Rhys Meyers’ jinx nearly killed Corkman’s dream

His movie may be drawing in audiences across the world, but just a few years ago the Cork city man behind the creature feature Grabbers didn’t think he would make it in the film industry — and it was all Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ fault.

Blackpool native Kevin Lehane thought there would be no way two young lads from the same terrace would make it big on the silver screen.

His film is set on a remote Irish island which is under siege from tentacled, bloodsucking monsters.

Luckily for the occupants, they soon realise the monsters are allergic to alcohol and so the islanders figure out the best defence is to have a lock-in.

The movie tells the story of heavy-drinking garda Ciarán O’Shea (Richard Coyle), and his recently arrived, uptight understudy Lisa Nolan (Ruth Bradley), who must defend the residents.

The lightbulb moment for his script came to Mr Lehane in a very novel way.

“I was backpacking [when he came up with the idea] a few years back, to travel the world really,” he told RTÉ radio’s John Murray show. “I was getting savaged by mosquitoes and I kept hearing the same advice from people, which was to eat lots of Marmite because the vitamin B. If it gets into your system, then the mosquitos sense it and they don’t like the taste of it. It was being told to me over a few drinks and I thought ‘wouldn’t it be better if they were allergic to alcohol?’ and that was the start of it.”

The film, made on a budget of £3.5m (€4.45m) and shot in Donegal and Belfast, has been a huge success, premiering at the Sundance Festival.

Mr Lehane studied film and TV production in Cork in 2002 and was “on the periphery of breaking through”.

“It was after years of writing projects that I thought would be easy to produce that I realised I wasn’t writing films that I wanted to see, so I took a step back and thought ‘I’m going to write a film that I would actually go and see on a Friday night’. That became Grabbers.”

However, before he got to that point he had feared he might not make it and it was down to a very famous jinx.

“Jonathan Rhys Meyers was a neighbour of mine growing up [in Farrancleary, Blackpool],” he said. “I went to school with his brother. From the moment he did Michael Collins I thought ‘well, that’s it, its not going to happen’. I thought he had stolen all the luck out of the terrace.”

He even met Rhys Meyers at a time when the young actor had already made it big.

“On the night of the Oscars 12 years ago, I was working in Burger King, doing the regular terrible work that you have to do on a late night, like clearing out the bins and cleaning out the fires and Jonathan came in and he had had a few drinks. I was complimenting him on how well he had done and asking him about his brother and I thought ‘feck that, it’s never going to happen for me’.”

Grabbers opened here just over a week ago — and initially Mr Lehane though it was a good opportunity “sneaking in ahead of the big films”.

“But then we had the heat wave and we had the boxing final on Saturday night and the Olympics closing ceremony on Sunday. I don’t think anyone actually knew the film is in cinemas.”

He went with friends to see it in recent days.

“A group of teenagers were in the cinema choosing the film to watch. One of them was voting for Grabbers and my ears pricked up. His friends were like ‘that’s an Irish film, it’s going to be shite’. You have to factor that in.”

Nonetheless, he always had huge confidence for the production, especially as the special effects involved the team behind Harry Potter and production design by those who worked on Game of Thrones.

He is currently working on the script for another film called Legend Has It, which he says is a bit like the classic 1987 fairytale The Princess Bride.


In a new daily feature, Arts editor Des O'Driscoll lists the best things on the box for the evening aheadTuesday's TV highlights: The past revisited

Don’t ask me which week it is at this stage — I wouldn’t be surprised to wake up one of these mornings and discover that it’s Christmas Day,Learner Dad: "I’m an Irish male born before 1990, so tears are not an option"

From DIY face masks to luxurious manicures, these will leave you feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.10 at-home beauty treatments to feel like you’re at a spa

Psychologist Dr Meg Arroll tells Liz Connor how to avoid feeling ‘trapped in’ while distancing yourself from others.How to avoid cabin fever while in self-isolation

More From The Irish Examiner