- 13 Sep 12
En route to the Toronto Film Festival with Lenny Abrahamson’s film What Richard Did, a drama loosely based on the murder of Dublin teenager Brian Murphy outside Annabel’s nightclub, Irish actor Jack Reynor tells Roe McDermott about the personal, political and class-based themes of the film.
Though born in Colorado, Jack Reynor moved over to Ireland when he was two years old, living in Wicklow and later moved to Blackrock. Having received his first taste of fame at age six, when he landed a small part in the Kevin Liddy drama Country, Reynor found himself well and truly bitten by the acting bug. Now aged 20, the young actor has eschewed college to become a full-time actor, and has recently been making trips over to London and LA to see if there’s a market for his talent and good looks overseas. Not that it’s all glamour, Reynor asserts.
“It’s not particularly easy,” the actor says in a south county Dublin drawl. “It’s real feast or famine stuff. You spend a lot of your time sitting around on your arse waiting for a phone call. But it’s rewarding, I love it. There’s nothing else I’d want to do.”
This year at least seems to be a feast year, as Reynor appeared in Kirsten Sheridan’s critically acclaimed drama Dollhouse, and has taken the lead role in What Richard Did, the latest feature from celebrated Irish director Lenny Abrahamson (Adam & Paul, Garage.) The film is loosely based on Kevin Power’s novel Bad Day In Blackrock, which was in turn inspired by the murder of 18-year-old Brian Murphy outside Club Annabel in 2000. Reynor plays the titular Richard, a responsible, kind and confident young rugby player from an affluent background. Working intensively with Abrahamson on the script for many months, Reynor admits that the film became a very personal one, as the cast put a lot of themselves into the script.
“I love working with improv, we basically had no script with Dollhouse and I love that natural, ad-lib work – you can put so much of yourself into the role. And that’s the brilliant thing about working with Lenny, he trusts the people he works with so much and wants it to be a collaborative effort. So we invested a lot of experiences into it and things we knew about the society we’d grown up in. We invested a lot of ourselves into the film. In a way, I think that’s why it feels so natural.”
The film indeed creates a very realistic and natural atmosphere. As Richard and his group of good-looking, privileged friends strut their way through parties at their summer houses, rugby socials, banter-filled conversations and teenage love affairs, it’s a very compassionate snapshot of Celtic Tiger Cub culture. But much like the Brian Murphy case, when things go wrong the entitlement enjoyed by the characters opens up a myriad of questions about crime, punishment and class – though both Abrahamson and Reynor’s work highlights the personal, rather than political, story.
“I didn’t know much about the Brian Murphy case, to be honest,” Reynor admits. “It happened when I was very young. But I tried not to focus on the class issue. I knew it was set in that leafy, suburban, advantaged Dublin world. But it’s a universal film. It could be about anybody, anywhere. For me it’s an examination into the mind of this young guy after he makes a mistake and how his life crumbles after that. It’s a look into the psychology of this very young character dealing with a very adult situation.”
Having attended the prestigious rugby school Belvedere College SJ in Dublin, Reynor would appear to share some superficial traits with the character, and by bringing some of his own personal experience to the film, his approach seems quite emotionally immersive. It results in an emotionally intelligent and insightful performance that is nuanced and sympathetic. But given his character’s violent actions, did the parallels ever become uncomfortable for the actor?
“There are parts of it where there are parallels and I think having gone to a school that is like that, I knew lads of that ilk and could recognise the mentality. But that wasn’t really my scene, I never played rugby and wasn’t into that sort of stuff. But yeah, it was a world I’d seen from the outside and could understand and relate to it. But I wouldn’t have said it ever became uncomfortable, because I think that every character you play has to have a certain amount of yourself in them to be believable and truthful. Otherwise, how can you understand how a character works?”
The film has already created a huge buzz, and is set to receive a rapturous reception at the Toronto Film Festival this month. As for Reynor, he’s planning on heading to LA and London to try to emulate his heroes. “Charlie Chaplin, Leonardo DiCaprio, I’ve a lot of influences.” Big dreams, but he’s off to a damn good start.
What Richard Did is screening at the Toronto Film Festival this week, and will hit Irish cinemas on October 5