IMAGINE filming an action scene involving two young offenders who’ve stolen a stash of cocaine, a very irate drug dealer brandishing a nail gun, and rapidly approaching gardaí.
Now imagine filming it while seven months pregnant.
That’s the drama that faced actress Hilary Rose — and just one of the manic but fun days on set in the eagerly-anticipated comedy, The Young Offenders.
The movie was a labour of love in more ways than one. Rose and the film’s writer/director, Peter Foott, were expecting their first child, Jake, while completing their first film together.
“I always joked while making this film that I was making our baby and Peter was making our other baby,” laughed the actress. “We’re very proud of both of them.”
Though she had a healthy pregnancy, she recalls finding the filming of the movie’s climactic scene tough.
“It took about four months to shoot the film because we were waiting on people’s availability. By the end I was very heavily pregnant. In the final scene, the kitchen scene, where everyone’s getting shot with nail guns, I’m seven months pregnant.
“It took us two very long days, probably 16-hour days. By the end of the first day, I was really struggling and I said to Peter: ‘I’m going to have to take it handy tomorrow’. So he rewrote the scene that night, I get shot in the leg and I end up sitting on the ground!”
Originally from Montenotte, Rose plays young offender Conor’s mother, Mairead, in the film. “It was a really interesting experience to be playing a mum for the first time, knowing that I was going to become a mum for the first time. She’s struggling, she’s trying to get by, she’s a tough cookie. But she’s got a soft spot, and her son is her number one priority.”
Rose even jokes that her husband made her audition for the film — a wind-up on his part, you suspect, given that the role was written with her in mind. “It’s good working with him I have to say. He made me audition for the part which is hilarious! We’re always testing each other — I’d said to him I could put together a shortlist of actresses for the role. The two of us are always trying to stick it to each other for a bit of fun.”
Using the real-life €440 million cocaine haul off the coast of West Cork in 2007 as inspiration, The Young Offenders is a vibrant comedy about two city teenagers who go on a road trip to steal some of the haul in the hope of bettering their lives. Shot last year on a tiny budget, the film has been getting rave reviews ahead of its nationwide release tomorrow.
Rose and Foott were introduced to each other by mutual friends. “Different people would say to me: ‘You’d be great with this guy’.” When they met in Dublin and she told him she was an actress he told her he never dated actresses and Rose quipped: “That’s ok, we’re not dating”. They’ve been together since.
Rose, an accomplished theatre actress, has worked with Foott before, fleshing out wacky characters including Handy Sandie in Republic of Telly and Russian streetwalker Irinka in hidden camera show The Fear.
But this was their first move into feature-length comedy, and she thought the film was a great idea from the outset.
“One of the things that I love about Peter is he comes to me really excited and he’s got this little glint in his eye. ‘I’ve got an idea’ — that’s always what he starts with. The second he says it, I know that it’s going to be something really interesting.
“Of course I knew it would mean all of us working on it, pitching in, not just, you know, on-screen, but behind the scenes as well. We have a good working relationship at this stage, we’re at it five, six years.
“At the start it’s difficult to iron out your boundaries and not drag your personal stuff on set — but that’s gone now. You can’t. And one thing about that set that I’ve noticed, there was never any fracas or tension. Everybody genuinely got on, and we just had fun.
“We looked forward to our lunch breaks where we used to have cake-eating competitions. Just really silly fun.”
The Young Offenders not only has the feel of becoming an instant Irish comedy classic, but has the potential to travel — it’s already been selected for the prestigious London Film Festival and you get the sense that others will follow.
Were Rose and the cast aware that they were making something special while shooting at locations across the county, or can that be a dangerous notion to have when you’re still filming?
“It is, it can be. Peter and I do have quite a lot under our belts TV-wise. There have been things in the past where we’ve gone: ‘It’s a definite hit’ and it wouldn’t have been. You can’t help but be excited about something but you also need to be a bit grounded about things, otherwise you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
“The most important thing for me at this stage of my career is to look at a piece of work and go: ‘I’m really proud of that’. That to me is success. That’s the way I try to look at things.”