Esther McCarthy

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Eanna Hardwicke: Cork actor about to burst onto the big screen

Cork actor Eanna Hardwicke may have grown up with a Young Offenders star, but he is set to make a name for himself with a string of big roles, writes Esther McCarthy

Eanna Hardwicke: Cork actor about to burst onto the big screen

Cork actor Eanna Hardwicke may have grown up with a Young Offenders star, but he is set to make a name for himself with a string of big roles, writes Esther McCarthy

CORK actor Eanna Hardwicke has had a busy year that will see him appear in several high-profile projects in the coming months. Later this spring he’ll star in Normal People, Lenny Abrahamson’s eagerly anticipated TV adaptation of Sally Rooney’s bestselling novel.

He plays a key character known only as The Boy in new Irish sci-fi thriller Vivarium, which has been getting rave international reviews in advance of its Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival premiere this week.

With other major projects yet to be announced, it looks to be a big breakthrough year for the 23-year-old from St Luke’s/Military Hill, whose family later moved to Glanmire.

“I would have got involved in acting around the age of nine or ten. My brother was going and decided he was too cool for it so I went along in his place!” he says. “Then at the age of 15 I went to the youth theatre in the School of Music with Regina Crowley. That was a big awakening really, for me, because we were doing plays, we were doing classes, and we were working with teachers who were actors. It was fun, and it was playful as it should be. But there was a kind of a rigour to it as well. A couple of people in that year went on to do this professionally.”

Among them was The Young Offenders star Chris Walley. The young men are good friends who grew up across the road from each other in Glanmire.

“I remember the day Chris told me he got that part. Of course no-one knew what that was going to turn into. Chris was great for that always, finding castings in America and sending off self tapes before any of us knew what a self tape was. He really always had that drive about him. We’d spend time just chatting about films we liked, plays we were going to see.”

Hardwicke went on to study in Trinity College Dublin’s Lir Academy. Getting a role in his first big movie The Eclipse, which he filmed in Cobh at the age of 12 with Ciaran Hinds, convinced him to pursue a career in acting after dreaming as a child of becoming a footballer.

“It was a great formative experience,” he says of his time on the East Cork set. “I remember that vividly but I was reminded recently that I was the one going around asking everyone 100 questions about every aspect of it.”

Landing a role opposite Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots in Vivarium feels like a game-changer for him and he was delighted to be cast in the Irish/Belgian-filmed movie just a week before finishing his final play as part of drama school.

“I finished the play on the Friday and was over in Belgium filming on the Monday, and so you’ve got to make quick strong choices. I think what’s so lovely about it is it’s a film that’s recognised to be Irish because it’s a satire on what so many of us are doing, looking around trying trying to find a house in an almost impossible market and that’s obviously universal.”

He says he had a terrific experience making the film with director Lorcan Finnegan and his co-stars, including Eisenberg and British actress Poots.

“They were gracious enough to, as soon as I arrived and was terribly nervous, they were coming up and chatting to me and asking me about myself.

“And I remember my first scene on the shoot was with Jesse. He said: ‘Ninety per cent of our job is to forget the camera’s there. You’ve done all your work about character and story and then on the day, you’re just trying to get into a place where we forget that it’s there’. It’s like a ray of light when someone gives you advice — you kind of know it, but it’s advice that comes to you at the right time.”

In another big move for the Cork actor, he will soon appear on our TV screens in Element Pictures’ adaptation of Normal People, which is set in Sligo and Dublin and centres on the relationship between young couple Connell and Marianne. He will play Rob, one of Connell’s best friends from school.

“I remember people saying:‘You need to read this book, because it’s great’. I did, and it’s that feeling that you’re reading great literature that you’re used to reading maybe 200 years ago. But you’re reading great literature that’s defining your era, your time, not just in Ireland but anywhere in the world. Some things don’t change, they’re universal. But in terms of the way the characters spoke and interacted, it’s very set in this day and age.

“To play something that you feel is unfolding as we speak, or is telling your story, is lovely. It’s a story of anyone who’s moved to Dublin to study as well, you know, and it was the same for me in Cork. I remember moving up here and just feeling like I entered into a different world, and that can be so lonely. Hopefully people will look at that experience, the characters moving far from home and feel all the same things - the homesickness, the excitement, the mystery of it.”

Vivarium is the opening night film at the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival tonight (Wednesday)

Six of the best from Dublin's film fest

A strong Dublin festival this year features a much-anticipated programme of new Irish cinema, over 100 features, documentaries and family films from all over the world, an extensive shorts programme and numerous workshops and public events. Here are some to watch out for:

Herself: Actress Clare Dunne, right, stars in this Irish drama, which she also co-wrote, which comes to Dublin following rave reviews at Sundance. She plays a young mother trying to escape her abusive ex-husband by building a new home.

Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am: The late author looks back over her life, and race relations in America, with the help of contributions from Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama

Kifaru: Screening as part of the Fantastic Flix strand for young people, the Kenyan-set documentary tells of the keepers who care for Sudan, the last male northern white rhino in the world.

We Are Little Zombies: Fourteenagers left bereaved at the same time form a kick-ass punk-rock band in a Japanese movie described as “moving and smart” by Variety.

Rocks: A Londonteenager must take on adult-sized problemsfollowing the departure of her mother in this coming-of-age tale. It comes to Dublin following strong buzz at Toronto Film Festival.

Street Leagues: An Irish documentary, featuring contributions from actor Colin Farrell, about the redemptive power of football. It’s told through the stories of the homeless menand women who play Irish Street Leagues.

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