John Crowley

Intermission

Interviewed by Jen Foley

“It's not an easily pitchable film, and that's what's glorious about it ”

John Crowley made his name as a theatre director in his native Ireland and the UK (he's Associate Director of London's Donmar Warehouse), before making his feature debut with Intermission. The urban love story boasts a talented ensemble cast, including Cillian Murphy, Kelly Macdonald, Colm Meaney, and Colin Farrell.

With Intermission you had to handle a large cast and several different storylines. Was that a lot to take on as a first-time film director?

I think the fact that it's character driven meant that however technically complicated it got on set, I was always directing actors. The bottom line is, it's a great script and that's very inspiring and makes you want to overcome whatever technical difficulties you come up against. Certainly it's very difficult to keep momentum going through a film which has as many characters as this does, and the piece took on a life of its own to try and shape it. That took all the time we had in editing.

Did your experience as a theatre director help or hinder you?

Fundamentally, whether directing in the theatre or a film, you have to be a good storyteller, regardless of the form. The thing I had to work hardest at was thinking in shots. You never do that in theatre, you always have a single, fixed viewpoint and you move people around a space. But the kind of script that Mark [O'Rowe] had written was quite wordy. That is usually used as a criticism in scripts but in this case it's not. It's glorious, because the story is always moving forward through the dialogue. So I always felt on very safe ground with the script.

You've got several big names in the cast. Was it a big challenge to get everyone in the same place at the same time?

In a word, yes! I had very clever producers, who scheduled it brilliantly, but scheduling it was a nightmare. But I'm very happy to work within tight parameters, and when you know you have an actor for two days, and you have to get that work done in two days, that focuses the mind wonderfully.

Colin Farrell is the most high profile actor you cast...

We had to do Colin in the first week. That was a bit of a baptism of fire for me because you get to do everything in Colin's story - car chases, punch-ups, shoot-outs. But he's impeccably professional.

Structurally the film can be compared to American films like Magnolia or Short Cuts, but on this side of the Atlantic films rarely seem to attempt that kind of ambitious structure. Did you come up against funding difficulties because of that?

Anyone who read the screenplay with any kind of a brain could see there was a huge talent behind the writing. And then they'd all go, "But our marketing people don't know what to do with it." It's not an easily pitchable film, and that's what's glorious about it, it doesn't fit into categories. You can say "it's a bit like an Irish Magnolia", but actually it's not anything. It's got its own personality. So yes, it's an unusual structure to come out of Ireland.