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Fox talks new Irish thriller ‘Anton’
09 Oct 2008 :
New Irish thriller ’Anton’ opens nationwide on Friday 10 October with the red carpet premiere taking place in Movies@Dundrum. Anthony Fox who wrote, produced and acted in the film talks to IFTN on the difficulties on financing the film, the teams guerrilla marketing at this years Cannes Film Festival and why passion for a project can overcome any obstacles.
Having started filming two years ago with the miniscule budget of €5,000, ’Anton’ will open nationwide on Friday. The films release is testament to the will and ambition of the team behind the film – director Graham Cantwell (A Dublin Story) producer Patrick Clarke (Beyond the Pale) and scriptwriter/actor Anthony Fox (The General). The film screened at Cannes this year where London/ Austrian based EastWest Distribution picked up the rights to it.

The thriller, based in 1970’s Ireland, stars Gerard McSorley (The Constant Gardener, Omagh) and Laura Way (The Clinic, The Tudors) and Ronan Wilmot (The Butcher Boy, Sweeney Todd). Young Irish man Anton (Fox) who, having returned home from sea, discovers that Northern Irish hostilities have spilled south of the border. Blinded by a misguided patriotism Anton is led into a world of violence and is forced to go on the run to Paris. He soon discovers that he cannot run from the past and must return home to face the consequences.

Originally from Co. Cavan, Anthony studied in London at the Lee Strasberg Studio and went on to do theatre in New York. His film and TV credits include ‘The General’ and ‘The Bill’. IFTN caught up with the actor to learn more about the colourful journey he has had in finally seeing ‘Anton’ on the big screen.

Anthony, when did you begin writing the script for Anton?

I began writing it in 2001. The idea came from stories and people that I met when I was growing up in Cavan. They would have been gun men at the time in the 1970s who would have been involved in armed combat. I found them fascinating and I found the world that they inhabited very interesting and very different to the normal comings and goings of daily life - that you could be fighting for something that wasn’t a payroll or salary.

How did you get Graham Cantwell and Patrick Clarke come on board the project?

”I did a reading in the United Arts Club near Fitzwilliam Square in 2004 and I invited a lot of people from the theatrical and film community to see what their vibe was on the script. Graham Cantwell came along. I had seen his short film ‘A Dublin Story’ and I thought he had a great vision for an Irish film maker that wasn’t stale or stiff. There was stuff in it that I hadn’t seen in Irish cinema before and I thought I would be able to work with him and bring his interpretation to the film. That is what he is really good at - interpretating the script in a visual sense.

”Four months after that reading I asked him and he said yes straight away. He said it was the first script that he heard that really invoked a response in him and we worked on that for two years on and off. We did workshops with audiences to get feedback on the script to see what people thought of it.

”With Patrick, he made a movie called ‘Beyond the Pale’ – my sister had given me a copy of the film on DVD. Then it turned out that one of her friends actually knew him so I contacted him. We met for a beer and he said “You’re crazy… I have been down this road, and it’s nuts!” He pointed out a few things and we had the beer and that was it, he left.

”A week later he phoned me to see how I was getting on with it. I had told him I had five grand and that I was going to get thirty. He said “You don’t have enough money to shoot a film but you have enough to shoot for ten days and make a trailer from that”. I said to him I needed him to come on board as he was the perfect man for the job and he has great energy. He took a huge breath and said “Ok we have a lot of work to do. We have eight weeks before we shoot a trailer” and that’s exactly what we did.

How did you go about privately financing the film?

”Mick Wallis the developer gave us an office for free and a couple of developers invested in us to get us started. We went to Cavan and shot for ten days straight with Gerard McSorley whom I have finally contacted after six phone calls. The shoot cost €30,000 and was funded by Cavan people. People who would come on the set like farmers for example and would us give 4,000 grant to invest. Without the support of the local people this movie would never have happened. As well as local investment, they supplied vintage tractors and vintage cars which they would drop them up and leave them on set.

The hardest part was getting Gerry (McSorley). I think because every time I phoned him he was busy doing something else and he wouldn’t really want to talk on the phone. I thought “this is a disaster”. Then on the sixth phone call he said “can you come straight over to my house right now”, and he had a look through the script and Graham’s movie and that was it.

With the flow of finance coming through, did this alter the script in any way as you were filming? Was there scene that you could not have been filmed without knowing there was money behind it?

