One of the interesting aspects of a long acting career is the opportunity to reflect on early projects and help to put them in some kind of context. Gabriel Byrne has participated in documentary films as a producer and as a narrator, but these days he is often to be found reminiscing on camera about his experiences working with directors and learning his craft. His insights and his memories add a special touch to these documentaries and, as we have come to expect, he does not shrink from the truth. He is more than willing to tell a potentially embarrassing story or two–mostly about himself!

Four such projects are noted here. Two are complete, one is still in process, and the last is on the drawing table. All of them are exciting. And all of them (even the last one, we hope) have Gabriel Byrne sharing his experience with us and shedding light on some of the talented people with whom he has worked and some of the ambitious projects he was involved with early in his career. You will learn a lot of fascinating stuff watching these films.

Ken Loach

Legendary director Ken Loach, described as “left-leaning,” “dogged,” and “the antique director,” received the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year for his film I, Daniel Blake. And now, just released recently, there is a new documentary about Mr. Loach, entitled Versus: The Life and Films of Ken Loach, directed by Louise Osmond.

A short list of Mr. Loach’s films includes Jimmy’s Hall (2014), The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006), Bread and Roses (2000), Ladybird, Ladybird (1994), and Kes (1969), among many others. Mr. Loach has received the Palme d’Or twice, for I, Daniel Blake and also for The Wind That Shakes the Barley. He is one of only nine directors to receive two Palme d’Ors. You can read more about him at his IMDB page.

Gabriel Byrne is one of the participants in this look at Mr. Loach’s famed career. Quoting Mr. Byrne from the trailer:

What they call “intractable,” what they call “unchanging,” is what makes him be that powerful. And it’s a wonderful thing to see such quiet power.

 According to The Irish News:

This is an utterly absorbing documentary about the man referred to as “the most leftwing subversive director” that Britain has ever seen, a film-maker who “speaks for the voiceless” and – by Loach himself – as “the antique director”.

Loach will turn 80 in a couple of weeks and he may or may not be happy to hang up his clapperboard for good now that the film he came out of retirement to make – I, Daniel Blake – has won the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

In Louise Osmond’s documentary we get to see him at work behind the scenes of that film – dubbed “a moving welfare state polemic” – last year and get a real insight into how he casts and shoots…

Gabriel Byrne offers up some priceless insights into the director, while we also hear from Loach’s family, Ricky Tomlinson, screenwriter Paul Laverty, Sheila Hancock and Alan Parker…

Versus does a fantastic job of telling Loach’s life story; it’s informative, funny and powerful – like the man himself.

For those of you who have often wondered about the inclusion of Ken Loach’s name in the list of directors with whom Gabriel has worked (what? which film? can’t find it anywhere!), the mystery is explained in this documentary. Screen Daily’s review notes:

Contributors such as Tony Garnett and Gabriel Byrne provide an admiring but also critical perspective – that drive for capturing reality included a scene where real corporal punishment was doled out to children in Kes, for example. It’s clear this is a director who can be stubborn and inflexible in his approach. His active stance regarding the State of Israel is not referenced here, although the debacle regarding the Royal Court’s 1987 production of Perdition certainly is – it was cancelled 36 hours before its first performance.

The stage play Perdition was to have starred Gabriel Byrne. Mystery solved!

versus-ken-loach-doc-trailer-screencap-01Screencap of Gabriel Byrne from the official trailer for Versus

Michael Mann’s The Keep

The production team provides updates on Facebook for this project, The Keep documentary entitled A World War II Fairytale: The Making of Michael Mann’s The Keep. Gabriel Byrne is one of many participants in this look at Michael Mann’s cult classic. Their Indiegogo project, while not completely successful in terms of reaching its monetary goal, did jump start things and help the team make a lot of progress.

The film’s release date has been pushed back to 2017, but Mr. Buck plans to complete the film by December 2016. The project is in the post-production and licensing stage and this is one of the most time-consuming and complicated parts of making a documentary.

He says:

This period is critical in terms of providing a much more comprehensive look at the making of THE KEEP and Mann’s original vision and many documentaries face these kinds of challenges as a result, especially if the filmmakers want to create the best product and not rush things through.
Ultimately, we’re looking at a picture lock by Dec 2016 and we’ve made that clear to our colleagues.

And now the Film Festival circuit is interested!

As well as support from you, there’s been a tremendous amount of interest in showing the completed documentary and it makes sense for us to make way for the festival circuit too, so that it gets maximum exposure around the world. The documentary is designed to look and feel like a cinematic experience that sucks you back into the world and aesthetic of THE KEEP and every element that goes into the making of A World War II Fairytale will be created by the best people available during post-production.

A World War II Fairytale Facebook Page

The Keep Documentary on Twitter

a-world-war-2-fairytale-thekeep-doc-original-posterOfficial Poster

Behind the Sword in the Stone

As many of you know, this documentary about the making of John Boorman’s film, Excalibur, has been sold to PBS in the United States and is due to be shown sometime this year.

And I cannot wait for you to see it! Mark Wright, the director, has re-edited the film and I have seen this final version. As an Executive Producer on this film, you would, of course, expect me to be full of glowing praise and positive comments, but it is true: the final version is just stupendous. I am so happy with the work Mark and his partner Alec Moore accomplished on this film.

I would suggest you watch Excalibur sometime soon. It was such an ambitious undertaking–the complete story of King Arthur in one film!–for its time and Mr. Boorman achieved so much of his original vision, using in camera effects and bringing so many new talents to the big screen for the first time. The documentary sheds light on his process, his hopes and dreams, and the many obstacles and challenges he faced along the way, with commentary by Helen Mirren, Patrick Stewart, Liam Neeson, and Gabriel Byrne, among many other actors and production staff.

I will alert you as soon as PBS announces the date for viewing this lovely film. heart

BTSITS-posterOfficial Poster


I probably should not mention this at all, but it is exciting, so…

A source tells me that a documentary about the making of Ken Russell’s Gothic is in very early planning stages. Gabriel Byrne will, of course, be asked to participate.

How cool is this?! Very cool indeed. Stay tuned for news as it happens!

Something I made long ago to whet your appetite…


  1. Thank you for sharing these interesting news about documentaries.
    I find documentaries about making movies very exciting.
    I especially like to learn about the ideas that the directors and actors had in their mind
    when they created and participated in movies.

    Nora from Norway

  2. Thanks Stella for bringing us this news. It’s interesting timing that these docs on British directors (except for Mann) are coming out now. Ken Loach is one of the most politically important filmmakers and I will definitely seek it out as it was released last month. I didn’t know about Perdition. This type of attack on freedom of expression still happens today.

    Really cool that Mr. Byrne is connected to all of these directors. Really makes you think about the breadth of his own work and the choices he has made.

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