Approaching their tenth anniversary, Billy and Breda Farrell seem to have the ideal marriage. But at night behind closed doors, Breda knows that their intimate bond is slowly unravelling: she tells a friend can’t remember how long it’s been since they’ve made love, as Billy seems to have lost interest. In fact, Billy has also become fascinated with Imelda Egan, the vivacious daughter of a colleague. His brief social exchanges with her leading to unexpected thoughts that distract him from Breda.
Breda hopes that the upcoming anniversary will provide the couple a chance to relive their earlier, carefree days together. She suggests that they go out separately with friends and meet up at the local club. At first, things seem to go well: but under the prying eyes of their friends and the influence of Imelda’s nearby presence, Billy panics, and makes a crucial decision that leaves Breda all alone. Next, Breda and Billy must finally begin to confront the serious issues that have caused them to slowly drift apart. An intimate, universal drama about a couple in crisis, Eden is adapted by Eugene O’Brien from his acclaimed stage play, directed by Declan Recks, produced by David Collins, and stars Aidan Kelly as Billy and Eileen Murphy as Breda.
Declan Recks, director of Eden, is a graduate of Dun Laoghaire College of Art and Design and UCLA Extension, where he studied film and television. In addition to several award winning short films, Declan has directed episodes of “On Home Ground” (RTE), “Any Time Now” (RTE/BBC), and “The Clinic” (RTE). In 2005, Declan directed the first three episodes of Eugene O’Brien’s “Pure Mule,” produced by David Collins & Ed Guiney. The show received 5 IFTAS (Irish TV & Film Awards) including Best Director. In 2007, Declan directed the critically acclaimed Irish language mini series “The Running Mate” for TG4. The show went on to win Best Drama at the 2007 IFTAS.
Eugene O’Brien is the screenplay writer of Eden. Eugene O’Brien’s play Eden premiered at The Peacock Theatre in Dublin in January 2001. It was awarded Best New Play and Best Actress (Catherine Walsh) at the Irish Times/ESB Theatre Awards 2001, the Stewart Parker Best New Play of 2001 and the Rooney Prize for Literature 2003. Since then, the play has been translated into six languages and staged all over the world. O’Brien’s six-part drama series “Pure Mule” aired in 2005 to critical acclaim and won five Irish Film & Television awards. In additional to several film projects, he is developing a new six-part drama with Accomplice Television for RTE.
Eileen Walsh plays Breda Farrell in Eden. Eileen Walsh’s work at the legendary Abbey Theatre in Dublin includes production of Terminus, Saved, Portia Couglhan, and Ariel. Other theatre credits include The Merchant of Venic, Phaedra’s Love, Disco Pigs, Crave,
The Drowned World, Splendour, Troilus and Cressida, Boomtown, Danti Dan, Crestfall, The Entertainer, and Mary Stuart. Television credits include her award-winning recurring role on “Pure Mule,” and film credits include Nicholas Nickelby, The Magdalene Sister, Janice Beard, When Brendan Met Trudy, Miss Julie, The Last Bus Home, Spaghetti Slow, The Van, and 33X Around the Sun. She will next be seen in a supporting role in the mystery thriller Triage starring Colin Farrell. For her role in Eden, Eileen Walsh won the Best Actress Award at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival in New York.
Bijan Tehrani: My first question is for the writer, Eugene O’Brien. This film was originally a play, and has been adapted for the screen. Did a lot of changes take place when adapting the original story into a screenplay?
Eugene O’Brien: Yes, the play was originally two monologues with two actors on stage. So there were a lot of words in the play, and we had to do a lot of work to adapt it to film, and to think more visually about how we would get the characters and stories across. We worked on the screenplay for about two years in order to achieve this.
Bijan: Did you work directly with the director in writing the screenplay?
Eugene: Yes, I know Declan very well, and we made a TV series together on Irish television. We worked together on the script with the producer David Collins. I would meet with them, go away and do some work and then come back and meet with them again.
Bijan: You are not the only person with theater experience; I see that some members of the cast have theater experience as well. What about you, Declan, did you have any theater experience?
Declan Recks: No, I have no theater experience at all. I have done a lot of short films, I have a production company, I was a producer for a while, and for the last seven or eight years I have been directing a lot of television dramas. But I have never worked in theater at all.
Bijan: Was it hard working with actors with a theater background?
Declan: Not really. Most of our cast had television and film experience. Eileen has been in a good few films. I think Aidan, who plays Billy, would be considered the least experienced in terms of on-screen work. I find that once you spend a bit of time with a good actor, they trust you to tell them if their level of performance is too big for camera…if they are a good actor they are a good actor. I really didn’t have too many problems.
Bijan: Eileen your part in the film is amazing. One cannot even say that you are acting. It is so fluent, and it is amazing. How did you know this character so well?
Eileen Walsh: For me, the main point was that I knew Declan, Eugene, and Owen [*Owen McPolin, Director of Photography], who was on camera. Because I had worked with them before I was very comfortable, so it made playing Breda not necessarily easy, but easier. So I could try and allow her to just be there, and trust that she was with me, and know that I could capture her loneliness and stillness.
Bijan: How did you study this character? It is a very difficult part to play. One could easily overact it, but you were so natural. Do you know someone like Breda personally?
