The directors: Neil Jordan

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Sligo-born Neil Jordan, writer-director and acclaimed novelist, is unique among filmmakers from these islands in sustaining a strongly personal imprint to work on both sides of the Atlantic, often concerning moral or sexual transgression. An Oscar winner for the original screenplay of ’The Crying Game‘, his films include ’Angel‘, ’Mona Lisa‘, ’The Company of Wolves‘, ’Michael Collins‘, ’The Butcher Boy‘, and ’The Good Thief‘. His latest is the NYC revenge thriller ’The Brave One‘, starring Jodie Foster

The directors: Neil Jordan
Where I told the producer to go: Jordan with Jodie Foster for 'The Brave One'
I suppose you could say I’m someone who has managed to slip back and forth between here and Hollywood, but, to be honest, I’m rarely forgiven for it.

It’s not important to the world at large but for the small community that writes about this shit, it’s always a case of ‘We prefer your small Irish movies’. Personally, I don’t like to make the same film all the time. Sometimes I’ll even take on a project or write a script precisely because it’s something I haven’t done before, and I can only make sense of it because there’s something in the story or the central characters which brings my emotions to a place that’s irrational, where you question your sense of what’s right and what’s wrong. That’s what happened with ‘The Brave One’. Jodie Foster had this script, and what fascinated me was this great parable about revenge and its implications.

I loved the way the woman lost herself totally and could never get back to the place she started from. It’s a portrait of someone who’s consumed by an idea of a very personal vengeance, that sense of justified apocalypse which is so American and makes me uncomfortable.
I told the producers that if they didn’t want to take the story to the ultimate, the unconscionable in a way, that they should get someone else to do it. It’s a film which divides people, but if it’s saying anything, it’s that we’re all bloody animals at heart.

It does surprise me that I’ve been able to keep making films, but independence is a state of mind, it’s about what you wring from each particular situation. Since ‘The Crying Game’, all the films I’ve made have been studio films in one way or another. ‘Interview with a Vampire’ for Warner Bros, as was ‘Michael Collins’ and ‘The Butcher Boy’ – work that one out! – as well as ‘The End Of The Affair’ for Sony. The studios know how to pay for these films, but they don’t always know how to release them.

I have to say, though, that if ‘The Crying Game’ hadn’t worked then I wouldn’t have made another movie. It was so hard to set up, and so many people basically said that I was insane. It was really a case of ‘well, if this business doesn’t allow me to express the kind of stuff that I find interesting or somehow urgent then perhaps I should just go back to writing books’. Otherwise, there just wasn’t any point in losing your whole aesthetic compass. Then, of course, it became this whole… thing… and in America they thought it was my first film. It was like ‘Mona Lisa’ and ‘Company of Wolves’ were made by this other guy.

I grew up in Dublin, went to university there, and had this mad agitprop street-theatre company with Jim Sheridan. But we both used to go to the cinema and see amazing, provocative films like ‘Empire of the Senses’ and wonder how on earth you got to make something like that. Without John Boorman, I wouldn’t have learned anything. We went through the shooting script of ‘Excalibur’ together and he gave me money from his budget to make a small documentary on the set. He said he’d be happy to produce my first film ‘Angel’, and when Channel 4 came along it was a salvation.

In a strange way, ‘The Brave One’ is not dissimilar to ‘Angel’. There you have Stephen Rea as a musician who sees a girl being shot and has this anger inside, but when he gets hold of a weapon soon it’s a matter of the gun making suggestions to him – he’s got it in his saxophone case. Instead of the context of sectarian killing in Northern Ireland, you’ve got New York as a fairytale forest gone wrong, this odd territory between realism and fantasy.

‘The Brave One’ opens on Friday.

Author: Trevor Johnston



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