Wire. And how he made this film, y’know when I first heard about a film during the troubles I thought, oh God here we go again! But reading the script it wasn’t really about the troubles, it was about relationships and people and the troubles was just a backdrop. And you’ve got a stellar cast, Clive Owen, Andrea Riseborough, Domhnall Gleeson, myself. It was just a brilliant story and more about the study of people and characters and relationships rather than the troubles. I think we’ve got to the stage where we can kind of go back there. You know there was a time where there was nothing made BUT a film about the troubles but I think now times are changing, Belfast is changing, Northern Ireland is changing and I think the world is grasping that, the vibe, the energy, Belfast is a bustling, thriving city on the up and I’m very proud to be from there.CLICK: And you play the character of Brendan in that movie, can you fill me in a bit about him without giving too much away.
Well I don’t want to give away too much but Brendan is kind of a young man who gets caught up in the trouble. Yeah it’s not a massive role but it’s an important role.CLICK: And Clive Owen is involved in that film also.
He is and a lovely man, very, very grounded.CLICK: Did you hit it off with him?
Yeah it was lovely meeting him! I wasn’t lucky enough to have any scenes with him in the movie, most of my stuff was done with Andrea and Domhnall but very, very grounded and really no airs or graces, you wouldn’t think he was a big movie star at all!CLICK: And I assume at a lot of Shadow Dancer was filmed in Belfast or in the North anyways?
Well actually most of it was filmed in Dublin! Clive Owen & Andrea Riseborough in Shadow Dancer CLICK: Well I was actually going to ask with productions like Titanic Blood and Steel and Shadow Dancer when you’re filming not far from home, do you ever stay with your folks - are you a bit of a homebird?
I am a bit of a homebird, I’m conflicted, I love travelling and I’m a bit of a homebird. My agency is always saying come on will you come over to London to live but my familys saying y’know you’ve gotta stay with you family and I would love to be with my family! It’s the actors life though it’s part and parcel of the job! Sometimes you feel like a small piece of butter spread over a very large piece of toast you know what I mean! Spreading myself out too thin! But that’s just the nature of it and hopefully I’ll get to some stage in my career where I can find a little more balance but for the moment I need to really go where the work is and that’s just the truth of the matter. Hopefully that will change as the years go by!CLICK: Ah sure, you wouldn’t be an Irish son if you didn’t want to be near your mammy!
Excatly! Exactly!CLICK: And ultimately what kind of acting do you want to be known for? Or what kind of roles are you drawn to at the moment?
Anything. It’s good for me to show that I’m not just a young Belfast man that I can play a Texan for the HBO show or I can play Bono obviously he’s from the south or I can play an Englishman. I want to be known as a character actor, I want to be known as not just as someone for Northern Ireland who can play just Irish parts or even just English parts. I want to be known as someone who can turn their hand to anything which I think I can if I work hard enough and I think every actor has the potential to do better if they focus on the accents and they get their game to a certain level. I want to be known as a character actor, because it’s more fun to play different people, different roles, different agendas from different places.CLICK: Would you ever have any desire to play an action hero?
Oh I don’t think I have the mineral to be honest Ha Ha! I wish! Ha ha! Ah we’ll see, we’ll see, maybe a couple of years in the gym pumping iron and I’ll look like Jason Statham. Martin McCann as Bono in Killing Bono CLICK: And I just have 3 quick questions to finish up with, what was your favourite movie of 2011?
My favourite movie of 2011 was The girl with the Dragon TattooCLICK: And what’s your most anticipated movie, other than Shadow Dancer of course, of 2012?
My most anticipated movie of 2012, oh! Good, good, good, good question!CLICK: I can ream off a few if you need ideas…
Yeah ream a few off there…CLICK: The Avengers,Shadow Dancer, the new Bond movie will be out in the Autumn….
Oh it would probably have to be Daniel Craig’s Bond, I think he makes a great bond and I love my gadgets! I’m a typical young man in that sense I love my bond movies. Loved Casino Royale, wasn’t mad about the second one that Daniel Craig did so hopefully they’ll have got it right in the third one. And also, A Whole Lotta Soul directed by Terry George starring me, Brendan Fraser and Colin Meaney!CLICK: And finally my last question what is your favourite movie of all time? I know it’s a really tough one but maybe you have one stored up?Once upon a time in America starring Robert DeNiro.CLICK: Great well thank you very much Martin and enjoy the rest of the festival!
Thank you Hilary, Thank you. Bye bye!Shadow Dancer is in cinemas on August 24th. Martin McCann as Occi Byrne in SwanSong