“We are Ireland. We are inevitable.”
Each summer, while the multiplexes are filled with the big spectacles and epic blockbusters, the little gems that grip us with their humor, their tragedy and their humanity, manage to find their ways into the cinemas. This year it’s The Journey
, the gripping account of how two men from opposite sides of the political spectrum came together to change the course of history.
In 2006, amidst the ongoing, decades-long conflict in Northern Ireland, representatives from the two warring factions meet for negotiations. In one corner is Ian Paisley
), the deeply conservative British loyalist; in the other is Martin McGuinness
), a former Irish Republican Army leader who has devoted his life to the cause of Irish reunification. Opposites in every way, the two men at first seem to have little chance of ever finding common ground. But over the course of an impromptu, detour-filled car ride through the Scottish countryside, each begins to see the other less as an enemy, and more as an individual—a breakthrough that promises to at last bring peace to the troubled region.Driven
by two virtuoso central performances, The Journey
is a more-relevant-than-ever reminder of how simple humanity can overcome political division. Freddie Highmore
, Toby Stephens
, Catherine McCormack
and John Hurt
I recently spoke with the director of The Journey
, award winning director Nick Hamm
. Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Hamm directed cult-classic The Hole
(2001), starring Thora Birch
and Keira Knightley
, in her feature film debut. He also helmed Lionsgate’s thriller Godsend
(2004), starring Robert DeNiro
, Rebecca Romijn
and Greg Kinnear
Hamm later produced and directed the 80’s U2
-centric comedy, Killing Bono
(2011) for Paramount Pictures
and Northern Ireland Screen
, starring Ben Barnes
, Robert Sheehan
and Pete Postelwaite.
During our discussion about his latest movie, the British director and I talked about the film’s mixture of tension and humor, the human story and the message of The Journey
We Are Movie Geeks: The Journey
is a good story that should be told – the type that audiences don’t see anymore. It opened in 2016 in Toronto and then Venice, and finally had its premiere at the Belfast Film Festival in May 2017. What was the crowd’s reaction and how was it received?Nick Hamm
: That was a really extraordinary event. I’ve seen it now with thousands of people watching the movie and if you’re going to see a movie like this, you really need to take it back to Northern Ireland to see what they make of it. In the end
, that’s where the authenticity of the film is. It is important to us. The event was attended by nearly a thousand people and political leaders from both sides of the community came so we had politicians from Sinn Féin and politicians from the Democratic Unionist Party (Dup). It was a very emotional and momentous event because in many respects it reminded people of something that they had achieved and had risked losing.
We Are Movie Geeks: It is such an interesting script by writer Colin Bateman
, one that is funny, sad, and dramatic. Tell me about lead actors Timothy Spall
(Paisley) and Colm Meaney
(McGuinness – who died recently in March
) and the casting. Their characters became known as ”the Chuckle Brothers”. Both actors were very impressive to watch.Nick Hamm
: What underscores everything is the fact that Colin’s script is so good and when that happens, you attract really good actors. Both Tim and Colm were fantastic partners on the film. Tim had to transform himself – he’s playing a six foot five, Northern Irish politician when in reality he’s a five foot nine London actor. We did some prosthetics on his chin and a little aging on his hair, along with the false teeth. The hair and makeup was done by Polly McKay
. Tim became the character of Paisley which was fascinating to watch and he’s one of those actors that totally transforms himself.
Colm is one of Ireland’s best actors. What was important was to find somebody who could give McGuinness sympathy. This is a man whose background is well documented. What do you do? You start by making him human, you give him a life and a backstory. When you put someone like Colm Meany
in that role, Colm transforms himself for that. He understands the culture from where that character comes, he understands the basis of that character’s ideology and he understands how that character ticks. If you have that and you are a good actor – which he is, then you have a good combination. It was great to watch him.
We Are Movie Geeks: I was very pleased to see the late John Hurt
in the film in what was one of his final roles.Nick Hamm
: We all knew that John was very sick while he was doing the film. When we offered him the movie, he wanted to work until the end and play the part. It was real tribute to have him involved as a part of the film.
We Are Movie Geeks: Irish writer Seamus Heaney
, although not a political animal was an artist like yourself. He was affected by “The Troubles” when his cousin Colum was killed as a result of the war – Heaney moved from Northern Ireland to Southern Ireland after that. Has it affected you in any way and was this a partial reason why you made the film?Nick Hamm
: It hasn’t affected me personally but I knew people who were. Growing up I was in school in Northern Ireland and I knew people who had real problems. I could see it with my own eyes, the difficulties back then, and it was an intense situation. The vast portion of the people in Northern Ireland went on about their daily life unaffected by it. The real heroes were the people who got on with their daily lives in that situation.The Journey
for me shows how a unique political friendship was achieved at the personal cost of both men. Both men were vilified by their respective communities, but it was one of the most unique political friendships that I had ever witnessed. For two people who were so antagonistic towards each other, who ultimately came to respect each other, and became friends with each other, is why I made the movie and to tell their story.
