The odd-couple police drama is a
staple, but you wonít find many more eccentric than John Michael
McDonaghís comedy drama about an uptight US FBI agent hooked up with
an antisocial local cop in the boonies of Ireland.
Starring Irish actor Brendan
Gleeson (the Harry Potter series, In Bruges) and
American star Don Cheadle (Oceans 11, Iron Man 2), The
Guard is the directing debut for screenwriter McDonagh (Ned
McDonagh had met Gleeson through
his brother, playwright Martin McDonagh, who directed Gleeson in
Martinís film debut In Bruges. Gleeson plays Gerry
Boyle, a fascinating Irish mash-up of Archie Bunker and Lt. Columbo.
Boyle is often obnoxious and always opinionated, but he is also a
very savvy cop.
Cheadle takes the straight man
role as a by-the-book agent who suddenly finds himself in the middle
of a strange area he doesnít understand, dealing with a cop who
seems to be a bigoted buffoon. But is he really?
Gleeson and Cheadle were kind
enough to meet with us and some other news outlets at the Sony
Building in New York City days before the film starts its limited
How did this film come about?
Youíre not only acting in it, Don, youíre also executive producing.
Don Cheadle: This was a
movie that came to my attention in the conventional way, through my
agent. The script team really sparked to it and they sent it to me
and I read it. I had the same reaction. I thought it was really
great. They said that Brendan Gleeson was talking about playing the
lead. Iíve been a big fan of his for a long time, so I just wanted
to throw my hat in the ring any way we could to help. We decided to
partner with John and lend whatever credibility that we could get it
and just started going about the business to get this done. I met
Brendan. He came to Los Angeles. He had won a Golden Globe for
Churchill. It just kind of snowballed from there. It was a
great project and I really wanted to be a part of it. Glad to get
Brendan Gleeson: Actually,
I didnít get the Golden Globe. I got the Emmy.
Don Cheadle: Oh, you got
the Emmy? I thought you got a Golden Globe for that. (laughs)
Brendan Gleeson: No, no.
They didnít offer that. Gave it to some other fellow. (laughs)
Anyway, I met John, we were there for In Bruges at the Golds
and I met John with Martin, his brother. We were having a chat
about various things. He sent me a script and as soon as I read it,
it just sang. He said weíre going after Don. I said, this would
just be made in heaven. Similarly, Donís work has alwaysÖ I kind of
knew before I met him that I would kind of love him, because I knew
that his work in an odd way really is who he is. In a kind of a
beautiful way. So we went in and that can turn out where you meet
an actor to [be a] nightmare. It didnít. We had a great time.
Weíd just met. We only read the script through a couple of times
and we knew we were going to go with it. Then we went our various
ways. So I was working back down in Connemara, waiting for Don to
arrive in the rain.
worked now with two of the McDonagh brothers. What are they like to
work with? How are they similar and how are they different in their
Brendan Gleeson: Well, you
know, it is two different voices, that is for sure. Itís a
different set. Two different worlds but there is an obvious
similarity. The wit has a shared pedigree, I think. More than
that, itís the rigor of their writing. The ferocity of the way they
approach a shot. John would come up just before weíre about to go
on something heíd be just right there. (mimes movement)
ďWeíre just going to do that.Ē Thanks, heíd say emotionally. They
both have slightly different ways of working, but they both have
extraordinary calm. They both knew absolutely, because no word, no
comma, nothing goes down there unless itís been absolutely thought
through. We were the beneficiaries of that. We came along and just
explored it. It was the same with just Colin [Farrell, his In
Bruges co-star] and myself and all the people [who worked on
that film]. Itís just coming on and you try to realize whatís
there. The potential that is there. When you start working with
other people, humanity gets involved and the room starts to raise
the bar, hopefully. You never have to wander away. You always know
what the core target is. So, they both are similar, but as I say,
very different voices.
How important was it to you
that this story was not just the stereotypical black guy, white guy
fish-out-of-water buddy cop pic? How hard was it to deal with such
an outrageous character?
Don Cheadle: To me, it was
a story that when I was reading the script, I was laughing from the
first page all the way to the end. All of the outrageous stuff that
came out of Boyleís mouth was stuff that was hilarious to me. I
thought that everybody gets it. (laughs) Everybody gets it
in the story. Itís an equal opportunity slander. I love movies
like that. Every character has their own bias. To me, Boyle was
the least prejudiced person in the flick. Heís clearly saying the
things that he is saying to get a rise out of the people that are
around him. He is smarter than everybody else. He is literate.
Heís a cinephile. He knows whatís up. I just laughed hearing those
kinds of things and thinking of John actually putting it down on
paper. I go, no one writes like that. People talk like that all
the time. We play like that. I play like that in my life with
people that are close to me. So I was glad somebody took all of
those taboos on and just put it out there in a way to make it
something to bandy about like a shuttlecock. It was funny to me.
