What happens when you get a seven minute interview and a 60 minute photo shoot with two of Ireland’s most exciting acting talents? Actually, a decent little feature! Before chaos descended on the world, Barry Keoghan and Niamh Algar were in Dublin to promote the release of their new film Calm With Horses.
It’s the debut feature length outing from director Nick Rowland and is executive produced by actor Michael Fassbender. Detailing the violent lives of Douglas ‘Arm’ Armstrong, played by Cosmo Jarvis, and Dympna, Keoghan’s character, the film was a snapshot of a whole different world of mayhem and was met with initial plaudits from audiences and critics. However, like many other productions it suffered at the hands of COVID19.
It’s now set for digital release across a host of platforms, and we’ve got a brief glimpse at two of the film’s stars for you. Fresh off the back of working with Christopher Nolan, becoming a Marvel superhero, meeting The Rock and sitting at Milan Fashion Week next to Sigourney Weaver and Dev Hynes, Barry Keoghan discusses constantly honing his acting skills. Niamh Algar, having shone bright in the latest Shane Meadows project The Virtues, also speaks about the benefits of working with a first time director.
When working with Irish film, do you feel pressure to portray the characters to a global audience?
Barry: There’s a thing that you have to be careful of, Martin McDonagh and that get it right in the way that they do Irish movies and it translates across the ocean. They asked me to do a West of Ireland accent [in ‘Calm With Horses’] and you then have to be careful because you do want people to understand you. It’s about that fine line between, how deep do I go into that and are people in Ireland going to get a bit… ‘That’s not West of Ireland, that’s bleedin’ Cork!’.
Niamh: The main thing is, if you have a good story it’s going to translate well anywhere. Look at the Oscars, you had a Korean film but it’s been recognised globally. You’re not looking at it as an Irish film that only Irish people will understand, this is a film that people will identify with globally as something that they can relate to. That’s what storytelling is, you find yourself in the story, you get lost in it and relate to the characters.
Barry you started off in an Irish film, Between The Canals. What did you learn in those super early days playing characters like Aido that you still use today?
You’re trying to hold onto that rawness, that untrained thing you had, which is the beauty and what people want to see, that unpredictability. For me, I’m always trying to keep that in my performance, as if it’s my first movie.
That must be a challenge?
Barry: It is because then it becomes a thing… I guess it’s just telling the truth, because back then I didn’t know what I was doing, really.
Niamh: You’re still learning, but that’s what you try and do now. You’re constantly learning, you can’t say, ‘I’m finished now, I know exactly what acting is’. With each role you’re learning a different craft, you’re a craftsman.
That’s interesting. Barry you mentioned before that good actors don’t give advice, you watch and learn. Have you both benefited from mentorship through your careers? And as both of you progress in your careers do you want to become mentors?
Barry: That’d be the ideal thing yeah, to pass down. If someone’s a huge fan of yours or they look up to you, it’s a weird thing to take at this age.
Niamh: Me and Barry didn’t go to drama school, and I worked with Stephen Graham and people think he was plucked off the street by Shane Meadows, but Stephen trained…
Barry: Did he?!
Niamh: Yeah! I’ve worked with actors where it doesn’t matter what background you come from, and no one has the same two stories about how they got to the situation they’re in. It’s about having an open mind, you can get into acting late, you can start off as a child, but you need to maintain that passion and drive, because it’s such a tough industry. You’ve to look at it like a marathon not a sprint.
Calm With Horses is Nick Rowland’s debut feature-length, is there an added pressure having to represent someone’s first film?
Barry: I think he’d put the pressure on himself. I wouldn’t feel it, again you just look at the story and the character and don’t look at the politics of it.
Niamh: It’s kind of freeing when it’s a first time director, especially as an actor, because they…
Barry: They don’t know what it’s like on set!
Niamh: They don’t know what the rules are on set! So when you break rules, you create new ones, and invent new ideas. I think it’s really exciting when working with someone when it’s their first time, because they have their own personal take on it.
With a more intimate cast and crew and a relatively smaller budget, is it more freeing as well?
Barry: It is, it’s nice. The Irish crews are the best. The West of Ireland is just beautiful. There was definitely that feeling, there’s not a tonne of pressure, it’s not a studio movie, it’s not very time consuming so that does play into it. Which made it easier for us.
Niamh: Were the catering catching fish?
Barry: Yeah… They were like, ‘What do you want today, salmon Barry?’… Ehh, sea bass. They were great. What were their names again?
Niamh: It was a lovely family environment.
Barry: Martin! Good oul Martin, please give Martin a shout.
Calm With Horses is available on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Sky Store, Virgin Media, Talk Talk, BT TV, Curzon Home Cinema, BFI Player, Rakuten TV and Volta from April 27.
Photography: Ellius Grace