Tuesday, 11 June 2013

interview: Brian Fortune

Irish actor Brian Fortune starred in Ivan Zuccon's magnificent Wrath of the Crows. In June 2013 he kindly answered some emailed question from me.

How did you come to be cast in Wrath of the Crows?
"A friend of mine, Irish actor Gerry Shanahan, had worked with Ivan on Colour from the Dark and said he had an absolute blast in Italy on the shoot. He suggested I send my details, CV/resume/show reel, to Ivan. I did and when he was casting Wrath of the Crows he contacted me through Facebook and we had a few e-mails to and fro... then he offered me the role of Hugo!! If only all castings were that fucking easy!!"

We are told very little about these characters or the metaphysical time/place in which they are imprisoned, so what did you have to work with in creating a believable, rounded character for Hugo?
"Well, I made a choice, that we were in Purgatory, and stuck with it... I had no idea what choices the rest of the cast had made. I had history from the script, that he was a killer of miracle-working priests and that was it really, the rest was up to me. I saw Hugo as a normal guy who felt he was justified and doing no wrong when he committed the murders. Hugo was quite insane but in his own mind he was a regular guy. That's the way I tried to play him anyway!"

How did you find working in Italy with an international cast?
"Well, Gerry Shanahan was right, working in Italy was fantastic! I was on set for 17 days and cast and crew really bonded. We became a family. Obviously I had a little google about the rest of the cast when Ivan offered me the role and I shat myself when I saw the profiles of Debbie, Tiffany and Tara. Horror goddesses with a huge catalogue of work behind them. We were doing night shoots so starting at 6pm, finishing 6am. It was summer so it was incredibly hot during the day and very humid at night. The mosquitos were a bastard, I got plenty of bites and had a bad reaction to them requiring prescription meds.

"The cast was made up of Italians, Irish, British, Canadians and Americans and we all got on so well. The Italians all had excellent English so there were no communication difficulties. Most of us still keep in touch. I was delighted to be invited to Buffalo NY last september to work on Model Hunger, Debbie Rochon's directorial debut. That came about because of Wrath. Tiffany is one of the leads in Model Hunger so it was brilliant to meet up and work with the girls again. Working with Ivan was great, he's a genius as you can see from Wrath and I'd love to work with him again."

You have appeared in several recent Irish horror features, including Shackled, The Inside and An Irish Exorcism: what can you tell me about these?
"Shackled was an experimental film... possibly two words that should never be put together in any sentence: experimental and film!! We were given a script to read through and familiarise... then told to throw the script away and improvise. I wouldn't like to approach a film in that fashion again... but no regrets, it was good experience.

"The Inside was a very intense shoot. I knew most of the principals well and we were all comfortable working together. We shot the film in a few days, again a night shoot. There was a script to stick to and a little improvisation here and there. We shot the movie in chunks, if you watch it you'll notice there are not too many cuts. The camera kept rolling, sometimes for 15 minutes or more capturing this absolute mayhem. It was exhausting, normally on a movie the camera will roll for a couple of minutes then cut. The content is pretty strong, extreme violence, rape, terror. A group of unsuspecting girls and one guy arrive at an old warehouse to do some cheap drinking before going out for the night. Three unsavoury characters are lurking in the shadows and bring a reign of terror when they burst onto the scene.

"At the premiere here in Dublin there were several walkouts, for some the content was too strong and for others the camera shake was too much of a distraction. I went to the loo half way through and I saw several girls in the foyer in tears. My character Eamo is without doubt the nastiest character I have ever played. I went to Frightfest in London when we screened there and I have to say the movie is much more suited to the smaller TV screen as opposed to the cinema... reason being the camera shake... a problem, some say, of a lot of found footage movies. The shake is much less obvious on a TV. It was a great experience shooting The Inside and I've worked with the writer/director Eoin Macken on a couple of occasions since.

"The Exorcism Diaries is another found footage movie, this one finds me playing a Catholic exorcism priest, Father Byrne. The location for this shoot was Ballintubbert House, a rather grand home, with beautiful gardens where Cecil Day Lewis, Daniel's father, lived as a child. The house passed through many hands and in 1990 actor John Hurt bought it and lived there for 10 years, a super location indeed.

"The film centres around a girl making a documentary about exorcism, so at all times it appears either she or her assistant are holding the camera and that format really draws the audience in. It's very well shot and acted. A great hardworking cast and great crew too. I can't say a whole lot about it really as it's only recently been completed. Suffice to say there are a few strange goings-on captured and a great build up to the finale. We are all very pleased with the outcome."

How healthy is the independent film sector in Ireland at the moment?
"The indie industry here is quite good. We have an abundance of talent across the board, writers directors, actors, DoPs, lighting and sound engineers and everybody else required to make movies. We are at a stage where more of these talented people are saying, "Fuck this, I'm not sitting around any more waiting for stuff to happen... I'll make it happen!" Some are able to muster up decent budgets too!"

What interesting projects do you have coming up?
"Well, I was contacted today and asked would I be available to shoot four extra scenes in a feature we shot two months ago, How to be Happy. It's a romcom... no, I'm not playing the romantic lead, hahahahaha, I'm playing the unhappily married villain who makes the lead, a marriage guidance counsellor's life hell!

"In July it's a bit of straight up drama, A Nightingale Falling. It's a period drama set in 1920s during Ireland's war of independence. My character Tom is the farm manager and longtime friend of the people in the big house. There are a couple of actors I'm looking forward to working with on this: Gerard McCarthy currently starring in The Fall on BBC and Tara Breathnach currently starring in Anne Boleyn also on the BBC. Oh, nearly forgot, yesterday I auditioned for Ripper Street, a BBC drama set in London's East End in the 1880s and shot here in Ireland, so hopefully I'll book that too!"

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