Cast: Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney, John Hurt, Toby Stephens, Freddie Highmore
My mother is from Northern Ireland and her mother, my grandmother, was Protestant and her father, my grandfather, was Catholic. My grandmother loved Ian Paisley, and didn’t like Catholics very much at one point. She did soften as time went on. But when you are from a troubled country like Northern Ireland, it’s rather complicated.
When I heard that Timothy Spall would be playing the barn storming giant, Ian Paisley, I was a bit surprised. Paisley is over a foot taller than Spall. But Spall can do pretty much anything so why not.
Colm Meaney and Timothy Spall are perfect in this grudge match peace negotiation. The film is a tribute to what these two leaders accomplished. Fierce adversaries, Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley eventually became friends who were referred to as the “chuckle brothers”. I travelled to Northern Ireland very recently and it’s a whole different place than it was when I was last there in the mid 80s. Gone are the borders between the north and the south and the scary British military check points. The Belfast nightlife rivals Dublin’s and patrons are free to enter bars previously designated as “IRA hangouts” without question. There are still rivalling flags waiving just to remind you where you are. The Orangemen still parade on July 12th. There are still some nattering on in the privacy of pubs and houses about heritage and the old days. People will not forget, and a few will not forgive, but the leaders shall set an example for the young and that matters a great deal.
I do hope this film goes viral and shows the world how to reach a compromise without sacrificing dignity and pride, how humour and friendship can build bridges stronger than concrete. Northern Ireland should be very proud of the St. Andrews Agreement and the example they have set for the rest of the world.
And because Timothy Spall is such an incredible actor, I thought you could all benefit from some of his process. Here is a little clip from the Q&A.