Jim Sheridan: In the past, Oscar was awarded to film, which was very good, and it can still be watched after 30 years. Everybody who went to watch it knew it was a good film but that doesn´t happen these days.

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Very special guest at Letní filmová škola in Uherské Hradiště was Irish film director, producer and scriptwriter Jim Sheridan. He was born in Dublin on 6. 2. 1949 and since college he was involved in student´s theatre. Almost whole 80´s he stayed in Canada where he emigrated and upon his return to England, he started directing movies. His debut My Left Foot was a bull´s eye and it won two Oscars for main characters. It also started collaboration between Jim and Daniel Day-Lewis. Sheridan often portrayed Irish-British conflict or social dramas in his movies. Three Oscar nomination brought his further movie with Day-Lewis and it was called In the Name of Father. Third and so far last cooperation with aforementioned actor was called Boxer. His movies raise emotion and it was incredible to spend whole day in company of such great artist, listened to his master class and discuss his movies after screening.

Organizers had been trying to get you on this festival for past 14 years. You didn´t give a shit or didn´t have time or will to come?

I can´t say I didn´t give a shit or wouldn´t be interested but usually the invitation collided with shooting so I had to turn it down. But I am here and am happy with the award I have got which puts me into the line with some very fine directors or actors who got that before me. I myself organize my own film festival on which I rather lose my own money and I know what it is like to invite actors or artists. They promise you to come, then they get award somewhere in the World and shortly before the start of the festival they cancel their visit and simply say they don´t know what would they say to audience and rather stay at home and don´t pick up my phone.

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We have read that your father gave you a hard time during your childhood since he was upset with tragic death of your younger brother Frankie. May we ask if it was tragic death or just pure accident with no one to blame?

Frankie once climbed over the fence and impaled himself on the iron bars so unhappily that he died. Father was struggling to cope with his death and vent his anger at me, and all of us at home. Once I was so annoyed that I took off the mirror from the wall, put it in front of angry father and shouted at him to look at himself to see how unbearable he is. I think, that was the exact moment I wanted to become a film director and wanted to put a mirror in front of people.

In 1981 you emigrated to Canada. Was it from economical or artistic reasons?

When you are young, you do many things just because you simply want to try them and don´t think too much about it. I wanted to Canada, rather than America since there is wide Irish emigrants´ community and it was closer to my heart. Then I relocated to New York and became artistic director in Irish artistic centre. It gave me experience I met lot of new people and made some contacts. In 1989 I returned home and with gained confidence I started directing movies.

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Your debut movie My Left Foot became big commercial and artistic success and both main characters Daniel Day-Lewis and Brenda Fricker won Oscar awards. Daniel´s acting was truly amazing, awesome. Was it difficult shooting?

Daniel was hard working stubborn professional. He didn´t go out of his character even in off time and stayed in wheelchair during breaks, much to annoyance of the crew, who had to feed him and carry him in his chair across the cables on the set. Daniel was hooked with the topic since the first page of the script, where he puts the needle holder at the record played by his foot. He learnt to paint by right leg so we did all shooting via the mirror.

You are only director who made three movies with Daniel Day-Lewis. Is it hard to deal with him or there was some special chemistry between you which allowed you such long cooperation?

We gelled together really well and some things can´t be explained, they just work among some people and don´t work with others but it´s hard to say what it is. Cooperation with Daniel was excellent I brought some chaos into work and sometimes reality to certain situations and Daniel is real genius and kept the scale in balance. The hardest film we made together was a Boxer, since it was damn hard to get love story into the boxing environment. I would love to make another film with him but don´t have any topic yet so we will see how it pans out and what could get him out of retirement.

Daniel Day-Lewis is real genius.

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When you made a film In the Name of Father were you under any British or Irish censorship and how did you use any self-censorship?

