Updated July 13

In an interview with Irish Central, Mr. Gleeson reveals details about the making of the film, including Gabriel Byrne’s role:

Gleeson will be doing just that with his next major project, one that has been a long time coming. He will be directing his own adaptation of At Swim Two Birds, the notoriously un-adaptable novel by Flann O’Brien (a.k.a. Myles na gCopaleen a.k.a. Brian O’Nolan). The book’s layers are more numerous than its author’s pseudonyms, and Gleeson has set himself a definite challenge in translating the books-within-the-book and all the anarchy that reigns between them into film.

“I’m after talking it up so much that the only way is down,” Gleeson says when I first ask him about it. Then he laughs, “That’s a very Irish way of looking at it, isn’t it?”

Making At Swim Two Birds has been just out of Gleeson’s reach for a few years now, due to difficulty securing funding and various scheduling conflicts. But it’s been the subject of much hype and speculation, ever since word of the project got out following a star-studded script-reading in Dublin in December, 2006.

“I’ve had everything decided in terms of casting for ages,” he says, sucking air between his teeth excitedly, and proceeds to list a cast that sounds like a who’s who of Irish actors: “Gabriel Byrne, Colin Farrell, Cillian Murphy, Michael Fassbender, Eamon Morrissey, Sean McGinley, Marie Mullen –” and so on.

After all the delays, Gleeson is clearly reluctant to say too much about it. But he does divulge that they will begin shooting in the spring, in Ireland and, oddly, Luxembourg, and that he will be playing the main character’s hated uncle, who also figures in one of the books within the book. Gabriel Byrne will be playing the mystical Pooka McPhelimy. “You want to hear Gabriel do the Pooka,” Gleeson tells me enthusiastically, describing it as “languid, urbane and wicked.”

Sounds like our man, doesn’t it?  smile

Brendan Gleeson, the man with the plan

It is always fun to watch a story develop on the Internet. A bit of minor news (funding for a film) morphs into a more populist exclamation (changes to the cast) that finally explodes into a treaty being signed!

Screen Daily gets things rolling by informing us that the funding for the film of At Swim-Two-Birds has been secured now. Filming is likely to begin in Spring, 2012. Screen Daily also came up with the perfect subtitle: Brendan Gleeson’s Passion Project. Indeed! He has been working on this monster for about seven years now–securing the rights, adapting the novel for the screen, wrangling his Irish compatriots to act in it for him, and planning the direction.


IndieWire reports that the original casting has stayed true to the project, with one exception: it appears Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is no longer attached and both Michael Fassbender and Domhnall Gleeson are. And, in addition to adapting the novel and directing the film, it appears Brendan Gleeson will also appear in the film. A triple threat is in the making. Yes!


Total Film notes:

Gleeson is adapting the movie from Flann O’Brien’s 1939 novel. It doesn’t look like the actor is going easy on himself for his first stab at writing and directing though, with the novel’s complex meta-plot defying easy summarisation.

First Showing notes that Flann O’Brien’s novel appeared on Time Magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest Novels of All Time.

One of the 100 best English-Language novels
from 1923 to 2005

Variety telegraphs that Ireland and Luxembourg have inked their first film co-production treaty. It was signed at the Galway Film Fleadh this past Saturday, where the Ireland minister for arts, heritage, and the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking regions) Jimmy Deenihan “read out a letter of support for the treaty from Irish thesp Gabriel Byrne” [This article is no longer available]:

“News comes as Irish thesp-helmer Brendan Gleeson is currently in the throes of developing feature pic “At-Swim-Two-Birds,” an Irish-Luxembourg co-production from Ireland’s Parallel Films and Luxembourg-based producer Jani Thiltes.

Pic, which is currently at the financing stage and already has backing from the Irish Film Board, toplines a raft of Irish thesps including Byrne, Colin Farrell, Cillian Murphy and Gleeson’s son Domhnall.

Story is based on the 1939 tome by Irish author Flann O’Brien, tells the tale of a young boy who ends up coming across characters that he has created for a play in the real-life world.

Gleeson optioned the rights to the tome nearly seven years ago and new funding from Luxembourg has brought the long-gestating pic closer to fruition.”

The Belfast Telegraph [the URL to this article usually does not work, so below is the entire text] announces that “Gleeson secures funding for movie”:

The signing of a movie co-production treaty between Ireland and Luxembourg is expected to plug a hole in the 7.5 million euro project.

The deal was sealed over the weekend at the Galway Film Fleadh.

Ireland’s Cultural Ambassador, the actor Gabriel Byrne – whose name has been linked to the film along with stars Colin Farrell and Cillian Murphy – said the agreement would ensure the film’s release.

“What exciting possibilities will be born out of this exciting co-production treaty including the film At Swim Two Birds, to be directed by the visionary Brendan Gleeson, which I have no doubt will find a worldwide audience,” he said in a letter to Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan.

At Swim Two Birds was first published in 1939. Written by Brian O’Nolan, under the pseudonym Flann O’Brien, it tells the tale of an adolescent boy who comes across characters he creates for a play in the real world.

Gleeson adapted the novel for the big screen and is expected to direct and star.

Both the Irish Film Board and Film Fund Luxembourg have offered support.

Mr Deenihan, who signed the deal in Galway, said the film treaty between Ireland and Luxembourg would help film-makers tap into incentives and subsidies from both countries, as well as private finance.

“Co-production is of vital importance to the financing of the majority of Irish films and television production in Ireland, as well to the overall growth of the industry,” he said.

Apparently, the deal between Ireland and Luxembourg “plugged a hole” in the 7.5 million euro project.

Ambassador Byrne enjoying his summer with a coffee.
Does he know he is being guarded by Shepard Fairey street art

And finally, the BBC tops off the reporting of this great news by noting that a location for shooting has not been finalized, but they aim to shoot in Ireland. Really?

Shoot the film here!


  1. Pingback: Byrneholics.com | Gabriel Byrne » Gleeson's Passion Project « Colin Farrell

  2. This is the first time I have seen Gabriel with sandals .

  3. Andrea Veloso

    Well, I like very much to see Gabriel with sandals and it seems that he is enjoying the summer. It’s a pity that he’s not in Portugal now, because here in Algarve is hot time.

  4. Everywhere GABRIEL is walking is there really hot time, with or without sandals…


    I will try to read At swim two birds again.
    I have tried before, but read only 10 pages then.
    This time I will read all of it because I like to read the books Gabriel will be in the film version of.

  5. kate dempsey

    is there any open auditions for this movie … even for extras?

  6. Christian

    how far is the project?
    i´m very curious because i really loved that book.

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