By Michael Gray
In an unusual incidence of international near-synchronicity, "When Brendan Met Trudy" had its U.S. premier at the Film Fleadh the night before its opening run started in Dublin. Two of the main protagonists behind the film, director Kieron J. Walsh and lead actor Peter McDonald, missed the hometown opening to attend the U.S. launch. Promotional duties compelled the pair to present themselves for interview in The Scratcher the day after the big event, a little too early in the morning for comfort. Neither bright of eye nor bushy of tail, they nonetheless defended their film valiantly against charges expressed in the adjacent review that their lovebirds were less than compelling in the film.
"It’s simple," McDonald said, "she chances her arm to get a pint off him, he sings for her, and she falls for him. He’s an endearing man. He’s screwed up because he’s shy."
Director Walsh goes one better: "If I was a girl, I’d fall for him, if I got to know him. I wouldn’t necessarily fancy him from the very beginning — he’s quite an awkward person to get to know, because he’s shy. Once you get to know him, he’s totally endearing, and I would fall for him."
Given that former teacher Roddy Doyle said he wanted to write Brendan as a character he already knew, to break from the research-heavy writing of "A Star Called Henry," we can’t help but wonder as to whether Brendan is a little bit autobiographical.
"I don’t know, I’m not Roddy," McDonald ventured cautiously.
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Walsh was marginally more forthright. "Roddy was a teacher, he was obsessed with music, obsessed with film, and he was shy," he said. "Draw your own conclusions. He’s obviously not married to a burglar. He knew the comic potential of school, everybody remembers the funny things that happen there.
"What Roddy was very keen on was the idea of a teacher who had this delusion that he was a fantastic teacher but he was actually terrible. He goes through the whole movie being a terrible teacher, and at the end he’s still a terrible teacher. He didn’t turn out to be a great teacher and all of a sudden start remembering names, just because his whole life came together. He was worse at the end than he was at the beginning, and Roddy was very keen on that."
McDonald’s role as a teacher who turns to crime isn’t his first on-screen brush with the law. He played a reluctant criminal in Paddy Breathnach’s "I Went Down" and an active one in Myles Connell’s "The Opportunist." Pressed on the matter of his celluloid rap sheet, he seems perplexed that such a pattern is emerging.
"Crime seems to turn up in films a lot because it raises the stakes," he said. "Does it reflect on me as a person? I suppose I look on the films in terms of what the films themselves are. ‘When Brendan Met Trudy’ was probably the third genre film I’ve been in, I suppose. ‘I Went Down’ is a genre film, so is ‘The Opportunist’ . . . I’m just trying to remember what I’ve done!"
He also played a lead role, again as a reluctant lawbreaker, in Conor McPherson’s directorial debut, "Saltwater."
"It’s about a family that lives above a chip shop, in a seaside town outside Dublin. I play the eldest brother. There are three kids, a younger brother who’s around 13 or 14, an older sister and me. The mother’s dead, and the father has a drinking problem, and we’re in hock to the local bookies. My character finds out that the bookie who kind of owns half the town is going to take a share of the business, so I take matter into my own hands. There are three parallel stories running at the same time, the younger brother’s and the sister’s boyfriend’s. I think Conor did a really good job on that. It hasn’t been released here or distributed yet, so we’ll see what happens."
No such doubt hangs over "When Brendan Met Trudy," snapped up by Shooting Gallery for U.S. distribution, and opening on Friday, March 9, citywide.