Brendan Gleeson: Itís a
kind of fearlessness, to actually go and do it. I donít think there
is a racist bone in Boyleís body, to be honest with you. So playing
him as the biggest asshole that ever walked was easy, because I know
itís not the truth of him, really. I was just talking earlier on
about you can not go to a doctor and entrust him with your motherís
life. That actual scene was cut back, there was quite an
interesting thing where Boyle talks to the doctor about what itís
like going to tell someone that their nearest and dearest is dead,
for example. Cops do it. Doctors do it. So I think Boyle is
mischievous. It doesnít excuse, exactly, everything heís doing.
(laughs) But let me ask you something: How do you think I
feel? Iím a Dublin person. (laughs harder) Dublin girls
get it. Everybody gets it. The one guy says he caught something
from the ladies. Where they from? Dublin. AhhÖ. What do you
expect? What are you looking for? So, equal opportunity is a good
way to take it. Everybody was getting it. I really think there is
also a culture thing that sometimes gets lost in the mix. I donít
think itís necessarily just purely Irish, but there is a culture
thing and I think itís from going to markets and stuff like that and
not letting anybody know what to pay for the thing you are trying to
flog. Itís about making the other guy think you are really dumb.
Itís not just restricted to any particular [group]. Itís quite a
good way to take what you like from people who are maybe
underestimated anyway, to let them think that youíre dumb and then
their real selves come out and you hear all this stuff. So there is
a whole pile of stuff going on behind Boyle that I donít think that
he is just an idiot. I donít think heís a racist at all, actually.
film has a very unusual tone. Definitely unlike his brotherísÖ
Brendan Gleeson: Iím glad
to hear it, yeah. I think so, too.
What was interesting was how
well you two fit into the tone. Was it there on the paper?
Brendan Gleeson: I thought
Don Cheadle: I thought it
was, too. I really believe that, as I just said earlier, that I
thought wow, if we are able to just do whatís here and this is
people. This cast was believable. I had no concern about Brendan,
but I was like, these other roles Ė is everyone in this as
believable and grounded and has a sense of humor and gets the joke?
Brendan Gleeson: And plays
it straight at the same time.
Don Cheadle: Plays it
straight but understands what they are saying. I was like: this is
going to be great.
Itís so dark, all these awful
things, and yet it is so funny and bright at the same time.
Don Cheadle: When youíre
asking a guy whoís sitting there dying and he says ďThereís so many
things I wanted to doĒ and [Boyle responds] ďRun with the bulls in
Pamplona?Ē (laughs) Have you got no respect for anything to
say that? No, not really. Thatís Johnís dark, wry sense of humor
that you get from the very first moment. Brendanís first reaction
when the car goes by and it crashes and heís like (groans)
ďOh, do I have to deal with this shit?Ē
Brendan Gleeson: Another
day at the office.
Don Cheadle: I think it
just sets it up right, right away, that if you get it from the very
beginning youíre going to get whatís happening.
Brendan Gleeson: But also,
itís a thing that is not filled with hatred. It is important that
he can come out with this stuff and he does have a dark side and he
will go there. If you say itís a bit of a dark hole over there,
heíd be over there like a shot. (laughs) He does kind of
gravitate towards it. But there is no malice and hatred and
mean-spiritedness about it at all.
Don Cheadle: If there was
it wouldnítÖ my friend said the same thing. Some people kept saying
ďRacism. Racism.Ē My friendís brother, a guy I know, said, ďIf he
really was like that, it wouldnít be funny.Ē
Brendan Gleeson: No.
Don Cheadle: If he was
really hateful and filled with that. A bigot couldnít do this and
make it funny. It would be offensive.
the villains are elitists.
Don Cheadle: Yes!
(laughs) Theyíre debating Nietzsche.
Brendan Gleeson: I think
John does have a thing Ė you can ask him yourself Ė but he has a
thing about always depicting working class people as really, really
dumb. Nobody ever reads a book. Nobody ever has a discussion about
the central core issues of life. So he throws in this stuff and
just sees how you get on. Heís a great man, as I say. A lot of it
has to do with that fearlessness. Itís where you are not being
patronizing. Youíre not afraid to say; oh that person wouldnít say
that. Almost anybody would say almost anything at some level at
some point. He fires as many of those things out as he can and sees
how we get on. (laughs) I think itís about that, more than
How have the Irish been
responding to the film? You had done a similarly dark look at the
country with Tigerís Tail and that was not received well.
