Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Dress for success?

I do not get excited when the telephone rings in our house. It is almost never for me. Even the Little Munchkin gets more phone calls than I do, and she’s only four. It’s the Missus who gets the most phone calls by far. Rarely does anyone from America ring me, and my Irish in-laws ask for me only occasionally. When one of them does wish to talk to me, it is usually about some computer problem.

Less occasionally, they might have a movie question. Like the time a friend of the Missus needed help with the last two questions for a movie quiz contest that she enters every year. I am always happy to help her because one year she won a voucher for a plane ticket to Paris and she couldn’t use it because it was blacked out for all school holidays and she was a schoolteacher. So she gave it to me, and I got to go to France for a week! But usually the phone calls don’t work out as well as that one.

So, anyway, the other day I got a call from my sister-in-law. This is the same sister-in-law whose mother-in-law is a first cousin to the wife of a certain Oscar-winning documentary, I mean, advocacy cinema, filmmaker. As you may recall, this is the same woman who hid in her house and pretended not to be home when this same filmmaker came knocking on her door because she figured he was a garden variety tourist and a time waster. The irony is that my sister-in-law has something of a local acting career going and would love to make contacts in the movie world. In a plot twist worthy of an episode of I Love Lucy, she has been trying to make contact with her new-found relative (without success) ever since.

But this time she wasn’t ringing me to see if I knew where her other American relative might be these days. (It’s hard to miss him if you just turn on the television.) She was calling to ask me what I knew about Neil Jordan. Now, I am no expert on Neil Jordan, but I do know a few things about him. For instance, I know that he and I keep standing each other up. A few years ago, when I was staying in Dublin with my future wife, I noticed posters everywhere inviting people to come down to County Wicklow to be extras in a crowd scene for Michael Collins. Perhaps harboring my own secret movie star dreams, I toyed with the idea of going down. But two things stopped me. For one, I look too much like Liam Neeson (who had the title role) and the people in charge of casting could have logically assumed that it would have made things too confusing for the audience. For another, it would have meant missing a train for Mayo and not attending the First Holy Communion of the Missus’s nephew and godson. That would have changed the course of my life, as there surely would have been no marriage and no fatherhood. So, wisely, I didn’t go.

The next time it was Jordan who stood me up. He was scheduled to be one of several authors to read excerpts from their latest books at an anniversary celebration at Eason’s bookstore on O’Connell Street. I showed up, eager to see him and maybe even chat with him about his films, but Jordan was a no-show. His excuse was that he was too busy working on the same Michael Collins movie. So I had to make do with his last-minute replacement, Salman Rushdie. This was just at the end of the period where it was rare to see Rushdie because of the fatwa against him, and I thought it was a coup when I got his autograph. Little did I realize that he was about to embark on a campaign of being seen everywhere, including endless chat shows on both sides of the Atlantic and even in cameos in movies like Bridget Jones’s Diary.

Anyway, so I didn’t really know much about Neil Jordan other than the fact that he has made a lot of interesting films, ranging from The Company of Wolves to Mona Lisa to The Crying Game to Interview with the Vampire to The End of the Affair, and that I am destined never to meet him. My sister-in-law was particularly interested in a new movie of his that is currently in pre-production. I said I didn’t know anything about it off the top of my head but that I would do some checking. Thanks to the always-useful Internet Movie Database, I found that he was reported to be working on a movie slated for release next year called Breakfast on Pluto. The IMDB also told me (and its info on future projects is not to be taken as gospel) that the star would be Cillian Murphy (Disco Pigs, How Harry Became a Tree, 28 Days Later) and that Liam Neeson would also figure in the cast. Like Jordan’s earlier film, The Butcher Boy, it would be an adaptation of a novel by Pat McCabe.

Specifically, my sister-in-law wanted to know what parts the film might have for a young boy. It seems that her son Josh had been invited to audition for the part of a blue-eyed, ten-year-old boy. She was wondering what the role might be. The blue eyes were an immediate tip-off that Josh would be auditioning to play the very blue-eyed Cillian Murphy as a child. And what sort of character would that be? I hesitated to tell her what I had learned. According to the plot synopsis, the story involves a foster child in small-town Ireland who grows up to become a transvestite cabaret singer in London in the 1960s and 1970s. Now that’s every west-of-Ireland farmer’s dream for his or her eldest son: to be seen on movie screens around the world playing a budding cross-dressing lounge act. (The part about London only makes it worse.) Still, she seemed unperturbed. My information had at least cleared up why the lines he had been given to read for the audition had to do with the foster mother giving out bangs to him for wearing her daughter’s dress.

Now, I may be biased, but I have to say that I think that Josh is a natural for this part. With longer hair that was dyed black, he would actually look like a young Cillian Murphy. Moreover, I can remember a Halloween party in our house the year before last, where at one point Josh and his cousin donned women’s wigs and dresses and did spot-on imitations of their respective grandmothers. While I don’t feel completely right about thinking this, let alone writing it down, I have to say that those two lads made damn fine-looking women. And I’ll just add that I actually had a brief chat with Cillian Murphy three years ago at the Galway Film Fleadh and, having had a close look at him, I’d have to say that he’d make a damn fine-looking woman too.

So, although I don’t know what his competition is like, if there is any justice in the world, Josh will have a good shot at this part. If it works out, my sister-in-law will finally get her big break in show business, albeit as a stage mother. It looks good so far. The audition was yesterday in Galway, and she sent me a text message saying that it went well. He has another audition next week in Dublin.

-S.L., 5 August 2004

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