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Neil Jordan

Neil Jordan: Interviews

Neil Jordan
Edited by Carole Zucker
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Neil Jordan
    Book Description:

    These interviews cover the career to date of Neil Jordan (b. 1950), easily the most renowned filmmaker working in contemporary Irish cinema. Jordan began as a fiction writer, winning the distinguished Guardian Fiction Prize for his very first book of short stories,Night in Tunisia, in 1976. His film debut was made during the peak of the Troubles in Ireland, and he addresses the sectarian violence head-on in his first outing,Angel(1982). This film also marked Jordan's long-time association with the actor Stephen Rea who has appeared in nine of the director's films and is often seen as Jordan's doppelgänger. Angel was awarded the London Evening Standard Most Promising Newcomer Award, the first of many accolades. These include the London Critics Circle Award for Best Film and Best Director forThe Company of Wolves(1984), Best Film at the BAFTAs, as well as an Academy Award for Best Screenwriter forThe Crying Game(1992), Best Film at the Venice Film Festival forMichael Collins(1996), Best Director at the Berlin Film Festival forThe Butcher Boy(1997), and a BAFTA for Best Screenplay forThe End of the Affair(1999).

    The director continued to publish works of fiction as well as writing the scripts for most of his feature films, and in 2011 he produced a highly regarded novel,Mistaken, set in Jordan's home turf of Dublin and featuring characters who are duplicates of one another as well as mysterious arrivals and departures at the home of the Irish author ofDracula, Bram Stoker. The filmmaker has most recently produced, written, and directed the television seriesThe Borgias(starring Jeremy Irons) and completed his fourteenth feature film,Byzantium, the story of a mother and daughter vampire duo, recalling his earlier work on the Anne Rice novelInterview with the Vampire(1994).

    eISBN: 978-1-62103-935-8
    Subjects: Performing Arts, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xxviii)

    With each successive outing, Neil Jordan—without doubt the most interesting filmmaker to emerge thus far from Ireland—astonishes the viewer with the eclectic, catholic range of his interests. FromAngel(1982) toThe Borgias(2011), Jordan’s peregrinations through genre often expand or efface the boundaries between categories. Jordan is deeply idiosyncratic, always experimenting with form, unapologetically changing styles from film to film. He is a master at creating moods and situations that can be sensed, but that are too complex to be grasped immediately. Jordan is a filmmaker who loves both the image, and the use of language that...

  4. Chronology
    (pp. xxix-xxx)
  5. Filmography
    (pp. xxxi-2)
  6. Conversation with Neil Jordan
    (pp. 3-30)
    Mario Falsetto and Neil Jordan

    Mario Falsetto: Can you talk about your background, and growing up in the fifties and sixties?

    Neil Jordan: I was born near Sligo [Ireland], in a little town called Rosses Point. My father was a teacher. When I was about six, we moved to Dublin. So, I’m really a Dubliner, though I was born in the country.

    MF: You went to University College in Dublin, right?

    NJ: I went to university because I wanted to study literature, and I quite enjoyed that.

    MF: Is that when you started writing?

    NJ: No, I started writing when I was about fifteen. I...

  7. Face to Face with Evil
    (pp. 31-39)
    Michael Open

    In spite of the controversy it caused at the Festival of Film and Television in Celtic countries, held in Wexford, with its inane boycotts, walkouts, and similar childish protests by members of the Association of Independent Producers (who ought to have known better), Neil Jordan’sAngelhas burst upon the Irish cinema screen as its major cinematic achievement of recent years.

    The film was given a screening in the film market at Cannes and was greeted with euphoria by all of those who saw it. I went into the film expecting to leave before it ended and catch up with...

  8. Beauty and the Beasts
    (pp. 40-45)
    Neil Jordan

    Novelist turned film director Neil Jordan describes the metamorphosis of Angela Carter’s eleven-page short story “The Company of Wolves” into a full-length English Gothic horror movie.

    “At night, the eyes of wolves shine like candle flames, yellowish, reddish, but that is because the pupils of their eyes fatten on darkness and catch the light from your lantern and flash it back to you—red for danger; if a wolf’s eyes reflect only moonlight, then they gleam a cold and unnatural green, a mineral, a piercing color.”

    On the set we place a light box in front of the camera lens,...

