Elnaz Toussi caught up with McGuckian and Mullen Jr to chat about their collaboration on the The Man On The Train, which Tribeca Film has just released on VOD in the US.
U2 drummer Larry Mullen Jr makes his acting debut as “the thief” opposite Donald Sutherland in Mary McGuckian’s adaptation of Patrice Leconte’s 2002 critically acclaimed crime thriller The Man On The Train.
The film relates the story of a mysterious criminal and a retired poetry professor who forge an unexpected friendship, each secretly longing to live the other’s life.
Why do a contemporary adaptation of Patrice Leconte’s film?
Mary McGuckian: I had not thought about doing a remake, but Larry had quietly been thinking about acting. There were a lot of concerns he had about how he could go about it. We were chatting away and at one point we were talking about who had done it successfully and who had not done it successfully. I had mentioned the Patrice Leconte film only because it clearly seemed to have been an especially creative piece for him. So, he went to look at it and he called me one day and said, “Let’s do this.” The more I looked into it I knew it was a good piece for [Larry].
How did the film come together?
MM: Very quickly. We decided to do it in a small period of time. He had a break between tours and we wanted to do it very quietly. We wanted to have control over it where it could be done quickly. I gathered my partner Martin Katz, a producer in Canada who I work with often, and between the three of us we put it together in about two months.
How did Mary help you prepare for the role?
Larry Mullen Jr: Having not acted before, it was kind of like where do you start? Originally, I was going to play a cameo role and help with the production of it. [Mary] said, “You can’t just do a cameo role – you’ve got to take the ball and roll with it. You’re either in or out.” I had to make decisions fairly quickly on whether I was going to do it. Mary had gone through a lot of trouble to get the rights. I felt I really couldn’t back out of it.
How does it feel to add acting to your list of accomplishments?
LM: It is one of those things that I have had fanciful dreams about on the odd days off. I never dreamt that it would come true. I always thought it was something I would like to try, but as the years went by it seemed less and less possible. Particularly with the way my schedule is with recording and touring. I never thought that anything would happen with this. So, it was a surprise to me that it actually happened. The fact that it came off without me making a complete twit of myself is definitely way up there on accomplishments because failing is not something that I am used to. I am not used to how that feels. So, the idea of doing something that I have no experience doing and taking that risk and taking that chance was terrifying. I feel relieved that it turned out so well. And of course most of that is down to Mary and her direction and to the patience and grace of the wonderful Donald Sutherland.
Why did you choose Ontario, Canada as the location to shoot the film?
MM: I looked around Quebec and Ontario, between the two for quite a while. The main thing was to find the house. I spent weeks going backwards and forwards looking for the house. In the end I found it on Google Earth. I was looking for a small town. Everybody in Canada knew that any small town within a 200-mile radius of Ontario has a train station and a pharmacy and I found about 20 towns. Eventually, we discovered this place called Orange Hill, which had the perfect geography and the train station.
Will a new record coincide with the North American release of the film?
LM: The soundtrack was recorded very quickly because we ran out of time on it. Some of the ideas for the soundtrack were too difficult to put together. We could not get the rights to use certain music on time. I ended up working with Simon Fisher, who is an English songwriter and musician. Mary introduced us. We just started working on something because we were running out of time. We played the film and put the music in the film and added bits here and there. But it was one piece of music. We never got the opportunity to tape it as one piece, so we have done that now and we made one piece out of it. And that is going to be released in [early November].
What was the dynamic like on set with a veteran like Donald and a novice like Larry?
MM: Extreme. It was extreme in the beginning and then they met. Then the first day of shooting you would have never known that Larry had never done it before and Donald was incredibly generous. It was the nature of the film that [Sutherland’s] character drives the scene anyway. They had a super dynamic.
Would you two work with each other again?
LM: Yes, I would. I enjoyed working with her very much. Mary is unbelievable in her energy and has a lot of passion. What really is outstanding about Mary is how she works with actors. She is an actor herself or was certainly in her past life, so she understands actors and knows how to bring out the best in actors and I saw her do that. And Donald Sutherland’s performance in this film is amazing. Donald is his own man, but the way that Mary dealt with the situation of having someone of Donald’s stature on the set and bringing out the best in him and the best in me… that is something worth noting. Without her I would not have been able to do this, there is no question about that. She gave me enough to make my way through [the film] without embarrassing myself. For that I will be eternally grateful.
MM: I hope so. I am so proud of him. It was a dream of his to do this and he had never done it. It seemed very far away to him as a concept that he could actually take a lead role in a film and come out as an actor. It is a phenomenal achievement. He spent months preparing and he worked very hard. He did a whole character preparation study for months. He was brilliant.
What projects do you have planned next?
LM: I don’t have anything planned so far, but I would love to do more films. I’m just not sure how qualified I am. My novice status and inexperience have definitely helped me in this film. I’m not sure if you can apply that to all scenarios. It really is down to directors and casting directors who see a role for someone who has acted before, but does not have the schooling or craft to fall back on. A lot of directors aren’t terribly comfortable but some can be. I am hoping some directors are willing to take the chance and might be interested. I would love to do it again.
MM: Now I am trying to do a film French-Irish-Canadian film called The Price Of Desire about the relationship between the famous Irish architect-furniture designer Eileen Gray and Le Corbusier.