Category: Archive

Townsend’s battle for ‘Seattle’

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

“I’m dying to get back behind the camera,” the 35-year-old Howth native told reporters in New York recently. “It’s all about storytelling. I wasn’t very happy with the roles I was getting – not even getting – it was just a lack of opportunity and not doing stuff that represented who I was . . . It’s been a real joy to feel passionate about something for the first time in years.”
Co-starring Townsend’s real-life girlfriend, Charlize Theron, as well as Woody Harrelson, Ray Liotta, Martin Henderson and Michelle Rodriguez, “Battle in Seattle” is a multi-narrative drama using a mixture of fictional characters and real footage to tell the story of how the 1999 World Trade Organization protests erupted into a riot in the northwestern city.
Asked why he didn’t start out with a project that might have been a little less complex and daunting, Townsend joked that he should have first remade “My Dinner with Andre,” a film essentially about two people sitting and mulling over the meaning of life.
“That’s what I should have done,” Townsend laughed. “The joke is that [producing an independent film] is a battle, every day, for years on end . . . I just really wanted to do the movie and I hoped my experience on sets working with actors would be enough.
“You know, film is a collaboration,” he said. “It’s a singular vision, but hundreds of people helped me.”
The star of “About Adam” said that he was still living in Ireland, and only vaguely aware of the WTO protests, as they were happening nearly a decade ago. In 2002, he came across a book on the globalization issue, “Take it Personally,” by Anita Roddick. One of the essays in the book, by Paul Hawken, affected Townsend deeply.
“That essay put me on the streets,” said Townsend. “There were pictures. I was like, ‘This is an amazing event!’ And I didn’t remember it in any real sense like he was writing about, so I went on the Internet and I was just blown away. I was like, ‘This is incredible.'”
For Townsend, the film represents a personal journey towards educating himself about this event — in which environmentalists, labor unions, students, consumer advocates, pacifists and anarchists all descended on the city to express their views about the WTO — and, by extension, about how people impact the rest of the world through their actions.
“I want people to experience what I experienced the first time I saw the protesters,” he explained. “The idea was really not to make a political movie or a movie about trade, but to actually make an action movie where you get engaged to the characters.”
For Townsend, one of the biggest challenges was sorting through all the information he found and weaving it into a cohesive, compelling script that could be shot on a $6 million budget.
“Most of the hard work is what to leave out,” the actor-turned-auteur acknowledged. “I could have made five movies (out of the material I found.) I had more characters, but I killed them off. It was hard because there are so many issues and so many points of view.” Much of the information he had left over can be found at the film’s Web site Battleinseattlemovie.com.
Asked if he has a dream project he’d like to shoot in Ireland, Townsend replied, “They have to tell a famine story sooner or later.”
When a journalist suggested he take a stab at making a movie about medieval Irish king Brian Boru, Townsend seemed excited by the prospect.
“That is the one!” he said. “Actually, I do have a big soft spot for Brian Boru. I’d love to do that one.”
“Battle in Seattle” is in theaters now.

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