War of the Worlds is taking over parts of Europe now–and that’s a good thing! As a result, stars Gabriel Byrne and Elizabeth McGovern have been in the spotlight, giving interviews, both print and video, in support of their joint project. Translating from the original French is not easy, but I do want you to have access to these interviews, in case, like me, you don’t read French. I knew studying Latin in school was a dumb idea! wink

So here are the first two of several translations made just for you. Merci beaucoup to Aragarna and Angelle for help with the French language. And muchas gracias to Verónica for the screencaps of our hero.

Paris Match

Paris Match Interview
Claire Stevens, November 4, 2019

Gabriel Byrne, the survivor

Portrait by Patrick Fouque

The Irish actor is one of the heroes of “War of the Worlds”, the Canal + series with Léa Drucker and Elizabeth McGovern.

He plays a neuroscientist confronted with the unimaginable, a Cartesian mind stunned by a world-wide extraterrestrial attack. Gabriel Byrne could have made Bill Ward, his character of “The War of the Worlds,” a monster of arrogance molded by convictions. He chose to make him unfathomable.

“I guess I brought that ambiguity to the role,” he admits. “So much the better if the public feels it. But it is also a terribly human component that each of us has in ourselves, to the point of never knowing each other completely. “

Like his creative partners, he keeps the story grounded in human experience. This is the great strength of the new adaptation of the speculative novel written by H.G. Wells more than one hundred and twenty years ago. Orson Welles made a radio show of confusing realism, Steven Spielberg an action movie dominated by explosions. Howard Overman, creator of the series, revisits it almost as a documentary, without a profusion of special effects. The credibility of this vision is quite chilling and reminds us of the most significant trauma of the 21st century, from September 11 to the attack on the Bataclan.

Throughout his career, Gabriel Byrne has, intentionally or otherwise,  sustained an inner consciousness in his work. This has set him apart, from his role as the corrupt ex-cop in “The Usual Suspects” to the conflicted psychologist of “In Treatment.” In 2009, that performance earned him a Golden Globe (Best Actor in a Drama Series) while at the same time providing a success that he will never get used to. He declares:

“I love my job, but never again!”

The ensemble dimension of this new television version of H.G. Wells’ tale, first published in 1898, allows him to escape media attention in order to better promote his humanist point of view:

“The book and the series pose existential questions. In our time, the threat no longer comes from space, but from our very planet, whether we are talking about environmental disaster, alienation from the major industrial powers, or potential nuclear cataclysm. We have children, our children will have children … And yet, nothing says that we are not going to disappear in the short term. The question posed by the series is also to wonder what we would do with our instinct for survival, and our free will, under such circumstances.”

The survival instinct, Byrne understands. In 2010, he openly recalled the sexual abuse he suffered as a child and as a seminarian. A former alcoholic, he is the father of three children. His youngest daughter, the result of his marriage with producer Hannah Beth King, was born in 2017. The 69-year-old Irishman’s greatest fear is our inability to work collectively.

“I do not believe in individual action, even in the highest positions, whether it comes from Macron or Trump. Technologically, economically, spiritually, we are in the midst of a revolution, the effects of which will be unprecedented. Climate change offers an opportunity; it could let us give ourselves the means to live by thinking together about a solution.”

Sidebar: The only tweet he ever wrote? A quote from the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.

I’d like to think the quote was “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world,” from Shelley’s A Defence of Poetry, but who knows?

Original Print Interview

Ouest France

Ouest France Interview
Julia Baudin/TV Magazine, October 28, 2019

Gabriel Byrne: “The series ‘War of the Worlds’ forces us to face our collective fears”

Canal+ delivers its new original creation, a very free but still scary reinterpretation of the monument of science-fiction literature, “The War of the Worlds.” With Gabriel Byrne, among others.

War of the Worlds, a new and great science fiction mini-series by Canal+, tackles the novel by H. G. Wells to evoke our deepest fears.

Three questions for Gabriel Byrne, aka Bill Ward, a prominent neuroscientist.

A great role in this adaptation of a monument of science fiction literature. How could one refuse?
Like most people, I was familiar with the original work, Wells’ novel. On the other hand, I was less aware of the relevance of its history transposed to today’s world, and how much we live with deep fears, fear of others in particular. While some fears make sense, most are born of prejudices and manipulations. Is it then possible for fiction to overcome those fears we share collectively? When I understood that my question coincided with the ideas of the series authors and directors, when I understood that Gilles Coulier [the co-director] had a very precise vision of what he wanted to do and how he planned to execute it, when I saw the rest of the cast, I rushed to be part of this project.

Screencap by Verónica

Your character, Bill Ward, is a survivor like any other. Is he a great science fiction character?
Bill is a renowned neuroscientist. I will not dwell on his role, I would risk spoiling the story, but I think he engages with all the others, and this universal story: that of normal people in a normal society, struggling with a situation that they do not control, which therefore carries an immense emotional charge. This is achieved as opposed to pure science fiction or the science fiction thriller, although the main elements of the thriller have been preserved. The challenge was to stage the emotion and the tension, and lead the whole to a possible resolution. It was hard work for all those reasons …

Would you not have preferred a little more science fiction?
For me, the most important thing was not the story of the aliens, but what exactly are we afraid of? This may seem even more frightening as no one knows what it really is, nor what is the biggest threat to the planet. I believe that these extraterrestrials are the combination of all our anxieties. They symbolize climate change, the unpredictability of certain states of the world, the migration crisis, future migratory crises, the nuclear threat … a thousand things, to tell the truth. And I think that what fiction does very well is to give us the opportunity to look together at our collective fears, so that we can overcome them, or at least better understand them. This is the great power of this story. The series remains, in this, rather close to the novel.

Screencap by Verónica

Stay tuned for Part 2 very soon! Meanwhile, if you are lucky enough to be able to watch War of the Worlds now, just know that I am incredibly jealous of you! heart

2 Comments

  1. Such insightful comments from Gabriel Byrne on this series. He speaks about our fears, but is inclined to see solutions through communal action. Wonderful translations Stella. Thank you so much. It’s a treat to savour these as the suspense builds and we wait for this series to hit our North American shores.
    And I have to admit that the Paris Match portrait is stunning.

    • Thanks for your help crafting some of those difficult sentences! The Wells story reverberates through the years and Gabriel and his colleagues are bringing new insights to its enduring metaphors. I’m both scared and excited to see the results of their collaboration! <3

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