IFTA nominated actor Moe Dunford (Supporting Actor for the TV series Vikings) is fast becoming a talent to look out for. He’s an integral part of the hit medieval series and recently set the big screen ablaze with his searing performance in Terry McMahon’s hard-hitting mental health drama Patrick’s Day, which is now available to stream via ITunes and Amazon and various Cable VOD platforms, with a DVD release set for April 5th. He’s got a slew of unique projects on the horizon, and Nick had the chance to chat with him while on break from shooting Vikings in Ireland. We hope you enjoy!
How did you get your start as an actor, and what do you consider to be your first “big break” in the industry?
I got my first paid acting gig on the TV series The Tudors, running up and down trenches for a week in a field in Kilruddery, Co. Wicklow, in the summer of 2009. I’d graduated from Dublin’s Gaiety School of Acting, and I spent a few years going through the odd job, and then having no job, and then being mostly broke. Terry McMahon really gave me the first chance to play the type of role I really wanted to examine with Patrick’s Day. It’s a weird coincidence now, talking about my first job, as I’ve just come back from the same field in Kilruddery, as it’s the last day on Vikings Season 4 today. We’ve been filming a big battle scene here all week. Since it’s not summer in Ireland now, the field has turned to shite, and as the background actors will tell you, we never want to see the shaggin’ place again! It’s strange how things come full circle.
Who were some of your cinematic inspirations when you were younger? Did anything speak to you as a child?
I was interested in any kind of adventure movie growing up. My favourites were Ghostbusters, Spielberg’s filmography, and anything with Robin Williams. My folks ran a pub for a few years in Ladysbridge, Co. Cork and the talk at the time was that there was some Hollywood movie being made down the road in Ballycotton. My father told me that a big acting legend came into our pub for a drink one day except I didn’t know who it was. I’d never heard of him. Turned out it was Marlon Brando, and the movie was called Divine Rapture, which unfortunately never saw the light of day because it ran out of money! I was only around 8 or 9 but he would have been an inspiration to me for sure when I got into acting for sure.
How important is Irish cinema for you?
I believe there is something raw and very real to the stories coming out of Ireland right now, and I’m more invested in them emotionally when compared to a lot of the big budget studio movies. We’ve been kicked around and oppressed and repressed and told we can’t do things, yet out of that has come a deep rooted need to express ourselves. It’s the reason I was so hooked on the story of Patrick’s Day. Everything about it was raw, relatable and human. It had something to say and dispensed with stigmas. That’s what I find fulfilling about acting, and thankfully I get to work on stories that fight against Irish stereotypes. I feel like it’s a case of the fighting Irish in film and long may it continue.
What was it like shooting Patrick’s Day?
It certainly wasn’t without its tough days. And people seemed to have the assumption that it was really hard, because of the subject matter. Or a few times I was asked how taxing it was or how much personal attachment there was, as if that’s a bad thing when taking on a role. The truth is that it was a lot of fun. Working with Kerry, Catherine, Philip & Aaron, I love all of them. And then Tim Palmer, Michael Lavelle & Terry…three cock-blockin’ motherfuckers but I love them! The whole journey of Patrick’s Day was something I’ll never forget. Scenes were often almost like little games, it was a thrill working against the clock, trying to get the scenes the best they could be and do it efficiently. I’ll never forget the faces of Terry and cinematographer Michael Lavelle after getting certain scenes, things would just happen for us, like the shot with the plane going over our heads. Everyone was jumping around like little kids. It was pure joy.
Terry McMahon. He’s a force of nature. What’s it like collaborating with him?
As a filmmaker, Terry’s an inspiration. He understands the language of film, and the relationship between the audience and the actors. He’s not afraid to be outspoken and tackle issues about Ireland’s darker side. It’s in there, written into his scripts. We need that in our country. We need people who ask “Why not?” When working with Terry, I was also working with a very close friend who I trusted completely. I love the guy. He enables you in scenes to push that it further than you thought you could go. He’s a genius of a director. Probably his biggest strength is his sense of empathy, as he treats everyone equally on set and off. Unless you’re being a bollox.
Are you excited by the current boom of Irish cinematic talent?
I’m excited and optimistic. Look, we’re a small country, but we’re a nation of storytellers going way, way back, no matter what our country has been through. Irish film has been finding its voice for years, and now it seems that it’s really being heard. I’m excited and hopeful for any budding Irish actors, directors, or writers putting pen to paper for the first time, because for every success story like Saoirse Ronan, Lenny Abrahamson, or Emma O’ Donoghue, it shines a light back over here and I believe will create more opportunities for Irish film. We’ll need the continued support of our government to enable us to keep making films of quality and substance. Government funding dropped from €20m in 2008 to €11m in 2015. So I’d hope to see that on the rise.
What’s the general vibe in Ireland about the industry?
I asked a handful of my Vikings cast members from around the world, what stands out to them the most about being here and filming in Ireland, and they’ve all said that above all else, it’s the enthusiasm, and optimism from Irish crews that they haven’t encountered before. We’re making quality movies with good people behind them, and we’re in the best place we’ve been since Jim Sheridan and Neil Jordan came on the scene.
What are some of your favorite films, movies that you simply can’t live without?
Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, Into The Wild, On The Waterfront, It’s A Wonderful Life, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, The Deer Hunter, The Mission, Star Wars, Il Postino, and The Wrestler – these are all films I feel are great examples of cinema, and films I could watch at any point on any given day.
Has there been a recent Irish film that has considerably impressed you, or an Irish director who you’d be interested in working with?
I’m really looking forward to Brendan Muldowney’s Pilgrimage, the locations in it look amazing and there are great actors in it. Mark Noonan’s You’re Ugly Too, with Aidan Gillen, that was the best Irish movie I saw in all of last year. I loved the relationship between the uncle and niece, and how it was shot. My favourite Irish movie I have seen so far this year is without a doubt Viva, written by one of Ireland’s best talents, Mark O’Halloran, who also wrote Lenny Abrahamson’s first two movies. It tells the story of a young Cuban drag artist. I loved its heart and energy. It’s a beautiful movie and universally appealing.
What’s coming up for you?
I’m shooting Vikings season four now. That’s 20 episodes, which began airing this past February. It’s just been renewed for season 5 in June, another 20 episodes written by Michael Hirst. The show is shot entirely in Ireland which is wonderful, and the crew and background actors are the best in the business. I have three movies to film in 2016, the first being a comedy called The Flag which I’m doing now with Pat Shortt, directed by Declan Recks. We play two friends who go over to England and break into a British Army Barracks to take back the Flag that was put on top of the GPO in 1916. Fitting for the year that it’s in. It’s produced by Treasure Films (The Stag, Viva, Handsome Devil). In the autumn, I’m working on an Irish – Polish co-production, a medieval religious epic. I’ve just finished a movie called Handsome Devil, with Andrew Scott. It’s written and directed by John Butler, and produced by Treasure Films. Handsome Devil is set in an Irish secondary school and it’s a story of individuals in an environment where students are often forced to conform.