  9. Wolf at the Door
    (pp. 46-49)
    Steve Jenkins, Paul Taylor and Neil Jordan

    Neil Jordan: I met Steve Woolley when he was keen to distributeAngelafter seeing it in Cannes. He told me that Palace wanted to get into production and that he would like to see anything I was thinking of doing. Then Walter Donohue of Channel 4 commissioned a series of short films, about fifty minutes or so, one of which was an adaptation by Angela Carter of her story “The Company of Wolves.” I had met Angela briefly when I won theGuardianprize in 1979 and she was on the jury, and then again in Dublin during a...

  10. Sweetness and Light
    (pp. 50-54)
    Jonathan Romney

    When his debut featureAngelwas released in 1982, Irish director Neil Jordan found his colors being nailed, by default, to a tentative “British Renaissance,” fuelled by Channel 4’s modest coffers.Angel—cofounded by Channel 4 and the Irish Film Board—saw Jordan bracketed with such diverse non-novices as Peter Greenaway, Jack Gold, Mike Leigh, and Stephen Frears as one of the supposed “new” hopes. They’ve gone in wildly different directions since—Frears to be an international journeyman of mixed repute, Leigh to plough his determinedly solitary furrow, Greenaway to be even more obsessively Greenaway . . .

    But four...

  11. Neil Jordan’s Guilty Pleasures
    (pp. 55-60)
    Neil Jordan

    When I was a kid I grew up in a rather strict Catholic household in Dublin. I saw a lot of religious films—that was all I was allowed to see. I was brought along toThe Robe,King of Kings,Samson and Delilah. I remember only fragments: Victor Mature demolishing an entire cast with the jawbone of an ass . . . They probably made a dreadful confusion in my mind between the church and movies.

    The Song of Bernadetteis religious kitsch taken to its ultimate extreme. It concluded with a scene of a lot of French peasants...

  12. Celtic Dreamer
    (pp. 61-73)
    Marina Burke and Neil Jordan

    Marina Burke: You have elsewhere described yourself as not a political filmmaker. But don’t you think that the use of Northern Ireland as a background inAngelandThe Crying Gameis an implicit political statement in itself?

    Neil Jordan: Yes it is, of course. I haven’t anything particularly political to say, and I haven’t any particular political solution even in my own mind. Most Irish people wind up jaded and a bit confused about the whole thing. Except that in this film,The Crying Game, I did want to make something that came out of the nationalist point of...

  13. Interview with Stephen Rea
    (pp. 74-77)
    Carole Zucker and Stephen Rea

    Neil and I have an almost unspoken relationship, because we know each other very, very well, and he knows what he can get. He knows I’ll do the script; I don’t have any other agenda than to do the script as well as possible. I know all actors say that, but not all of them are entirely truthful about it. Anyway, I’ll tell you why it’s fun, because his sense of narrative is so highly developed that you’re very secure as an actor. The story is being told; you don’t have any other responsibility than just to be the person...

  14. Michael Collins: Treaty Makers and Filmmakers
    (pp. 78-90)
    Séamas McSwiney

    Michael Collinsis, or will be, a successful film on at least three levels. Firstly, it is a fine “historical movie” in the sense that it makes historians of us all. It provokes a spontaneous desire to go to the bookshelves to check the facts as they are presented in the film and to investigate the omissions. Whatever Tim Pat Coogan may feel about the historical inaccuracies, he will not be able to complain about the renewed commercial success of his Collins biography. Read the book, see the film, and check the book again. Go further and cross-check with Frank...

  15. The Butcher Boy
    (pp. 91-95)
    Ted Sheehy and Neil Jordan

    Ted Sheehy: Are you sad they couldn’t showThe Butcher Boyhere?

    Neil Jordan: Well, yeah, but you know these festivals have their rules so that’s the way it works . . .

    TS: That’s Berlin’s rules, is it?

    NJ: Yeah, well it’s them.

    TS: Can I compliment you on it, I think it’s the best thing you’ve done.

    NJ: Thank you.

    TS: I noticed you seemed to be very nervous in Galway at the premiere last July, and I wondered was it particularly . . . am I wrong in thinking you were nervous?

    NJ: No, no, it was...

  16. In Dreams
    (pp. 96-98)
    Douglas Eby

    With a tag by DreamWorks of “dark psychological thriller,” Neil Jordan’s film stars Annette Bening as Claire Cooper, a woman with nightmares involving the acts of a killer, Vivian (Robert Downey, Jr.). Speaking from Dublin, Jordan said that, despite the title, this film has nothing to do with a novel of his calledThe Dream of the Beast, but is rather a script that Steven Spielberg had commissioned from Bruce Robinson, whose writing credits includeReturn to Paradise,Jennifer Eight,Fat Man and Little Boy, andThe Killing Fields. “David Geffen, with whom I’d worked, showed me Bruce’s script, called...

