War of the Worlds is now showing on SBS in Australia. We are so happy that our friends Down Under now have a chance to see this series!
Gabriel was interviewed by The Age, an Australian news outlet, just before the world went upside down due to the pandemic.
“Superheroes are all about one man saving the world,” Gabriel Byrne said. “But there is no one superhero who will come in and save us. It’s only people working together that will save us. That’s why I decided to make War of the Worlds. It’s a hopeful story because it’s not too late.”
“A lot of people find it hard to process an accumulation of facts day after day after day,” he said by phone from his New York home before the COVID-19 pandemic, “so they fall into indifference or fear or a combination of the two. Sometimes the only place you can work everything out is in fiction, which is a safe place to examine those fears. Fiction can change the way you see the world.”
“I’ve always been attracted to the world of academia,” he said. “I’d have loved to have taught a particular subject, having learnt as much as I possibly could, and conveyed that to my students.”
Instead his students led him onto the stage.
“Acting never came into my head,” Byrne said. “It was only when I was teaching that I began to get a glimpse of it. I used to take my class to see theatre and films, because I thought it was a great way of connecting with them. Then they asked me if they could have a drama class after school. I said yes. I thought maybe, instead of going to the pub at nighttime, I could join an amateur drama group.”
Another project with a huge impact was the HBO series In Treatment (2008-2010), in which he played a therapist.
“It was a difficult project to do,” he said, “but it had an effect on a lot of people. There was an upsurge in therapy after that.
“Yesterday I was talking to a class of students at Columbia University,” he continued. “Professors use that series as part of the curriculum. Students watch an episode, and the teacher asks them, ‘What would you do in that situation?'”
As he approaches 70, Byrne has no bucket list − merely a desire to keep doing what he’s doing, only perhaps better.
“I’d like to do a really great film that makes people think and feel,” he said. “I want to be halfway through a script and want it not to end. I want to think, ‘Oh my God, what’s going to happen next?’ That’s rare.
“Some years ago a man came up to me on the street and said, ‘I want to thank you,'” Byrne said. “I asked why, and he told me, ‘My mother developed dementia, and we used to take her to the movies, even though she didn’t know what she was watching. We took her to a movie you were in and, when you came on the screen, she immediately said, “Gabriel.” That was the last time she ever recognised anybody.’
“That really moved me. You never know the effect a film has.”
You can read the entire interview at The Age, including a lovely tribute to actor Richard Burton.
And here is the SBS Australia trailer to remind you that this is one scary, intense, and thrilling re-imagining of the classic tale!