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Tall tales and Tiger Raids

Living

STARRING ROLE Brian Gleeson plays a rogue US Army Black Ops soldier in ‘Tiger Raid’.

Interview

Ciara Galvin

FROM a bookies in Ballinrobe to the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, it has been some evolution for Mick Donnellan’s play ‘Radio Luxembourg’.
The novelist, playwright and screenwriter is fresh from a trip Stateside for the debut of the movie ‘Tiger Raid’ at the prestigious film festival. His play – a tale about a tiger kidnapping in rural Ireland, which was bizarrely inspired by a tip for a horse in his hometown – was adapted for the feature-length film.
“It was 15 years ago, and a fella called to the house and gave a tip for a horse to my brother, said it came from the trainer of the horse and that it was going to win. My brother went to put on the bet, told a fella that was on his way to pay his rent and he went to the bookies too, and word spread to everyone in the bookies that this horse was going to win,” explains Donnellan.
To make a long story short, the horse, ‘Radio Luxembourg’, didn’t win. In fact, he lasted all of 20 seconds in the race before running through a barrier.
Still, it wasn’t all for nothing. The yarn inspired some of the storyline for Donnellan’s play, where a gangster gets into trouble after losing money on a horse.
The film that the play has now in turn inspired takes place in war-torn Iraq and stars Brian Gleeson (son of Brendan); Damian Molony (‘Ripper Street’) and Sofia Boutella (‘Star Trek Beyond’).
Gleeson and Molony play two rogue US Army Black Ops soldiers who decide to take an oil Sheikh’s daughter (Boutella) hostage in Iraq.

Great reaction
Donnellan watched the final cut of the film for the very first time when it debuted at the festival last month and says there was a ‘great reaction’ to it.
“People picked up on the soundtrack, the way it was shot and the pace of it. It catches people by surprise, they come in expecting the usual from a film based in the Middle East, but this is a little different.”
Mick was heavily involved in the filming of the movie, which was shot on location in Jordan last year, and he says the cast and crew deserve a lot of credit.
“The actors were fantastic. It’s a cracker of a film. It’s an emotional rollercoaster that makes you think a lot; a feast of filmmaking and storytelling.”
Donnellan, who teaches screenwriting at NUI Galway, has received more offers of work since the Tribeca debut. He is also in talks with publishers about a third book, following on from his two novels ‘El Niño’ and ‘Fisherman’s Blues’, and he has sold the rights for his acclaimed play ‘Shortcut to Hallelujah’ to Galway-based film company Florence Films.
Though he loves screenwriting, the Ballinrobe native’s heart still lies in theatre. “Film is much more complicated [than plays] but rewarding … but there is nothing like live theatre. Screenwriting pays more bills,” says Donnellan, adding that ‘the dream’ is to be limitlessly creative while being financially sound.

Influences
Creatives such as Martin McDonagh, Tom Murphy, Conor McPherson and Eugene O’Neill  inspire Donnellan’s work, but the Ballinrobe man also takes inspiration from everyday life. He’d tell any aspiring writer to spend a few hours on a New York train.
“It’s full of daft, delirious people. To be normal is to be weird in New York. It’s a great experience.”
The straight-talking writer says that ‘as years go’ in his field, this has been a good one – but he adds that this latest break with ‘Tiger Raid’ didn’t happen overnight.
“You just need to keep going. You will have the glitz and the glamour, but it I’ve been ten or eleven years at it, and New York has been the biggest [break]. You might have two or three years of the big stuff, but you just need to keep your eye on the prize.”

Mick Donnellan’s novels are available to order online at mickdonnellan.wordpress.com.