Category: Archive

Tracings Eugene Brady directing his way toward the top

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Olivia Treacy

It is mid-January, mid-week and mid-afternoon in a very sunny Santa Monica as I find myself in the enchanting company of Dublin film director Eugene Brady. Though the two of us have been Southern California neighbors for the last two years, not to mention childhood years in Dublin’s Terenure district, it took a summer trip back to Ireland for our paths to cross. The memorable occasion was of course the premiere of his film "The Nephew," which, though not yet released in the U.S., is earning tremendous approval worldwide.

"I feel like I, and my career, have come full circle," he said as he traced his path from Ireland and England to America and back again to Ireland, where he got his big break from fellow Irishman Pearse Brosnan. The 007 hero was, of course, one of the producers of "The Nephew," in which he also starred as a more earthy, yet undeniable delectable, country publican, with wonderful performances from the almost all-Irish cast, which included Donal McCann, Sinead Cusack and Phelim Drew. The only non-Irish cast member was Hill Harper as Chad, the deadlocked African American nephew inherited by Uncle Tony (McCann).

Brady laughed as he recalled the real life story behind the screenplay. His mother, now living in England, would make countless calls to his New York-based brother, Simon, only to have a different woman answer the phone each time. Anxious that her darling son settle down with a darling of his own, she was overjoyed when he announced that he would be bringing a special lady friend home to meet her. So mom busied herself, mentally planning the wedding, only to be knocked off course when Simon introduced her to his exotic African-American mate.

This being the premise of the film, the director worked along with his writing team, Jackie O’Neill and Sean P. Steele, with substantial contributions from famous "Glenroe" writer Wesley Burrows. The characters in the film were also based on characters back home, including a real life Uncle Tony. The redemptive theme of the movie provides the happy Hollywood ending, yet is cleverly executed in a non-Hollywood way, leaving the audience happy yet tearful.

This no doubt is all part of Brady’s love for contradiction — old with new, black with white, past with present. In fact, he got the ultimate compliment from renowned director Alan Parker, whom Brady befriended during his time as a jury member of the Student Munich Film Festival, of which Parker was the chairman. Nervously arranging a private screening of "The Nephew" for the "Midnight Express" and "The Commitments" director, he was overjoyed to receive a proud and emotional thumbs up from his guru director.

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It was the validation he needed for both himself and his work, especially when one considers his somewhat less glorious school days in Bray, where he had grown up. Never quite the academic, he was also dyslexic, a problem that was interpreted as laziness by the disciplinarian Christian Brothers. One too many beatings later, he decided to hit back, a courageous stand that got him expelled from school. However, like many misfortunes, it had its blessings, as he was accepted by the prestigious and substantially less austere coed St. Gerard’s in Bray. He joked that they only embraced him because of his fine rugby skills.

But academia was still not his forte, the only savior being art class. He was recommended to tradesmanship or laboring by his career guidance teacher and, on failing his Inter and Leaving Certs, it appeared like he may have no other choice.

However, he knew that he could find a future in the artistic field, and despite countless refusals from Irish art colleges because of his academic failure, he looked to England, where his persistence eventually paid off. He was accepted into the reputable Bournemouth Art College, where he spent two years studying photography and graphic design. He had at last found a medium through which he could express himself. On leaving college he worked on a music video, which sparked his interest in film, followed by numerous documentary shorts for the BBC series "10 X 10".

Next came a full-time BBC job offer, which he decided to reject, choosing instead to live his dream in the U.S. He spent three years learning his craft at The American Film Institute, where he was a producing fellow and where he graduated with a masters in Fine Arts. For him, the joy was in the learning process, not the result, and he cannot praise the AFI enough for its practical, hands-on approach to the craft. He even takes regular acting classes so that he can understand and work with the actors rather than merely give direction.

With his heart set on film, he couldn’t settle for anything less, and so forfeited a more than comfortable salary as a commercial producer to give life to "The Nephew." Now in a position to pick and choose his projects, he has indeed come full circle, exorcising his past demons while finding success on his own terms. As his much treasured friend Pearse Brosnan puts it, " ‘The Nephew’ is probably the most expensive piece of therapy ever."

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