Gleeson channels public anger at Church’s scandal

BRENDAN GLEESON is to play the role of a priest whose life is turned upside down by the public’s anger towards the Church and its handling of sex abuse scandals.

The Dubliner is teaming up again with John Michael McDonagh, the writer-director of his current smash hit, The Guard, for the film project.

The pair have already drafted a script, called Calvary, which tells the story of a decent priest trying to go about his parish duties against the backdrop of the Catholic Church facing public revulsion because of the litany of sex abuse scandals.

He said his character is “a good priest in an atmosphere where the priesthood is reviled”.

Speaking about his collaboration with McDonagh, Gleeson said: “We cooked it up one night, just talking. It must be really difficult now to be a good priest, given how you’ve been let down by everything around you.

“I am interested in good people as well as bad. Not purely good — that would be really dull — but I like the notion of mixing great and terrible figures with ordinary men,” he said.

Gleeson’s success with box offices smash The Guard and a previous triumph with McDonagh’s brother, Martin, in black comedy In Bruges, has turned the 56-year-old into one of Ireland’s busiest and most successful actors.

But the star says his next challenge — directing his first film, an adaptation of Flann O’Brien’s 1939 novel, At Swim-Two-Birds — will be his most difficult yet.

He said: “The rights came up in 2004 and I just grabbed them, not knowing what I was going to do with them. It’s one of my favourite books. I read it at 17 or 18, and to have a book that reflects all the maelstrom and confusion of being a teenager was such a glory back then — and it still feels relevant now.

“We’re set to shoot in the spring, but I’m not counting my chickens yet.”

He added: “Almost every actor will have two personas. I think the film is uniquely suited to this, because you can change worlds in a second.

“The trick will be maintaining the madness and anarchy of the book, while making sure a cinema audience can still follow it.”

The veteran actor also singled out Steven Spielberg as the best director he’s ever worked with.

He said: “I worked with Steven Spielberg on AI and his level of preparation was extraordinary.

“He told me there was a time at the beginning when he was a bit more spontaneous and went over budget and it absolutely wrecked his head.

“When you look at the power and assuredness of his movies, it makes sense that he works out so much in advance.

“It’s never going to be that way for me though. I wouldn’t even aspire to that.

“It’s just a different way of working,” he says.

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