Interview with Jonathan Rhys Meyers

From The Disappearance of Finbar DVD

One morning I got a phone call from Patsy Pollock who’s a very, very close friend — a very, very beautiful woman, and she said, “I’ve got this script and I think you’re really good for it,” and so she sent it to me — it was The Disappearance of Finbar — and I read it straight away that morning, about 9 o’clock. I was undecided between the two characters because Danny gets more airtime within it, but I knew I was never going to play that, that Finbar was closest to me. And what I found attracted me to Finbar and what I also found in myself was his faults. And his faults were very much mine and so was his dreams; and he wanted everyone to be at peace with him; he wanted love from his family, and essentially he wanted to fly…which he did. Your dreams are very important and for some people they have this thing which they call their fate and, and… destiny. Well, everybody has, I think, a destiny and some people also have a fate. I’m not sure they’re the same thing. They’re very, very similar. But for some people it’s not written at all unless they write it themselves so they’ve been presented with a blank page. Now, you can either fold it up and make a little aero plane out of it and fly it out the window or you can take a pen and start writing it yourself. And I think I got a blank page, because anything I do I’m going to have to do it myself. I’m going to have to be my own author — and the same with Finbar.

Leaving Home

In Finbar, the influence of his parents is quite huge. Maybe as a young man quite positively because he has got a lot of love for them so there was some affection at some point. But it slowly turned to a bitterness because I suppose when children are young and their parents are young, the children get more affection because the parents still believe they can have their dreams. But as they grow older and their dreams don’t happen, it turns on the kids to have these dreams. And Finbar was so strong on his own dream that he couldn’t be intercepted by another for any length of time. And I think that’s the reason he had to run away from playing football. He also had to run away from his family when he eventually came back and found that it wasn’t open arms for him — it was more like crossed daggers.

Fear of Flying

It is very, very difficult because I’ve never been a courageous boy and Finbar isn’t a courageous boy. You know, courageous people do not run away — they stand. And he’s constantly running away. But I think throughout the film you can see him slowly admitting it to himself, and he’s almost got this sneering humor about his cowardness. And I was a big coward as well. I suppose that’s why I was so close to what he was doing. And I had this wonderful man called Francois who was my stunt person and he was fabulous. He made me feel as comfortable as he could, but it wasn’t easy. But I chose to do it and so I had to block my mind and my heart became rosier after it because I’d actually done something and challenged myself physically, mentally, and faithfully. There are basically four stunts to make the film sequence. There was a half-built fly over in Fettercairn and I had to climb on this. And I had to originally lean forward as if I was falling, but I had a wire attached to me…and bouncing a football. And the most dangerous one was the Lukens bypass which I did twice in like two very different shots of it, and I think that was the scariest because I had trucks going under me and a 50-foot drop, essentially, and of course I had to drop out of that also (laughs). It was very difficult. But Francois did a lot of stuff — the most dangerous stuff — because that has to be done; I have to continue to play out the story, but I did as much as I could — as much as my heart would let me. Then we built a platform that was maybe eight feet high, maybe nine feet, 10 feet maybe, and mattresses below. I had to fall clean past the camera at a very very…just inches past it, which was quite scary, which I didn’t know at that time, but if I had hit the camera I could have been, like, hurt pretty badly, but it didn’t seem to matter.

Relationship With Danny

The relationship between Finbar and Danny is…it’s difficult in the sense that they…they meet after three years and they’re very, very good friends but when they rekindle their relationship they find that they’re strangers who have learned and grown in different circles and they find themselves not clicking, even though they really, really want to feel that energy that they once felt between themselves. And Luke, personally, when I first met him as just Luke, we started to get on quite well and then for some reason we drifted and started to not get on as well. And there was, I suppose, little bits of jealousy within two young actors — one who has never actually acted before and another who has acted and had some experience and is older. There is also a six-year gap between us so he had a different mind at that point. It’s the same…I think it paralleled the characters more than the feeling and the emotions we were using, the emotions we were manipulating while we were doing it. And it eventually ends out in happiness for Danny and a new lease on life for him. And for Finbar…the unknown — which is what he wanted to do — because when you fly, you fly into the unknown.

The Arctic

The people of the arctic and the general arctic itself is one of the most magical places I’ve ever been to. Whereas I found it very, very difficult being up there, being away from home, shooting a film for the first time, not feeling totally confident within myself because you don’t really at 17, but at the same time having some fun. And I wasn’t very, very mature and I think people realized I wasn’t very, very mature so I got away with a lot of things, but a lot of things I did not get away with! But the people up there, they were from a different time. They had antique thoughts. They had…they had a culture that for some people hadn’t been touched in hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years; that was so beautiful and pure. And it’s the most beautiful and pure place I think I’ve ever been. I’ve never felt cleaner than when I’ve been in Kiruna (Lappland). It was probably one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. And the blistering sun…the beautiful snow…the beautiful light that it shines in people’s faces…they suddenly become angels; everybody becomes an angel.

Subsequent Films

I did a film with Stephen Poliakoff called The Tribe. I finished that and went to the United States and did a film with Tim Hunter called The Maker. After that I went and did a film called Telling Lies in America. After that I did B. Monkey with Michael Radford, then Velvet Goldmine with Todd Haynes, The Governess with Sandra Goldbacher, Loss of Sexual Innocence with Mike Figgis, Ride With The Devil with Ang Lee, Titus Andronicus with Julie Taymor, then Gormenghast with Andy Wilson for the BBC — the millennium project.

Lessons From Finbar

I learned that I did not know everything. And so that’s a presumption you make when you’re a kid. And I think what I’ve learned from that point during of the interim of my professional career as trying to be an actor is the, you know, the unthinkable. I mean, if I did the part now I’d have much more control over what I do and I’d understand it a lot more. When I did The Disappearance of Finbar I wasn’t acting — I was being it! I didn’t know any other way to be. But I think my experiences out of it have definitely been the identification that I was in a different world that I’d never even thought about embracing. Kiruna was such a different, different, different experience for a boy from that background. Everything seemed so clean and fresh and rich and new — and here I was in this film with people, constantly surrounded, you know, saying “hello Jonny” every single morning — so, it wasn’t like….I didn’t feel unwanted anymore; I felt wanted in a way that I was worth something, which I think a lot of kids who are brought up in areas which aren’t as affluent are made in society to feel they’re not worth the same. And so it’s much more difficult. The possibilities for education are not the same; the possibilities for getting a job are not the same; if you come from a certain area it does make a difference. It makes a difference in social friends — friends who can get you moving — because friends are very, very essential if you want to get on in the world. And for a lot of kids in those areas you either sing or act or dance or kick or box your way out. It’s changing slowly but surely because the world is now becoming much smaller and information is becoming more available to everybody, and I think people are becoming more accessible to a broad-minded intelligence. And so the kids who are in those areas and who have had that background of not having realize that they can fulfill their dreams.

Special thanks to Vanessa for transcribing this from the DVD.

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