Brendan Gleeson: Oh, we
were eaten alive for Tigerís Tail, especially John [Boorman,
the writer/director], because heís English. We tried
to show in a film around 2006 that the society was going down the
tubes Ė it was throwing out everything that it held dear, that made
it worthwhile as a place. It was all full of bling and wealth,
meaning nothing. We were actually castigated at home. Actually
It was a big economic bubble
being explored [about the real estate and building markets in
Brendan Gleeson: That was a
big bubble. Blah, blah, blah. People were talking so loud in
coffee shops about having profits in Bulgaria and all this absolute
ghastly nonsense. How to want to make a killing. Everybody was
going to be rich. It was just a horrible thing to see. And John
Boorman painted it in as bright a color as he could. He really did
try to put it in a place where it wasnít sanctimonious. But the
rejection was utter and total. I donít take any great satisfaction
out of it Ė for obvious reasons Ė but the bust isnít a whole lot of
fun, either. Iím not sure. I havenít made a connection between
that and and Gerry Boyle. But there is something about puncturing
the notion of perceived authority. You know this unearned respect
that happens where people expect that you would respect them because
of their position. Ireland has been going through a real trauma:
which is the church, itís the economics, itís the politics. Itís
just about every slice of the societal pizza. At least theyíre okay
there. Except the arts. The only place that people were not let
down was in the arts. Actually, it does say an awful lot. I donít
know, because John [Michael McDonagh] would never tell you if he is
Irish or English, either. He doesnít really care. But as part of
that whole thing, it would be good to see it. Itís done something
like two million in two weeks now. (laughs) Thereís only
four million people in the whole country. Itís doing fantastically
well at home. So itís obviously hitting something. Tigerís Tail
absolutely hit the funny bone and they didnít want to know about
it. Now, they actually love to see all this stuff, because it has
been punctured. Gerry BoyleÖ (laughs) Iím only afraid itís
going to breed all these little Gerry Boyles going around saying the
most offensive things to everybody who comes into the country we are
Don Cheadle: Hey, now, wait
a minute. You actually are an asshole!
(laughs hard) Yes! Exactly. The approach is to go in the
home to make sure they donít get the wrong idea of this. But, I
think itís great to puncture all that unearned nonsense.
sort of like a love letter to the country, too. The area was so
beautiful and so unusual. The photography made it even more
Brendan Gleeson: Well,
there is something about just getting up someoneís nose that
obviously turns us on. I donít know what it is. Maybe itís just
the boredom factor. But it is shot well and Connemara did become
part of our hearts in a way. Iíd been to Connemara loads and loads
of times when I was 19 or 20. I went down there to learn Irish and
all this. They wouldnít give me a job, but thatís another story.
We went over working in there. We were part of the place. You
know, it is Gaelic speaking and quite of itself. But being on the
inside, working on the inside, was absolutely beautiful. We spent
the last two weeks working over in Wicklow on the pier. We shot it
all against the country. Everybody felt bereft in a weird way to
leave. So yeah, I think there is a kind of love in it, I guess.
Don, your character is supposed
to be very straight-laced and not have a great sense of humor about
himself. As an actor, was it difficult to keep a straight face when
you heard some of the things coming from Brendanís mouth without
cracking up, completely?
Don Cheadle: Yeah, there
were a couple of times where I just actually did. Like, okay, letís
go back and reboot and do that again. Because it is so outrageous
and it is so unbelievable and because I know Brendan and Iíve seen
the twinkle in his eye when heís saying it. But like I said, it was
fully realized on the page. It was kind of fun for once to be the
character that everything is happening to. To be in Ireland Ė a
place Iíd never been before. To be in that part of Ireland, which
is not even like any place else (laughs) in Ireland. To have
this fish out of water story, I didnít have to act much. I just had
to stand there. The only thing I had to do was act the out of water
part. Everything else was just right there. You donít always have
a director that is very clear and direct about what they want. Very
assertive and definite. John really was. So it was just putting
myself in his hands.
How did you prepare for the
relationship between the two of you?
Don Cheadle: For me, like I
said, I was a fan before I walked in the room. I know it sounds
clichťd, actors saying, ďOh, I loved him in five minutes.Ē But, I
really did. It really took about 45 seconds. I shook his hand and
said hey. We sat down and started reading. We read the first two
or three lines and we were cracking up.
Brendan Gleeson: Thatís
when we cracked up.
Don Cheadle: Yeah.
Brendan Gleeson: Thatís
when it happens, really, in answer of the other question. When you
get a chance to rehearse the scene. Thatís when we fell around the
place. After that youíre doing your job. Youíre kind of in a
slightly different place. The script was the bond. The script was
clear and our understanding of it was on such a level Ė on terms of
being on the same level Ė that that was so easy. We didnít have to
think about that much, really and just go at it. After that, then
the fun came later.