Well, censorship was not a problem and it didn´t interfere with shooting. The censor whose name was Smith, good fella, still alive and since that time, four other men changed on that position. He didn´t care about politics of the movie, he was only closely watching the scenes that were on the edge. As for sel -censorship, I don´t actually recall using any, I just didn´t want to make some more damage with that Irish conflict.

Is it pure reconstruction of that event? Does it have some side, extra message like Don´t give up fighting for freedom?

It is the reconstruction of unjustly convicted people. I kept pretty close to the book and was very interested in relationship between father and son, about their conflict regarding violence and non-violence. When some case is marked with number such as Guildford Four or New York Seven and whatever, it kind of de-humanises those convicted people and hide them behind that figure. If innocent people are convicted it makes big bang and has big impact since people are rather backing off since they subconsciously realize what power have those big wigs and it can easily keep some riot or uprising at bay. Certainly, it has bigger effect that when the real culprit, are condemned.

Did the real Guildford Four thank you for making a film about them?

Well, yes, they did, indirectly. It was not as if we had a party after the film premiere. They all had problems after 15 years spent in jail, they struggled to come with everyday life so they tent to shut off with their problems, but generally were happy that film, was made and brought so much attention to their case. Brits didn´t want us to shoot in Britain so we filmed in real prison in Ireland and in Scotland and it lasted 10 weeks.

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You dedicated three films to Irish-British conflict. What is your personal view at that conflict?

I could film it only because my previous films were successful from Hollywood point of view so we got a chance to make them. That topic of Irish-British conflict is very difficult and complicated to bring into the film since powers- that-be don´t like it and it´s they who have the money and power. We made the movie Boxer at time of peace negotiations and I never believed that violence could win. I think, even if British government back off to that Marxist ideology, no other state in Europe would allow, that violence supported by Marxist ideology could win. If one really can´t win, it is a question, if there is really need for war conflict if it isn´t better to sit around table and negotiate. I think the task of the film is clear both sides of the conflict and try to think about it differently. But it is difficult to negotiate by the table when you are victim of the conflict. Look at Palestine. It´s very hard to say when the violence will finally end, it can be even harder in practice. I personally would support non -violent violence.

How did both of hostile sides accepted your movies?

I think that went well by both of them. I haven´t heard any bad comments, anyway. You know, very often that conflict is compared to American situation between Republicans and Democrats since they are both religious and it isn´t the question of some worldview. If I would have to return to the topic and make it again in order for Americans to understand it, the Catholics would have to be black but I don´t think I would find some many black actors. For Americans, it´s very difficult to orient themselves in it when they didn´t see any tangible difference between the sides. There is certain parallel with Indians and cowboys and there was very few Indians and plentiful of cowboys and they were always the good boys even though they wiped out entire Indian population. The American politics is up to certain point based on it and even more so after Trump was elected for president. He is a cowboy. We Irish people have different attitude. When a plumber comes to us, and he doesn´t understand his job we call him a cowboy, which I think is good.

That topic of Irish-British conflict is very difficult and complicated to bring into the film since powers- that-be don´t like it and it´s they who have the money and power.

Have you been personally influenced by that conflict? Why is your film Boxer happening in Belfast, was it deliberately since there were peace negotiations?

The Irish nation was split because part of the nation wanted to stay under British jurisdiction and part of it wanted to be independent. Ireland was one of the first nations that started fight for independence hundred years ago. My grandfather took part in that war along with his brother and they both were in internment camps, and I believe that is the core of my relationship with England. My father was very pro -British and mother went along well with Protestant neighbours a part from 12.7, when they threw pennies at her. Out of blue, those people she knew well were against her. When the riots broke out, our house was full of refugees from Northern Ireland and I personally think it was bad that IRA dealt with conflict the way they did, but they were young men who reacted at the presence of British army in their streets. I think it is hard to get into mind of suicide bomber who blows himself up as Muslims do that and it takes a second but Irishmen are able and willing to put ten people on hunger strike and suffer for 70 days, before they are starved to death. So, it is difficult to discuss with them and civilised discussion in such situation isn´t possible. Films are not always about discussion, they are action, attack, no poetry, and there were many violent films made and they fit into this time. The time has changed and now we have streaming platforms they have no regulations and get these films into any kitchen, while local stations have to abide by some regulation and it reminds me of a football match between two teams, one ordinary one and one super fit, super well paid and guess who can win? So, I have a fear what will happen to small cultures like Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland which are in such disadvantage. Film Boxer was hard to understand and American audience wouldn´t understand it and they would ask me if I mean that white people are killing each other because of religion.

