As Moe Dunford waits to see if he’ll win another IFTA, the Dungarvan actor tells Marjorie Brennan about the fun he had on Vikings and Game of Thrones
THE filming of blockbusting television series such as Game of Thrones, The Tudors, and now Vikings in Ireland have provided a huge boost to our film industry — and our actors. Just ask Moe Dunford, who has appeared in all three of the shows.
The Waterford actor’s experience on Game of Thrones came in especially handy when he was called on to play Aethelwulf, son of King Ecbert, in the action-packed Vikings.
“On Game of Thrones, I was a special extra on a horse, with someone crouching below the camera holding the reins in case I fell off and clocked myself. But I ended up picking up a few skills. These are the kinds of shows I wanted to work on, and I got the chance with Vikings. I’m really enjoying the action and stunts. There’s a great crew and the stunt co-ordinators, Richard Ryan and Franklin Henson, have worked on big films like Gravity.”
Vikings, which is made by the History channel and screened on networks worldwide, is shot at Ashford Studios in Wicklow and locations around the county.
Dunford says: “Wicklow has become a character in itself — we filmed for 11 months this year, on top of the Wicklow Mountains with hundreds of extras freezing their arses off, in all elements. It’s a great show and I’m proud to be part of it. It has been acclaimed worldwide and is starting to build quite a fanbase here in Ireland.”
Dunford grew up in Dungarvan and his interest in acting was cemented after starring in a transition year production of West Side Story in the local CBS. He spent a year in University College Cork before heading for Dublin to enrol in the Gaiety School of Acting.
“I was always interested in acting. My uncle Liam Stack was in Glenroe and Michael Collins, and I always admired that he went off and did something different,” he says.
Dunford’s big break came in Patrick’s Day, directed by Terry McMahon, in which he was widely acclaimed for his portrayal of a young man with schizophrenia.
“It was the type of part I could throw myself into. It was something special, a beautiful story. It brought up issues about stigma, manipulation and cruelty but it was also a gorgeous love story. I worked with some really inspiring people, it was a joy to be part of it.”
Dunford received a Shooting Star award for the role at last year’s Berlin International Film Festival. Past winners include Daniel Craig, Carey Mulligan, and Irish actors Domhnall Gleeson, Ruth Negga, and Andrew Scott.
Dunford was presented with the award by Natalie Portman. “It was a once in a lifetime experience,” he says. “I remember when we were all backstage, she said, ‘If you think it gets easier, it gets harder, it never gets easier.’
“To hear someone like her say something like that, I’ll never forget it. That was a whirlwind three days in Berlin after the premiere, a great experience.”
Dunford finished filming on season four of Vikings two weeks ago.
— Moe Dunford (@MoeDunford) March 8, 2016
“I was filming battle scenes out in Kilruddery two weeks ago so I’m up there until the end of the season. I’ve had a great stint, I thought it would only be two or three days work when I started. Linus Roache plays the king of England and he’s done such a great job in bringing that character to life, he’s stayed around, so that means Aethelwulf has too.”
As to whether Aethewulf will return for season five, which starts filming in June, Dunford isn’t giving much away.
“Aethelwulf has gone off on a pilgrimage to Rome with his son Alfred. He’ll be back at some stage. We were shooting up a mountain in Wicklow, trying to make it look like Rome but with the Irish weather, it looked like we were climbing Croagh Patrick.”
Dunford, who won an IFTA last year for his role in Patrick’s Day has been nominated this year for supporting actor, drama, for Vikings. He’s convincing when he says he doesn’t care if he triumphs at the ceremony tomorrow.
“I was delighted with the win for Patrick’s Day and I’m just as delighted for this nomination, representing the Irish cast on Vikings, but it won’t bother me one bit if I don’t win. It’s a good night but I’m not sure how you measure performances against each other. Being up there is great, and genuinely good for the show.”
Dunford has just begun shooting on the film The Flag, from writer Eugene O’Brien and director Declan Recks, the team behind the acclaimed TV drama Pure Mule. The story is inspired by producer Rob Walpole’s grandfather Harry Walpole, who raised the Irish flag at the GPO during the 1916 Rising.
“I play the best friend of Pat Shortt, a builder who is researching his family tree and discovers his granddad hoisted the tricolour over the GPO in 1916. No one believes him, so we go over to England to track down the flag. It’s a a comedy but at it’s heart it’s a story about two men from a small town in Ireland who are trying to find themselves.”
According to the Berlin Film Festival jury, Dunford has “the ingredients of a modern-day Hollywood hero”. Would he consider a move Stateside?
“If the work came up, absolutely. I have a representative there and I’ve been over there but then again, a show like Vikings is big over there — but made here. A lot of actors believe you have to go to LA, that’s their goal. I don’t believe that — work and opportunities present themselves here, and in London. That whole notion of the American dream... each to their own.”
For now, Dunford is happy to be based in Dublin. “I like to get home to Dungarvan as much as I can. It was my folks’ 40th wedding anniversary the other day, so we all got together for a nice party.
“I didn’t know what I’d get starting out as an actor. I consider myself lucky to be able to work here in Ireland, that’s what I want to do, to work consistently, and be around my family, that’s something I’m grateful for.”
The IFTA film and drama awards will be presented at the Mansion House in Dublin tomorrow. TV3 will broadcast highlights on Sunday
This year’s best film category at the IFTAs is arguably the strongest ever, given the number of Oscar nominations floating around between the two front-runners, John Crowley’s Brooklyn, and Room, directed by Lenny Abrahamson.
Also nominated is the hugely popular Sing Street, from Once director John Carney.
My Name is Emily goes on nationwide release today. It is directed by Simon Fitzmaurice, who has motor neurone disease, and was financed through a crowd-funding campaign.
The Cuban-set Viva was Ireland’s submission for the foreign language category at this year’s Oscars, and was written by Mark O’Halloran (Garage, Adam and Paul).
The final nominee is The Survivalist, an apocalyptically-themed first feature from Northern Irish director Stephen Fingleton.
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