Jim Sheridan talks to City Times

Jim Sheridan talks to City Times

Irish director Jim Sheridan talks about working with Daniel Day-Lewis, hanging out with Sir Alex Ferguson and overseeing 50 Cent’s film debut.



By (Adam Zacharias)

Published: Mon 16 Dec 2013, 11:54 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 4:57 PM

IN 1989, JIM Sheridan introduced himself to the cinematic world with the jaw-dropping drama My Left Foot, a true-life tale about Christy Brown – an Irishman who forged a successful career as a writer and painter despite being almost entirely crippled by cerebral palsy.

The Dublin native picked up two Academy Award nominations for Best Director as well as Best Adapted Screenplay, while Daniel Day-Lewis won the Best Actor Oscar to cement his reputation as a red-hot young talent.

Sheridan and Day-Lewis went on to collaborate in another two movies, both of which incorporated storylines dealing with Irish terrorist organisation the IRA: 1993’s In the Name of the Father (which saw the filmmaker acquire another three Oscar nods) and 1997’s The Boxer.

The 64-year-old has also combined with his own daughters Naomi and Kirsten to write the semi-autobiographical 2002 immigrant tale In America and worked with 50 Cent in the rapper’s quasi-biopic Get Rich or Die Trying (2005).

Sheridan came to the Dubai International Film Festival to serve as Head of the Jury for the Muhr Arab Feature Competition, designed to find the finest regional talent and won on Friday night by Palestinian film Omar. Here’s what he had to say about the rise of Arabic cinema prior to the awards ceremony.

What brought you to DIFF to judge the Muhr Arab Feature Competition?

I was going to start an Arab film festival in Dublin, which will hopefully happen next year, because I thought that the portrayal of Arabs in recent cinema was a bit off. I was saying this at a horse racing derby and the people from Dubai Duty Free were there. The next thing I knew I was getting invited to be the Head of the Jury here. I was happy to do it.

What was your knowledge of Arabic cinema prior to your visit here?

I had a good knowledge of Arabic cinema, but not cohesive. I’ve known it since The Battle of Algiers (1966), but I didn’t know the ins and outs. I have a good idea where Arabic cinema is positioned now, as opposed to what it was in the past. It’s such a different world now with the Arab Spring – I thought it was an interesting time to hold a hand out to people and say look, everyone has a stereotypical idea of this culture that’s totally wrong.

How many Arabic films have you seen, and were they what you were expecting?

I’ve seen 15 films so far at the festival, and I must have seen about five on the plane over here as well. Some of them were completely different to what I was expecting. A lot of them were very good. In general, the standard was really high.

What were you looking for in a winner for the Muhr Arab Feature Competition?

I’m not looking to find some esoteric movie where I’m the only one who understands why it’s good, you know. It’s more the case of would I recommend people to see it. I was looking for something which would have an emotional impact upon me and tell me about a culture.

What projects do you have coming up?

I’ve got a movie about growing up in Dublin. It’s autobiographical – when you do a movie about yourself there’s nowhere to hide, and I like that because it forces you to really focus. And I’m doing a movie about the 1979 Fastnet yacht race, in which 18 people died (after a powerful storm).

Isn’t making a movie at sea notoriously nightmarish? Jaws and Waterworld were both famed for their highly problematic shoots.

Who knows? I hope not. I think you just need a controlled environment. I’ll learn about it – I hope I’m not coming back crying to you in three years time!

Would you like to work with Daniel Day-Lewis again?

I would. The only simple reason that I haven’t worked with Daniel again is that I haven’t found the project that would suit him. He’s very specific – I had a few parts where he could have been the supporting role but I don’t think they would’ve suited him. So when I find the role that’s right for Daniel, I’ll be dying to ask him to do it.

When you signed on to direct Get Rich or Die Trying, that must have raised a few eyebrows...

Yeah it did. I didn’t understand how difficult it was to make a black movie for white people in America. It’s pretty crazy that black music has crossed over to white people, but the movies haven’t really. But it was fantastic working with 50 Cent and Dr. Dre. I was just happy to be with those guys because I adore their music.

In Sir Alex Ferguson’s autobiography, he recounts spending time with you on holiday in France and using your phone to confirm the sale of David Beckham from Manchester United to Real Madrid. Do you remember that day in 2003?

He was in my house in France and watching horse racing from Ascot on television. I was the only one who had the cable channel on which you could watch it. I used to meet up with him in France a lot. I really like him, he’s a funny guy. He knows a great deal about a lot of stuff, he’s a big JFK fan and he’s into plenty of other disparate stuff that you wouldn’t expect. He’s not just a stupid football manager, although I could mention a few of those!


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