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That movie was made in Dublin. Why it wasn´t possible to shoot in Belfast?

That was impossible. You could just walk on wrong street and could be shot dead for that. Conflict was long and was still sore in society and it still isn´t normal society. It is very sectarian and that is why we couldn´t film there.

It is very emotional and powerful film what was the pattern for main hero harry?

Problem in that conflict was that some people just didn´t want to end it. They wanted to keep on fighting. It was similar with women. That was and still is hard to make them get involved in the war and fight but once they get involved, they are very determined even more than men. I think it has something to do with breeding kids and keeping family running. It is more spiritual for the women, they are led by their souls, rather than by head. Harry was tougher but his wife was even tougher which was what interested me.

Some film you directed produced or wrote a script for them but some of them only produced and didn´t direct. Why?

It depends really, sometimes there are different opinions among people involved so in the end I tell them to direct it themselves. Sometimes I produce film only to make it happen, as it was in case of film Blood Sunday. In any case, I give it everything as if I was directing it myself.

How do you work with actors, do you give them big freedom?

For met the 90 % of success is casting. When I choose the right actor, he is already experienced and dedicated to project, so I don´t have to direct him. It is just matter of instinct. Lewis is a genius and he usually makes exactly what I have in mind or I dream about. During shooting the film Field I had big problems with star actor Richard Harris. He was overacting and sometimes he didn´t agree with the way I wanted him to portray the character. It was a war of nerves and I could not budge an inch since I would lose respect of the crew. He practiced Hollywood way of filming and it didn´t suit me. Once I let built the exterior set inside the studio, to let him know, that I have control over filming and that I am not happy with the way we make it. He was good actor but we had our differences. Directing is about organizing things around us and making creative environment. Each new film is like building a new family around me.

American cinemas have certain rules that European filmmaker must respect if he wants to succeed with his film.

Is there a big difference between European and American audience so what is clear for us here they wouldn´t get in America?

American cinemas have certain rules that European filmmaker must respect if he wants to succeed with his film. So, if I film for American money for American movies, I must bear all this in mind and think in those intentions. It happened to me in movie In America, where I had to ad certain story line to make it understandable for local audience and enable them to identify with main character and not start to hate him.

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You also filmed with black rapper 50 Cent. Was it hard?

Well, he isn´t actor, he is acting singer and but was very professional and hardworking man. Once we had such incident in New York that he changed 1 000 dollars to small notes, got into car and threw notes into the air, and let the kids run after them. To me it was dangerous and I told him not to do it again. But he did so I told policeman if he does it again, he immediately arrests him. Cop looked at me in disbelief asking me if I am serious to arrest black rapper who is a cult figure in New York. Then once we have been away from his bodyguard and management and I told him what could have happen and wrote him a long list of names of crew people who he should personally apologise and he did that. Suddenly I was a father for him, who he never had, and he felt authority above him and I believe that he was waiting or that.

How do you look at mandatory diversity in films that are to race for Oscar nomination?

That diversity only happens in America, It is a concept for the highest social level in order they could tell: “Look, we have black people, Asians, gays, lesbian and we are do care about them.“ In fact, the problems of black people in America or Asian or African people mean nothing to top social level. They don´t give a fuck about that. To me Academy Award process get politicised which is shame. In the past, Oscar was given to film, which was very good, and they can still be watched after 30 years. Everybody who went to watch it knew it was a good film but that doesn´t happen these days.

Thanks for the Photos: authors, IMDb