Less than a week away from opening night, here is Gabriel Byrne talking about everything. Soon he will share what he is feeling and thinking about the past, present, and future–captured in his book and now, through some magical alchemy, presented on stage–with all those lucky enough to be in the theater for the homecoming of the Man from Walkinstown.
Can’t be there? Nor can I. This interview helps dull that pain a bit.
However, you must be a subscriber to access it on the web. So, I’ve provided a few excerpts for you.
Enjoy! Stella out. heart
Tanya Sweeney/Independent Weekend
January 22, 2022
As he returns to the Irish stage for the first time in more than four decades, the actor talks about revisiting the past, the ridiculousness of Hollywood and why he’s not slowing down any time soon
Byrne has been thinking a lot about the past lately, perhaps with good reason. In 2020, he released his memoir, Walking With Ghosts, which became an evocative retelling of his formative years in Dublin, as well as an exploration of his parents’ interiorities, and an attempt to map the co-ordinates from his upbringing to the present day. It’s a lyrical and muscular read that’s brimful of emotional truth and mordant humour.
“I think we revisit the past all the time,” he observes. “I think people often say that when you write something, it’s about the past and confronting demons, or you’re making peace with things… I didn’t find any of that. It wasn’t about writing it so I could come to terms with anything. And I wasn’t so much interested in anything to do with nostalgia or sentimentality.”
We’re talking today because Byrne is in rehearsal at the Gaiety Theatre for his theatrical piece, Walking With Ghosts, adapted from his memoir. Though he has appeared over the years on stages on Broadway and in London (his portrayal of James Tyrone in a 2016 Broadway production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night saw him nominated for a Tony award), it’ll be the first time that Byrne will appear on an Irish stage since a 1978 production of Borstal Boy.
This may be a one-man show, but Byrne cuts a fairly unstarry figure before rehearsals. At first glance, he could feasibly be the Crumlin school teacher he once was, as opposed to a movie star. People working on and around the production note in asides that he is easy to work with — certainly more low-maintenance than others in his profession.
Reviewing the memoir, critics have made mention of Byrne’s masterful and assured prose, but as Byrne notes, there has always been some sort of writer within him to some degree. Before he chose acting as his profession, he had briefly considered journalism. Byrne had already released a well-received memoir in 1994, Pictures In My Head, detailing his transition from the home-grown theatre scene to a life in the movies.
“I’d scribble things here and then, and sometimes a newspaper would ask me to do something,” he says. “I’d been asked to do [another] book a couple of times, but I didn’t want to do one of those dreadful tell-alls… and I could have done a book like that, because I know where the bodies are buried, so to speak. What I was interested in was trying to look at the world I’d grown up in and left, to see if it had influence, you know, [on] who I became. You know, the way life is a series of decisions that you make, and eventually, you become the sum of those decisions.”
He’s still keeping things interesting and varied, work-wise. After shooting War Of The Worlds, an Anglo-French reimagining of HG Wells’ classic, Byrne has also wrapped work on a biopic of Ferruccio Lamborghini (he plays Enzo Ferrari), and is due to start work on a modern-day version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, opposite Ian McKellen. He enjoys writing the odd newspaper column and is, very tentatively, working on a novel.
“There’s nothing romantic or glamorous about it, as you well know,” he explains of writing. “It’s hard work. Very hard work. Sometimes, I look at people who write columns in newspapers and think, that’s a pretty interesting way to comment on the world. Things are happening and I’d love to throw something into that discussion.
“Apart from anything else, you’ve got to keep your mind active,” he surmises. “I’m not ready to be sitting in an armchair, with the dog bringing me the papers and my slippers.”