We Are Movie Geeks: Despite technically being set in Scotland, and on a plane, The Journey
was filmed in Northern Ireland. There’s no green screen and it was filmed on the road with your director of photography Greg Gardiner
. What was the approach when you took it out of the plane and into the car?Nick Hamm
: This device protected the claustrophobia that the film so demanded while allowing a political version of a road movie to take place. We decided to not be frightened by the tyranny of the car but rather embrace it and enjoy the conceit. Greg
and I had discussed and ultimately rejected the idea of green-screen or back-projection very early. We filmed on the road, creating a ‘mobile studio’; our own little cinematic microcosm
We Are Movie Geeks: There is one scene in particular, where McGuiness and Paisley let down their defenses somewhat, set inside a church and then out in the cemetery, that has real depth.Nick Hamm
: I think in the cemetery scene when Colm breaks down, everyone expects Paisley to be sympathetic and wrap his arms around him, but he rebuffs him and shows him no pity or sympathy. Every scene was like a boxing match with each character winning a round.
We Are Movie Geeks: I appreciated the sound editing and especially the score from Stephen Warbeck
who first became known for the music for “Prime Suspect
” and won an Academy Award for his score for Shakespeare in Love
. It is a really nice score.Nick Hamm
: It was something quite new for him and he really had a go at it.
We Are Movie Geeks: Did you speak to the families and to some of the individuals involved? And what was their reaction?Nick Hamm
: I met McGuiness before he died. The whole film came together very quickly from the start.. From the script to the financing, it was out in about two and a half years. It’s been a very quick process and very rare for an independent film. I did sit with McGuiness before we started filming about his friendship with Paisley and it was fascinating to hear him speak how important the relationship was and how important it was that they maintained contact up to its logical conclusion. I did talk to Paisley’s family and to his son. We wanted to reassure them we were not riding roughshod over the history. But at the same time it was important to be creatively independent. We did not share the screenplay with them at any stage. In the end
both families really loved the movie.
Plus Sinn Féin and the Dup (Democratic Unionist Party) really liked the film, which is almost unheard of, both parties liking the same thing never mind the same movie. The most important thing for us was that the story was balanced.
We Are Movie Geeks: Brexit is seemingly in the news all the time now. As a result, checkpoints could be set up again to control borders. The timing of the film and its release couldn’t be more relevant. Will it cause a major headache between Northern Ireland and Ireland? Will it hinder Ireland’s reunification?Nick Hamm
: The question needs to be asked and it’s a dreadful situation. The idea that there will be a border back in Ireland again, I don’t think anybody wants that. I know for a fact that the Dup doesn’t want that and it would be suicide for both the economy and the welfare of the people to start putting border checks back up. That border in Ireland runs through people’s fields and farms. It was never designed to be a hard border, which it was during “The Troubles”. It would be an unmitigated tragedy to go back to that.
We Are Movie Geeks: Speaking of Indie Films, what are your thoughts on how people see films? Many are leaving the cinemas in favor of watching a film at home or on the computers with the advent of Netflix and Hulu, etc.Nick Hamm
: I like that at the beginning of a movie’s life that it has a public screening. I think the ways a film is distributed these days is really fascinating. I don’t distinguish between how and where a movie is watched. It’s changing so quickly, in five years-time it’ll change all again. Even the act of going to a movie theater is going to change. As long as they keep putting out these huge blockbuster films, in the cinemas is the best way to watch them. However some films work better on a smaller screen. I think screen size some people can get very worked up about.
We Are Movie Geeks: What’s your next project?Nick Hamm
: We are going to do the DeLorean
. It’s through the eyes of the guy who gave him up to the FBI. We’re hoping to shoot in September in Puerto Rico. The script is from The Journey
’s Colin Bateman
. Jason Sudeikis
, Lee Pace
and Timothy Olyphant
are in the picture.
is the turbo-charged story about the FBI sting operation to entrap maverick car designer John DeLorean
Sudeikis stars as Jim Hoffman
, a con artist-turned-informer for the FBI in the war on drugs. Olyphant plays his handler, determined to snare the world-famous but enigmatic DeLorean
(Pace) — desperate for cash to finance his dream of designing the ultimate car of the future — in a drug deal that would become the most lurid celebrity scandal of the 1980s.
From IFC Films
, see The Journey
in theaters now.
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– Filmmaker Nick Hamm
Discusses His New Film appeared first on We Are Movie Geeks.