Magazine article Screen International

Barry Ward and Simone Kirby, 'Jimmy's Hall'

Magazine article Screen International

Barry Ward and Simone Kirby, 'Jimmy's Hall'

Article excerpt

In director Ken Loach's drama Barry Ward plays a real-life Jimmy Gralton, a former low-level activist who returns to his home in rural Ireland in the 1930's after a decade in the States to find his first love Oonagh (Simone Kirby) married.

When Gralton decides to revive the abandoned dance hall that led to his deportation, he comes under the attention of local political and religious leaders.

Elbert Wyche talks to Ward and Kirby about working under the unique style of Loach, the Cannes world premiere and the current social relevance of the film. Wild Bunch handles international sales.

You've stated that you didn't know much about the subject of the film, Jimmy Gralton, before taking on the role. How did you prepare?

Barry Ward: We spent a lot of time before shooting in that area of Ireland trying to immerse ourselves in that world. We had a really brilliant Irish historian and lecturer who gave us a series of classes about the politics of the time. We were just trying to inform ourselves as much as possible about what life must have been like.

Simone, how did you prepare to play Oonagh?

Simone Kirby: My character isn't based on a real-life person. I just approached it the way that I normally do. I find out as much as I can about the background of the character and make decisions after talking to the writer and director. Because we didn't have the script, we had to have a really strong backstory so that we would know our characters' history.

At what stage did you not have the script?

SK: We never had it.

BW: You receive tomorrow's scenes at the end of each working day so you have just enough time to learn the few lines.

SK: And sometimes you don't receive anything. You just arrive on the day and they tell you what's happening when you arrive.

Was there a lot of improvisation?

BW: There was quite a bit and it was encouraged. Yet, ultimately in the edit they stick pretty close to the script as it was. To enable us to get to the points in the script that they needed we were allowed to improvise. Each take was very long and felt very real and authentic, and in real time.

Have either of you worked in this manner before?

SK: No. We've both done a lot of theatre so it's not too far off. …

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