When Colin Farrell and a host of Hollywood stars rolled into Sneem to make Oscar-tipped movie The Lobster, local people were happy to lend a hand. Some even got a part in the film, writes Eoin English.
WHEN Sneem-based GP Dr Paddy Malone was asked to work on medical insurance cover for the cast and crew of a ground-breaking film being shot in his local area, he was expecting the work to be relatively routine.
Maybe he’d see some scenes being shot. Maybe he’d catch a glimpse of a celebrity. It was a long shot, but maybe.
He certainly didn’t expect that the film’s Oscar nominated director would take a shine to him and offer him a part in movie which is now being tipped for an Oscar nomination.
But thanks to his amateur dramatic skills, Dr Malone made the transition from doctor’s surgery to playing the character, Campari Man, in Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’s new movie, The Lobster, shot in Kerry and starring Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz, which is due for release this month.
“I was quite amused by it all,” Dr Malone said.
“It was great fun. I’m on call all day every day, 365 days a year, so this was a holiday really, and a holiday at home.
“It was interesting to see the intensity of the whole operation and the concentration that went into even the shortest scenes.
“But I don’t think I’ll take to film making. I don’t think I’ll give up the day job.”
The Lobster was co-funded by Irish production company Element Pictures, Film4, Canal+ and a number of film funds across Ireland, the UK and Greece, and was shot in spring 2014 in Dublin, with key scenes from the first half of the film shot on location in the Parknasilla Resort in Sneem, and in nearby Dromore Woods.
Several scenes were shot in the hotel’s reception area, in its restaurant, in the bedrooms, and on the golf course.
It is the first English language film for the acclaimed Athens-born director, Yorgos Lanthimos, who was nominated for an Oscar for his 2009 Greek movie, Dogtooth, in the best foreign language category.
Starring Farrell, Weisz, John C Reilly, Ben Whishaw, Lea Seydoux and Michael Smiley, The Lobster won the Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and is widely tipped for an Oscar nomination.
Described as an “unconventional love story”, the movie is set in the near future where single people’s lives depend on finding a partner.
They check in to the hotel — the film crew took over the Parknasilla resort for over two months last year — and are forced to find a mate within 45 days or be turned into animals and released into the wild.
The film is narrated by Weisz, who plays a nameless ‘loner’, one of a group of escaped fundamentalist singletons who live feral in the woods and are hunted by the inmates at night.
Farrell, who grew a moustache and gained 40lbs in two months to play the character of David, a sad, lonely, divorced architect, said he was blown away when he first read the script.
“There is a particularness and a clarity of voice in the writing and direction that is incredibly rare,” he said.
“This film seems like a new cinematic language. That sounds like such a grandiose thing to say, but it’s so unusual, when I read the script I couldn’t believe it.
“It does question societal and tribal conventions, and it does question the nature and fabric of loneliness and things we do to escape loneliness and how we as a human race can become duped under craftily designed power structures represented by governments and religions.
“But what I got most from the script was the aching and prevalent sense of loneliness.”
Cue Dr Malone. Involved in amateur theatre since his days in UCC in the 1970s, and a founder of the Sneem Dram Soc which stages productions in the local community hall, he struck up a friendship with Yorgos while working on set on the film’s medical insurance cover.
They chatted about Greek literature, and about Dr Malone’s honeymoon in Greece, which led to Yorgos asking him to appear as an extra in the film.
“I had no hesitation about working on the film,” Dr Malone said.
“I just told my wife she was taking over the practice — for a few days anyway.
“I was just like any extra. I wasn’t told anything about the plot. There was a lot of sitting around, being offered a biscuit by one of the actresses.
"Rising at 4am, getting to the hotel, getting made up, clothed, and waiting around for hours on end, reading.
“Then we’d get on a rickety bus, and drive to the woods, where we stood around with rifles. We had to race through the woods with other people chasing the stars. That was really that.”
He said the extras were kept away from the stars during the main filming but they got to interact with them off camera.
“Colin Farrell was an extremely nice man, very down to earth, and very interested in the area,” he said.
“He did some charity work for us and signed a t-shirt for us to raffle to raise funds for breast cancer for men.
“John C Reilly was very funny. He was always going around singing. I remember one night at 11pm in the pouring rain, and John C Reilly was laughing and singing.
“I presented him with the words to Come Back Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff.”
Dr Malone recalled one early-morning scene when a donkey had to be ‘shot’ outside the hotel and a vet was brought in to anaesthetise it briefly for the scene.
But a local landowner, who was oblivious to the steps being taken to protect the animal, approached the crew and shouted: “There’ll be no donkey shot on this farm.”
Rachel Weisz was at the centre of another lighter moment as she enjoyed a coffee with her husband, Daniel Craig, in Danny O’Sé’s bar.
She accidentally spilled her coffee over the mobile phone of a local man who was sitting nearby.
“She was terribly contrite and expressing her alarm at what had happened,” Dr Malone said.
“She said ‘How much is that phone?’ and when he replied ‘Ah that’s grand’, she couldn’t believe it. She thought she’d have to pay 1,000 until the proprietor told her it was a local expression to say that everything was fine.”
Dr Malone is now among hundreds of people in Kerry, Sneem and Kenmare in particular, who are eagerly anticipating the movie’s release in the hope that it could do for tourism in south Kerry what The Quiet Man did for Mayo almost half a century ago.
Dutch native, Gerrit Noordkamp (pictured above), who lives locally and runs Kerry Experience Tours and chauffeur business, drove several of the stars while they were on set, and said the film should be a huge boost for the area.
It resulted in him collecting French actress, Lea Sedoux, the new Bond girl in Spectre, from Cork Airport for the drive to Kerry, and he also drove Yorgos, Farrell, Weisz and Ashley Jensen from time to time. He even took John C Reilly grocery shopping at one stage.
He drove Ben Wishaw, who plays Q in the new Bond movies, to a B&B on Valentia Island for a short break.
“But there was almost no down time for them,” Noordkamp said.
Although Weisz and Craig, who arrived at Parknasilla for a few days break, did hire a car to tour the area privately.
“I got to know the real person behind the stars,” Noordkamp said.
“It was a lovely time and was great for my business with so much work so early in the season.
"John C Reilly wrote some nice words about me in the US. It helped me get more business from the US.”
He was also presented with a case of expensive wine for helping a costume designer on the movie with logistics.
“They were all lovely people, very dedicated to their craft, and they seemed to love the area,” he said.
“People were sceptical at first. It was a low budget movie. But so many low budget films have made it big. And with the big names that are in it, the movie could do a lot for the region.
"Hopefully it will bring a lot more people to Parknasilla and Sneem to enjoy the breathtaking scenery. I don’t think there are many hotels with a setting like that.”
Parknasilla general manager Ruth O’Sullivan said they were delighted that of all the hotels in the world, the director chose Parknasilla.
“We’re very proud to have been involved in it,” she said.
It was a real challenge to run a busy hotel while facilitating a film crew for two months but they got the script months in advance so they could plan various scenes, including complex night shoots, to minimise disruption to guests.
“We couldn’t say who was here, but after a while, our guests knew, and guests caught a glimpse of the stars walking around,” she said.
“It is stunning to see some of the location shots, especially some of the night scenes where they shooting up against the hotel.”
There are talks that a screening may be staged in the hotel closer to release date.
The Lobster is due for release in Irish cinemas on October 16
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