When Brendan Met Trudy : Production Notes

When Brendan Met Trudy (2001) - Movie PosterWHEN BRENDAN MET TRUDY was financed through BBC Films (also financiers of "The Snapper" and Van, the (1996)), BBC Worldwide, the Irish Film Board and by R.T.E.

The film was produced by Lynda Myles whose production credits include three previous Doyle adaptations,Commitments, the (1991) , Snapper, the (1993) and Van, The (1996) through her Dublin based film company Deadly Films 2. "We've worked together for eleven years since Roger Randall-Cutler and I optioned Commitments, the (1991) .

Roddy Doyle's previous films were adaptations of his novels Commitments, the (1991), Snapper, The (1993) and Van, The (1996) (the Barrytown Trilogy), the first a collaboration with Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, the other two by Doyle alone. But although set in Dublin, the gentle, quirky comedy of WHEN BRENDAN MET TRUDY is a marked departure from the earthy, working class tone of his earlier work. Shot on location in Dublin, this time employing a less familiar suburban backdrop, the film places an emphasis on the magic of romance and embellishes the city with a sly surrealism.

"Roddy had been working very hard on his novel "A Star Called Henry", and at the end of it, called me and said, 'I think I've got a script for you,'" explains Myles.

"The germ of the idea for WHEN BRENDAN MET TRUDY was planted a long time ago," says Doyle. "It actually came from listening to a song called 'Three O'Clock in the Morning' by John McCormack which was recorded in 1917. It had a crackle all over it from the old Victrola that sounded like rainfall and I began to imagine a guy face down on the street in the rain at three o'clock in the morning."

The tone of the film is set with an opening shot of Brendan lying face down in a puddle, an 'homage' to the scene in the Billy Wilder classic Sunset Blvd. (1950) where William Holden is seen floating dead in the swimming pool of faded movie goddess Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). It's the first of many ingeniously inserted movie references, and is obviously not as dour as Doyle originally envisaged. "When I settled down to write it, it became a much lighter, more cheerful story than I'd first imagined," he confirms.

"One of the reasons I wrote WHEN BRENDAN MET TRUDY," he says, "is that I wanted to do something that didn't involve a lot of research. I'd done so much research for my previous novel (the highly acclaimed 'A Star Called Henry') that I just wanted to write without having to stop and think. That's one of the reasons why Brendan is a schoolteacher. It's not autobiographical as such, but that's one of the few jobs I've ever had so at least I knew what his day would involve."

"I wanted there to be a lot of film references in it, but not to overdo things. With the Sunset Blvd. (1950) reference I wanted to make it clear that Brendan isn't just a film fan but a film buff, a bore actually. I think that says quite a lot about his character. At one point he says something about it being his responsibility to know all this shite about movies. Only he could come out with something as pompous as that and survive."

"With Trudy I wanted a woman who would be very direct in her speech; I wanted a young character who would not use the words 'cool' or 'groovy' in any post-modern sense - or in any sense at all. I wanted her to be much more direct than that. I wanted her to be mysterious, to pop up out of nowhere right in front of this guy. She appears literally out of nowhere and he can't believe she's talking to him. That's why there's a certain desperation on Brendan's part because he realizes this is his one and only chance for some sort of adventure. He falls in love very quickly, but he also falls in love with the idea of having someone to share his life with. That takes a little more time."

"Trudy had to be streetwise and modern, but timeless as well. She could really fit into any decade; she speaks in a way that would've been direct thirty years ago and will be direct thirty years from now. I don't think she makes one reference to music or to films in her conversation, even though she's perfectly well aware of them."

It was also a priority for Doyle to clearly distinguish WHEN BRENDAN MET TRUDY from his earlier films.

"I felt it was important to reflect the way Dublin is now, but I also wanted to avoid certain things," he says. "I kind of dropped hints in the script on how it should be different from the Barrytown films and then the design people did the rest of the work. I didn't really specify anything, but it is easy to fall into the old cliches. That's not to deny those aspects of Dublin, but instead of doing the obvious like going for a nice old church, with a bit of history, say, they've gone for one of the modern ones instead. And Dublin is a different type of place than it was when we did Commitments, The (1991). I decided to go for a more middle-class setting because I think that reflects Dublin more accurately now. There are more people here who feel solidly middle class than there were ten years ago."

