The cast and crew of hit Cork movie The Young Offenders are undoubtedly still riding high after their flick bagged a prestigious Irish Film and Television Award at the weekend.
Writer and Director Peter Foott, who is originally from Monkstown but now lives in St Luke's, took home the award for Best Script in Film.
“I’m over the moon. I genuinely was not expecting it. I actually wasn’t. I had no speech ready, no nothing, so I was terrified going up there. I might have to rotate the award between houses! It’s an award for everybody, not just for me. We’ll be sharing it. Genuinely, I was not expecting it, swear to god,” said Peter, speaking to the Evening Echo backstage at the awards ceremony on Saturday night.
“We wanted to make a movie that we would be proud of and that Cork could be proud of as well. To be able to bring this home to Cork... it’s an amazing feeling.”
Peter said the cast and crew were delighted with their seven nominations – eight if you include Peter's own nomination for the Rising Star award – and said they hadn't stopped celebrating since the IFTA shortlist was announced a number of weeks ago.
But the low-budget film, shot in locations in West Cork and in the city, hasn't just been winning critical acclaim – it also pulled in more than €1.2m at the Irish box office, making it one of the most successful Irish film of last year, and has recently been released to a worldwide audience on Netflix.
When filming the flick, however, nobody involved knew just how successful it was going to be.
“We knew we had something good and something we were enjoying making but it’s only when the ball got rolling afterwards and it began to gather a bit of steam that we thought hey, we might have something here,” said Montenotte actress Hilary Rose, who portrays the character of Conor's mother Mairead in the film.
Rochestown actor Alex Murphy, who plays Conor, said he felt the same.
“A few weeks into filming we knew we had something special, but with regards to how well it was going to do, we had no idea. I think one day we came back from filming and Peter brought us to the office and he showed us some footage and we were like oh, this is actually a proper film. It was nice,” he said.
“But then when we were finished filming we didn’t see any result for ages and we had no idea or how well it was going to do. And especially now that it’s up on Netflix there’s a whole new wave of people watching it. It’s great. I was laughing because you go onto Netflix and you’ve got Peaky Blinders and The Young Offenders and there’s like three Cork lads on the homepage!”
Alex said he hopes that the success of the movie can inspire more young people in Cork, particularly young males, to get into acting.
“I started acting when I was around seven or eight and I went to Declan Wolfe Stage School in Douglas. So I've been going to classes for years. Then I saw up on Facebook that they were looking for two lads to play Cork boys in a film so I sent in a tape of myself and did two rounds of auditions and got the part,” he said.
“And because there are lots of young lads watching this now, hopefully, it’s getting rid of a bit of stigma that acting isn’t for fellas. Now I’m in first year in The Lir Academy in Dublin doing acting and I love it.”
Glanmire actor Chris Walley, who plays the lead character of Jock in the film, said he felt the same. He has recently moved to London to study acting and is in second year at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA).
“I got into acting really young as well. A lot of Irish mammy's these days put their kids into drama classes when they're young. My mam did that for my older brother but she didn't with me at first. But then when I was around six or seven I told her I wanted to go too and I've been doing it ever since,” said Chris.
“I was in an acting class in Glanmire and then I went to the Gaiety School of Acting in Cork and then after that, I went to the Cork School of Music. I was there for a year before I got into RADA. They were great to me there.”
Both Alex and Chris said they are extremely excited to be a part of the Irish film industry right now, and that it's an industry that is on the up.
“I think the whole Irish film scene is thriving at the moment, which is great. And this movie, in particular, I hope it has brought a lot of attention to the scenery in Cork. There are lots of beautiful locations in Cork that The Young Offenders managed to highlight,” said Chris.
Writer and director Peter Foott said he couldn't agree more.
“Two words. Star Wars. The fact that they were filming that in Cork just says everything really,” said Peter.
“It’s nice to be part of the whole Cork scene. We’re from there and we love living there and we love making films there. Hopefully, it’s just the start of great things to come.”
Well-known Cork actor Ciaran Bermingham, who made a guest appearance in the flick as a cantankerous Garda, said there has been a real regeneration of the arts in Cork, and across the country, in recent times.
“You get into conversations with people and you can tell they really know their stuff,” he said.
“And the amount of young people who could have never been involved in film before and really came out to be a part of The Young Offenders was incredible. I think it has given people a whole new love of film.”
Ballintemple actor Dominic MacHale, who plays obsessive Garda Healy in The Young Offenders, said he was chuffed the movie had so many nominations at the IFTAs this year – but that Cork was the real winner on the night.
“It is, it's the real winner because Cork comes out of the film looking absolutely amazing. Some of the tracking shots down in west Cork are beautiful, and there’s some great stuff from the English Market,” he said.
“I’m sure they’ll start doing guided tours around the city soon enough. I might host them is things dry up in the acting world!” he joked.
While Dominic is already well established on Cork's theatre circuit, most notably playing the lead role of Michael Collins in the acclaimed A Great Arrangement which ran in Ballyphehane last Easter, The Young Offenders was his first foray into film.
“People love it. They love seeing Cork on the big screen. I was surprised how well it travelled. Obviously, it was going to do well in Cork, but we’ve gotten people all around the country and even in the UK, because obviously there’s quite a large Irish diaspora in the UK, and in the States, and it has really travelled,” he said.
“I was a little bit surprised at the success. Anybody who says they saw it coming, I don’t think they did. We’re all surprised by how well it did. We knew it was a good film and we knew it would do well locally, but the fact that it’s gone on to have such international success is fantastic.”
Dominic said he loved the script when he read it, but could never have imagined it would ever end up on Netflix.
“The reaction that it's getting is just incredible. It’s on Netflix now so it’s worldwide. I’m getting emails from people in Argentina saying they loved the film! It’s mad,” he said.
“In general I think the film scene in Cork is really coming on strong. I'm working with another group called CCCahoots now as well, and we do comedy sketches and we have something else in the pipeline as well.
"I think we have a thriving scene in Cork and it’s starting to grow at the moment. Peter’s kind of blazed a trail for other filmmakers in getting what was such a locally made film out to national level.
"I think he’s really paved the way for people to follow in his wake. Something which somebody might not have taken a chance on a couple of years ago, based on Peter’s success it might get the green light now, which is great.”
The cast and crew of The Young Offenders may not have been expecting to win big at the IFTAs on Saturday, but that doesn’t mean anybody else was taken by surprise by the gong.
In fact, there was a large consensus on the red carpet ahead of the event that it would at least get one of its incredible seven nominations.
“I think The Young Offenders was a really popular movie in the room because they’re the newbies, they’re the young guys, I think the room was rooting for them,” said host Deirdre O'Kane.
“And look, it was made for minuscule money really, and yet it’s a sensational film. It just shows how much the Irish film industry has grown and it shows more great things are yet to come.”
Vikings star Moe Dunford also gushed about the film, as did the recipient of the Rising Star award Patrick Gibson, who stars in Netflix show The OA.
“The Young Offenders, what a film. I’ve seen it three times,” said Patrick.
“I’ve always said Irish work really resonates with me and I think we produce so much incredible stuff. And the fact that we can make films that can compete with films that are being made in the states and all over the world is incredible.”
On top of writer and director Peter Foott bagging the award for Best Script in Film, lead actors Chris Walley and Alex Murphy went down a storm when they took to the stage as guest presenters.
The Irish Film and Television Awards will be broadcast tonight at 10:15pm on RTÉ 1.