No, the script was always exactly the same although we improvised some scenes. It was an eight month period so we would have weeks between each shoot, where we could regroup. In the end, the only thing about shooting in the way we did, it actually cost more money than if we had a block of money to begin with. I’d say we ended up shooting probably an extra ten days that we never used. It comes down to experience.

As the film requires 1970’s interiors, props and costumes, were you not fazed at all at the prospects of not having enough money to shoot the film?

It is not something I think about a lot I suppose. You have a vision and you have to follow it through. Once you start something there is a series of event about to unfold that would never have previously happened if you have never decided to run with it. There is a whole energy that comes in behind you, behind your project and it helps you to the end.

You know if you look at the history of cinema history like people like Orson Welles, Martin Scorsese - they all did it with a very strong base and very strong team. All of them ended up putting everything on the line including their houses etc. Even when they were famous they still had to do it. Orson Welles died trying to raise money for his last film. He had no money even after making the best movies of all time. You only have eighty or ninety years on this planet if you are lucky so you need to get out there and give it your best shot.

You brought the film to Cannes this year, where it was picked up by East West Distribution. How was that experience for you?

We went out there on a limb and did guerrilla style marketing when we got there. Really we took over. We met some of the biggest names in Hollywood in Cannes and Jim Sheridan came over and he introduced us to some great people. Suddenly everyone was asking because of Jim’s name ‘who are they?’ There was a whole buzz going around the market place because we weren’t in competition. At the second screening we had a standing ovation. That was at a market screening which is a totally cruel screening you know, people coming in and out with their mobile phones and that.

It was an incredible experience. We were wondering is anyone going to turn up but we did so much ground work and Patrick Clark led that. He’s a real hands-on producer and has a vision in producing, in terms of how to pull it together. He has been down the road before and knows what to avoid. We did it together as a team, myself, Graham, Pat and my wife Leanne who did all the posters and graphic design. You do this once and you hope the things happen that you want to happen and so far they have. As far as I know it has been sold in Switzerland and Austria.

Tell us a bit about the soundtrack to the film?

Ann Rice, who is a friend of the Graham Cantwell, scored the movie. To cover the cost of recording the score (which is performed by The Prague Harmonic Orchestra) we found someone who liked classical music and they generously paid that cost, which was probably one of the largest amounts in the budget, but worth every penny. We will be releasing the soundtrack for free on the DVD when it comes out at Christmas.

How has the response been so far?

It’s looking very positive. The best compliment we got was from the guy who distributed ‘The Long Good Friday’ who said our movie was the best Jessie James western he had ever seen. Jim Sheridan, he loved it. He saw it and helped us re-cut it and made suggestions. He said it was one of the best Irish films he had ever seen with some of the scenes being world class. He said that every movie he makes, he does re-shoots and it usually would cost hundreds of thousands. We just weren’t in that position to do re-shoots but it is part of the film making process. We were very lucky that we had enough footage to put back stuff that we had cut out.

Are you planning to work with Graham again?

Yes, we have started working on another script which is set in Dublin. I like father son relationships and like exploring them within films made in the 1970s.This one will be a modern day, in-your-face thriller with a totally different style and energy.

Is ‘Anton’ screening at any festivals?

Well because we’re releasing the film, we cannot compete in any of the Irish festivals. However it’s screening at Foyle and Clones Film Festivals. I am just glad that we have a company out there who have eight films on their slate and we are at the top of it. They are running it all over the world so we are very lucky. Brian O’Gorman and Graham Spurling (Movies@) have also been hugely supportive of the film (it’s opening in thirteen screens around the country). They really opened up a lot of opportunities for us in Ireland. In fact, the whole team has been terrific - Graham, Patrick, Gerard, my wife Leanne, Jim...

Anton will be released nationwide in Ireland on Friday October 10 in the following cinemas: The Screen Cinema, Dublin, Movies at Dundrum and Swords, Movies at Swords, IMC Dundalk Bundoran Multiplex Donegal, Lifford Multiplex Donegal, The Gaiety Cinema Sligo, The Gate Cork, The Gaiety Cinema Arklow, Carrick-on-Shannon Cineplex, Storm Cinema Belfast , Storm Cinemas Cavan (9 October) For more information visit www.antonthemovie.com

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