Eileen: I think we all do. I think we all have moments in relationships where you feel like you are at an impasse, and it is about being brave and exploring those lonely moments, which I have had during the course of a long term relationship. It is about extending those moments into days, weeks, months, or for however long Breda has been feeling that way for.
Bijan: You interaction with Aidan Kelly was excellent. Have you worked together in any other projects in the past?
Eileen: Yes, we had just finished working on a play together, it was called “Terminus”, by Mark O’Rowe. There were only three of us in that production, so we worked very closely for eight weeks. We finished the play on a Saturday, traveled to the set on a Sunday, and started filming as a married couple on Monday. So our knowledge of each other was enough that by the time we began filming we were able to completely ignore each other, which was kind of perfect for the relationship.
Bijan: Declan, do you let the actors bring to the screen something of their own, or do you have them follow exactly what you have written in the script?
Declan: Well, I think the actors all trusted Eugene’s writing so much that we very rarely went off script, and I’m not just saying that because he is sitting beside me. All of the actors trusted his words. There were small occasions where we might have changed one or two things, but mostly we pretty much stuck to the script.
Bijan: Eugene, how did you originally come up with the story for the play? Was it inspired by people you knew, or your own experiences?
Eugene: I think every writer writes from their own experience and the feelings that they have. But I have never been married, so it is not a direct portrait of a relationship I have been in. But I have drawn from my own life and from people around me, and people who would have lived in the town where I am from in the Midland of Ireland. I combined what I knew with elements from my imagination, so it just organically happened. I wrote the play very quickly-it was the easiest thing I have ever written. I think it was in me for many years, and then it just came out very easily.
Bijan: What is very nice about the story is that it does not lean one way or the other in placing blame on Billy or Breda for the faults in their relationship.
Eugene: Yes. We were very mindful of that, number one, that Eileen’s character didn’t appear as a victim or the put-upon wife, and that he wasn’t coming across as the drunk and awful husband. They both have a share of the blame for what happened in their relationship. I am glad you said that, because that is what we wanted.
Bijan: Declan, the visual style of the film is beautiful. How did you come up with the visual style?
Declan: I had worked with the cinematographer, Owen McPolin, on the television show that myself, Eugene, and Eileen were in. We had a very good working relationship. You sit down and try to work out visual ways to enhance the story. Part of that was our decision to shoot on Super35, which was to give the film that cinematic feel-to open up and magnify the story of these two people in this house. It could have very easily felt like a kitchen sink drama, and we wanted to get away from that, to accentuate the distance between them, which you can do with a wide screen. You can put them on separate sides and make them feel isolated. Because the play had been told from two different perspectives, we consciously decided in each scene whether we were watching it from Breda’s perspective or Billy’s, and we had two totally different shooting styles. All of Billy’s scenes, or scenes that we wanted to see from his point of view, were shot handheld, and have a particular color scheme. All of Breda’s scenes are more stable, locked off, and fluid. So we used all those tricks to consciously let the viewer know that you are following the story from that person’s point of view.
Bijan: Eugene, how did you come up with the ending of the story? It could have fallen into the trap of a typical Hollywood ending, but the ending was successful. Were you worried about falling into a trap with that kind of ending?
Eugene: No. It was a big decision with the film, because in the play that ending doesn’t happen. The two of them don’t talk at the end. Billy goes into his children’s room and tries to sleep on the floor, and he is in an awful state. We tried that in the screenplay, but we felt that it deserved a scene, that they had to talk, and that the audience, by getting to know these characters so intimately, deserved that scene as well. I thought it would have cheated them if we left them apart. My very strong instinct was that they have gone so far that they have hit a wall, there is no where else to go, and they either have to talk to each other, or it is over. On this traumatic night where all these things come to a head, they are forced to talk to each other and we are left with some kind of hope. That was the decision we wanted to make, and I felt it was right for the story. I wasn’t thinking whether it was a happy ending or not, or if it was Hollywood or not. It just seemed to be the right way to go with it.
Bijan: Eileen, do you think there was a difference in the way you performed this character for the play compared with the film?
Eugene: Eileen wasn’t actually in the play, her sister was.
Eileen: But my approach would be the same anyway, be it for theater or for film. It is about finding what you can connect and empathize with in the character from your own life’s experiences. And then you build upon those key elements to get into character. So it is how I relate to the character, as opposed to me trying to be somebody else.
Bijan: What do you think about the American actors and actresses right now? Do you have a favorite?
Eileen: I really enjoy watching Maggie Gyllenhaal, I think she’s great, and her choices are really interesting. She is brave. There are loads of wonderful American actors; William H. Macy, and anybody you’d expect. A lot of them tend to have large theater experiences as well.
Bijan: Declan I understand that you studied at UCLA?
Declan: Yes, well I did study in Ireland first. We didn’t have a film school in Ireland when I left high school. After a couple of years at home there was no money to make films, so I came to UCLA to study for a year and get the opportunity to make another short film.
Bijan: Any plans to work in the US on a future project?
Declan: Wouldn’t say no. Myself and Eugene are working on something we want to make back at home next summer. We also have an Irish American story that we would like to make, which could be in two years time. So fingers crossed.