By Patrick Markey
One week, Barry McEvoy is a Belfast barman-cum-actor pulling pints in St. Dymphna’s, a downtown Manhattan bar. A week later, a script he has culled from his father’s experiences as a hairpiece salesman in Northern Ireland is sitting in the lap of a top-flight Hollywood producer being touted as the next hot production.
McEvoy can hardly believe it himself.
“It’s been just mad this week,” he said during a recent interview at his modest apartment in Manhattan.
McEvoy’s black humor-tinged plot, “An Everlasting Piece,” involves two hairpiece salesmen, one Catholic and one Protestant, who make their living peddling in Nationalist and Loyalist areas of the North.
The protagonists meet in a mental hospital, where they are working as barbers. By chance, they come across an elderly gent nicknamed “The Scalper,” a barber who quite literally scalped his customers. From him they learn the secrets of hairpiece sales and set about running their own business.
Follow us on social media
Keep up to date with the latest news with The Irish Echo
Much of the humor derives from familiar local situations, and a cast of bizarre characters, McEvoy said.
“The point is that there are a lot of funny bastards in the North, both Protestants and Catholics. They don’t know how much they have in common,” he said.
The idea for the screenplay came to him during the duller moments of the 1994 World Cup. Uninspired by the lackluster football, McEvoy’s father, in the U.S. to watch the matches, started relating tales from his time selling hairpieces. Soon people were falling about laughing at the litany of strange characters and experiences he’d gathered along the way.
“He’d drive into Protestant areas, into the middle of Ballymena, and with his name Colm. I’d be sitting outside in the car and he’d be selling hairpieces with a straight face. Just going about your daily business in the North can take some guts,” McEvoy said.
“It hit me then, that is what I should write about,” he said.
After several years of theater in New York, McEvoy was given a part opposite Sharon Stone in the soon-to-be released “Gloria,” a story of Irish-American gangsters in New York City. That connection led to a reading of McEvoy’s screenplay, which eventually ended up in the hands of Hollywood producers Mark Johnson and Lou DiGiaimo, who have produced such blockbusters as “Donnie Brasco.” They’ve optioned the rights to the film.
Now negotiations continue with the producers, St. Dymphna’s owner Jerome O’Connor, who bought the rights to the script, and McEvoy. O’Connor, Johnson and DiGiaimo will produce the film, which is expected to begin filming in Ireland by the beginning of next year, DiGianni said.
“It’s a unique script, it’s very funny and that’s why we like it,” DiGiaimo said.
McEvoy will take one of the leads and hopes Hollywood production does not take the film away from the “Trainspotting” or “Full Monty” pattern, where the local voice is not lost in production. He makes no claim to his film being a grand promoter of peace. At the very least, he hopes Northerners will see the funnier side.
“If they can go and laugh, then that’s that little bit done,” he said.
While McEvoy has yet to taste the financial fruits of his work, and plans to keep up the barwork for now, he is already working on the next step: “I’m going to sit around the house in my robe and count the money,” he said.