A kiss of life for Irish film
Lance Daly has a bone to pick with your cuddly and caring Herald . "Was it you who wrote the review for my last film, The Halo Effect?" he asks me, halfway through our interview. "Because, whoever it was, they said it was the worst Irish film ever made. Wish I'd kept that -- it'd be fun to read out to you today. . ."
Hmm, don't think it was me, actually. Not that I was that big a fan of Lance Daly's 2004 offering. But then, 'who was?', I ask the man himself.
"True, it didn't get great reviews, but, I just thought the Herald went a little over the top in calling it the worst Irish film ever made," he replies. "I look upon that film, and the one before it, The Last Days Of Dublin, as part of a learning curve. I think I've finally managed, with Kisses, to find my feet. I think I've gotten it right this time."
I think Lance Daly might be right. Kisses tells the story of two troubled children named Dylan and Kylie, who live on a sprawling housing estate in a disadvantaged Dublin suburb. The pair run away from home and spend "a night of magic and terror" on the streets of the inner city.
"I learnt to be a bit more hardnose on set. To push people and get the best out of them by making them feel threatened, angry, whatever. People under pressure want to prove themselves, even if it's only just to get one up on the person that's putting them under pressure. To prove that they're better than they're being given credit for," Daly says.
"To be honest, I think you have to be pretty firm when it comes to child actors. Otherwise, they'll just walk all over you."
It's hard to imagine Daly keeping a pair like Shane Curry (11) and Kelly O'Neill (12), Kisses' young leads, in their place -- they're north Dublin kids through and through, and they don't exactly strike me as the subservient kind. Indeed their boisterousness was one of the reasons they were chosen for their roles in the film.
With themes of alcoholism, sexual abuse and homelessness explored, Daly felt that conventional child actors might not be able to get to grips with the gritty edge required for the roles. So the decision was made to find two genuine inner-city youngsters to play the parts.
Daly picked them for the roles for that reason, they are young non-actors, full of confidence who weren't afraid to go after what they wanted.
This meant that Byrne had to "battle it out all the way through the shoot".
"I knew it was going to be worth it, because that energy, that cockiness comes over in the film, but there were days when the three of us were close to flipping out on each other. It was up to me to be the sensible one though. And put the stick away," Byrne says.
Kisses got a wonderful reception on the festival circuit, playing London, Toronto, Locarno, Telluride, winning at Galway, and it's not over yet.
"Certainly the festival circuit is a good way to gauge how a film is going to play. It's like this big, unruly test-screening process, and you get to hear a lot of different people's opinions. The response was good, right from the start. It just built and built really, and I could feel it, Shane and Kelly could feel it. You'd do a Q&A afterwards, and there was just this positive buzz in the air."
What will surprise many is the fact that a small low-budget Irish film managed to get Bob Dylan's approval for his music to be used on the soundtrack. His music plays such a crucial part of the film. The big question is: did Daly end up using 99pc of his budget on Dylan's music?
"Actually, we struck a really good deal with the Dylan songs, a deal I'm not at liberty to discuss. We actually shot the film, and then sent it off, with the Dylan songs included -- because our lead is called Dylan, and he's given an education in the man's music throughout his adventure -- and just crossed our fingers. We ended up sending a whole bunch of copies to Dylan's manager."
Finally, Dylan's manager got to look at the movie, and he liked it. From there, his Bobness gave his approval too.
"I think that I always believed, once he saw how the music was being used, and how it was an integral part of the story, he'd pretty much have to say yes."
Kisses hits cinemas on Friday