  17. A Look Over Jordan
    (pp. 99-104)
    Ted Sheehy and Neil Jordan

    It’s a peculiar setup to begin with. Over the course of a long day a snake of reviewers, interviewers, critics, columnists, and photographers uncoils itself from the lobby of the Merrion Hotel in Dublin. It eventually passes, in bite sizes, through a suite on an anonymous corridor upstairs where Neil Jordan gets on with what may be one of the more arduous aspects of being a film director. I have my own crammed page of questions and I hope some of them are new. We start with a question each aboutMichael Collins,The Butcher Boy, andIn Dreams.


  18. The End of the Affair
    (pp. 105-110)
    Gerry McCarthy

    Neil Jordan arrives on the set ofThe End of the Affair. “What’ll we do today?” he asks. A crew-member pipes up: “Well, sir, we could do a bit of typing . . . or we could do a bit of shagging. . . . or we could do shagging and then we could do typing. Or we could do them both together, sir . . .”

    He laughs. The film is about to go on release and he is telling the story against himself, with a self-deprecating humor that was not always so apparent. “It was quite funny really....

  19. Happy Days
    (pp. 111-114)
    Ted Sheehy, Anthony Minghella and Damien O’Donnell

    At the launch of the Beckett on Film season in Dublin, Anthony Minghella, Damien O’Donnell, and Neil Jordan spoke with Ted Sheehy about filming Samuel Beckett’s plays.

    Ted Sheehy: Is it just that it’s Beckett’s work or can you conceive of yourselves otherwise wanting to make short films that are formally experimental?

    Anthony Minghella: I think you’d get a different answer from every director but in my case it was entirely connected with a long-held admiration for Beckett. I studied Beckett, I tried to do a doctorate on Beckett’s work,Playwas the first play I ever directed—it was...

  20. To Catch a Thief
    (pp. 115-118)
    Paddy Kehoe

    Upstairs in the Clarence Hotel, Neil Jordan is singing to himself and leafing nonchalantly through a magazine which has his face on the cover. It could mean either of two things: he’s at ease with himself, or quite the opposite—he is trying to normalize what may be a slightly discomfiting prospect, an interview, begod.

    I tell him I had just seenThe Good Thiefat a press showing “Oh, you just saw it?” he asks. “Oh dear.” What’s the “oh dear” about, I ask. “I dunno. Normally people have to digest things.” His latest film is wonderful and mesmerizing...

  21. The Screen Writer
    (pp. 119-124)
    Tara Brady and Neil Jordan

    TB: Going byAngel, which slyly referencesLe Samourai, you seem to be a big Jean-Pierre Melville fan. Didn’t that make it difficult remakingBob Le Flambeur?

    NJ: Yeah, I do like Melville. Definitely. It wasn’t as daunting as you’d think though, because the original film was so tiny. Really small. There’s almost nothing there. So I was asked to do this, and I agreed, or at least I agreed to try, and then suddenly they bought the rights and that was expensive. So then I just had to get on with it and I had to basically think of...

  22. Songs of Innocence
    (pp. 125-133)
    Lir Mac Cárthaigh and Neil Jordan

    Lir Mac Cárthaigh:Breakfast on Pluto, from the source novel to the cast to the financing, is very much an Irish project.

    Neil Jordan: Totally an Irish project, almost totally. In terms of financing it’s Pathe, and it’s what Alan Moloney could put together.

    LMC: Was it deliberate; making a very Irish film?

    NJ: No, not at all. I had a deal with DreamWorks; I kept buying books that they didn’t want to do, and one of them wasBreakfast on Pluto. They gave me a very comfortable deal, and I managed to pay Pat McCabe for a first draft...

  23. Neil Jordan in the New Millennium: 1999–2011
    (pp. 134-162)
    Carole Zucker and Neil Jordan

    Carole Zucker: Can you talk about howIn Dreamscame about?

    Neil Jordan: What happened was Steven Spielberg sent me that script, and they had just set up DreamWorks. I’d done a movie with David Geffen, and they were very anxious that I do a film for them, and they sent me a script by Bruce Robinson which was calledBlue Vision, and it was about somebody sharing dreams with a killer. They asked me to consider making it and I said: “Well, why don’t I just have a go at the script and see what I come up with.”...

  24. Additional Resources
    (pp. 163-168)
  25. Index
    (pp. 169-176)