That said, there are moments in the film which deliberately puncture the sheen of reality - perhaps most memorable is a troupe of gay Orangemen, replete with shrieking pink sashes and bowlers, proclaiming their right to march on a TV news bulletin.

"Yeah, it's great to see half a line's idea come to life like that," laughs Doyle. "While I was writing 'A Star Called Henry' I was kind of a happy slave to realism, every word had to be real, and I think I was reacting against that. That's why there's a lot of messing around in the film. I suppose the gay Orangemen is a bit more mischievous," he says. "But there's no real political point. We're just poking fun, you know?"

WHEN BRENDAN MET TRUDY is director KIERON J. WALSH's first feature film. His previous directing credits include the hit TV series "A Young Person's Guide to Becoming a Rock Star" and Hell for Leather (1998), a short film for Irish television company RTE also written by Roddy Doyle.

Walsh has also directed numerous memorable adverts including recent campaigns for Guinness, Walkers Crisps and Bass. His RCA graduation film, Bossanova Blues, won the 1991 Golden Square Award for Best Graduation Film, the Gold Plaque at the Chicago Film Festival, The Premier Prix de la Mis-En-Scene at the Henri Langlois Film Festival and a BBC Drama Award at BP Expo.

"It took a little while to get things together, but Roddy was very comfortable with Kieron from the start," says Myles. "That's very important because we've always had a very close degree of collaboration with directors. Kieron seemed open to that. Also, the material of his we'd seen - particularly his RCA graduation film - was very fresh, slightly anarchic and very imaginative. It wasn't quite like anything else I'd ever seen. I liked the fact that he'd studied at the RCA and was cine literate, I think this would've been a quite complex film for anyone who didn't know cinema. There's a lot of tributes to other movies, some of them buried deeper than others, and it helps if you have someone who knows the references and, more importantly, knows why they're there."

Says Walsh: "I worked with Roddy on Hell for Leather (1998) last year. We had a good time on that, and then he asked me if I'd like to read a new piece he'd written with a view to directing it. Of course I jumped at the chance."

When Brendan Met Trudy (2001) - Movie PosterWalsh shoulders much of the responsibility for bringing out the movie references that are so intrinsic to the charm of WHEN BRENDAN MET TRUDY. A challenge he clearly relished.

He is also happy to be the first Irish director to take the helm of a Roddy Doyle film. "I'm very flattered," he says. "Alan Parker, Stephen Frears and Michael Winterbottom are hard acts to follow. But I think there are certain things in this script that would've had to be explained to a director who wasn't from Dublin, or who wasn't Irish, at least. I suppose it's the same with any film that's set in a specific location; there are things in this that a Dublin audience will pick up on more than anyone else. But they're just the subtleties, nothing that would hold up the story." On that score Walsh is confident of the film's broad appeal. "There's a lighthearted side to it," he says, "but by the same token Brendan really gets put through the mill, he's turned into a different man. It's a rollercoaster ride for him, an emotional and a physical rollercoaster ride but he comes out well in the end."

"Both Peter McDonald and Flora Montgomery were first choices, and we fought long and hard to get them," says Walsh of the casting process. "Financiers often try to persuade you to get bigger names - and you can't really blame them - but we knew who we wanted and we stuck it out. I'd seen Peter's work before and I've worked with Flora before, and from the minute we started to talk, let alone audition, we knew they were going to be right. To be perfectly honest, they've worked out even better than I imagined. There's real chemistry, real electricity between them."

"Peter was always a prime candidate for Brendan," agrees Lynda Myles, "even though none of us actually knew him. But the moment we met him there was really nothing to talk about, it was self-evident that he was right for the part."

"What was interesting about Flora," she continues, "was that she was the first person we saw for Trudy. When she came to my flat in London it was the first time I'd heard anyone read a line from the script. And it worked incredibly well. I thought, Well maybe it's because this is the first time I've heard it and it's such a relief to hear that it works so well and that the jokes are funny. After that we saw quite a lot of other people, but Flora really haunted us. She had so much confidence and energy, she seemed perfect."