independent

Wednesday 11 December 2019

Parked life - how ordinary people can slip through the cracks

Colm Meaney's latest role as a homeless man living out of a car may be a world away from his real life but he understands how people can slip through the cracks

12/2/11 Colm Meaney on the red carpet at the 8th Irish Film and Television Awards at the Convention centre in Dublin. Picture:Arthur Carron/Collins
12/2/11 Colm Meaney on the red carpet at the 8th Irish Film and Television Awards at the Convention centre in Dublin. Picture:Arthur Carron/Collins

WORDS: Shea Tomkins

COLM MEANEY is at odds with the clock. In Dublin to promote his latest film, the phone exchanges between him and various reporters haven't relented all morning. By the time he gets around to having a chat with me, our conversation length has been axed by ten minutes, allowing roughly the same window to probe him on over thirty years of acting. Luckily he knows the score, and we park the small talk. No pun intended.

Meaney knows what it is like to live in a car. Not that life and its eventualities have ever conspired to bring the sky crushing down on his head, but because he plays the part of a homeless guy in his latest cinema release, Parked.

Not quite homeless, you will argue, should you consider a car an official form of residence. Far-fetched as the premise might sound, Meaney is long enough in the tooth, and boasts a sufficient amount of passport stamps, to know that people can very easily be reduced to living rough.

People that are widely regarded as compos mentis, but have had life's safety net pulled from under them when they least expected it. People just like you and me.

'Although I don't have much evidence of it in Ireland, I have seen people in the US and occasionally in Spain, and you know by the look of them that they are living in their cars,' he says.

'The cars are jam-packed with stuff, and it gives them away. I suppose you become aware, as you live, that not everybody has it as well as you do. It's very easy to slip through the cracks. There's every possibility that a perfectly normal and functioning human being can find themselves in this kind of situation. Take their security away and they fall into an abyss. It can

happen to anyone.'

'I got involved with Parked when a call came through from the director, Darragh Byrne. He told me that he had a script, and would I like to read it. I read it and loved it. Then Darragh and I sat down and checked each other out, to make sure that we could work together. That was it, I was hooked.

'I try to read a script from the audience's perspective to begin with, and then look at it from the character's point of view. I was intrigued by it. For me it was a different kind of character portrayal; a different challenge to anything I had tried before. This character is much more subdued and internal. I talked to Darragh and told him to keep a close eye on me, not to let me get too big.

'It's a story about three people that have reached a crossroads in their lives. Each one has lost their way in life and as the story unfolds, they help each other grope their way out of those difficulties. Ultimately it's about three people who, although they don't articulate it, recognise similarities between themselves.'

Born in Dublin in May, 1953, acting has been Meaney's way of life since his late teens. He attended the Abbey School of Theatre in the mid-seventies and while there, signed up to become a member of the company, establishing his professional status as an actor. Early theatre work saw him tread the boards in Dublin, London and New York before he upped sticks, taking his stock to the sun-spoilt streets of Los Angeles, in the mid-eighties.

There his career took a change of direction, providing his first taste of episodic television. Parts in Moonlighting, Remington Steele and MacGyver, among others, put him on the casting agents' radar, before he hooked up with Alan Parker in the 1990-film Come See The Paradise.

'That was when Alan mentioned to me that he had secured the rights to the book of The Commitments; it actually hadn't been published at that stage,' he says. 'I came back to Dublin and filmed it and subsequently it led to The Snapper and The Van.

'I suppose you could say my career has been a natural progression, rather than one big break. In terms of exposure, being nominated for a Best Actor Golden Globe for The Snapper brought me more into the spotlight. I am still hugely proud of The Van. I love that film. My relationship with director Stephen Frears was great and Donal (O'Kelly who played the part of Bimbo) was terrific in it.

'I thought it didn't quite get the praise it deserved, because it was unfavourably compared to The Snapper. In a way that's unfair, as The Snapper is a feel good movie; The Van is a different kind of story. It's about a guy having a mid-life crisis; it wouldn't put a smile on your face. Another movie that I'm very proud of was one that got lost in the shuffle after 9/11 called How Harry Became A Tree. Not many people saw it.'

Politically aware and active as a student, he joined Sinn Fein while still at school. With no Leaving Certificate under his belt, the credits on a glittering acting portfolio are all the more impressive.

Die Hard 2, Dick Tracy, Con Air, Under Siege – each came with big names, big budgets. Globally he is probably best known for his recurring role as Star Trek's Miles O'Brien. In fact, only he and Michael Dorn (who played the role of the Klingon, Worf) have made over 200 appearances in the Star Trek series. Quite the record, for an Irishman.

Meaney shares his time between homes in LA and Mallorca, with his French wife Ines Glorian and their sixyear-old daughter, who has just started school in Spain, meaning that from here on the family will become a more permanent feature on the Mediterranean shores. He keeps a close eye on developments back home in Ireland; he watched Dublin's recent AllIreland football victory from a reserved box in the Finnish embassy, in Helsinki. He also feels privileged to be part of an unprecedented crop of fine Irish thespians.

'The future of Irish acting is in great hands, way beyond what would be expected from a country our size. There's Brendan Gleeson, Stephen Rea, Liam Neeson, Ciaran Hinds. Of my generation we're flushed and I have never known a time when Ireland has had so many top international quality actors.

'We have great young talents in Colin Farrell, Cillian Murphy and Stuart Townsend. Colin Morgan gives a stunning performance in Parked; he plays Merlin in the BBC TV show and he says the two characters are like night and day. Watch him. He's got everything it takes to be top notch.

'There are some great young Irish women too – Kerry Condon, an extraordinary actress, and at the moment I'm working with Dominique McElligott, who's super, on an American TV series Hell on Wheels, which will hopefully make it on to Irish screens over the next few months.'

Parked currently plays in irish cinemas nationwide. COLM MEANEY is at odds with the clock. In Dublin to promote his latest film, the phone exchanges between him and various reporters haven't relented all morning. By the time he gets around to having a chat with me, our conversation length has been axed by ten minutes, allowing roughly the same window to probe him on over thirty years of acting. Luckily he knows the score, and we park the small talk. No pun intended.

Meaney knows what it is like to live in a car. Not that life and its eventualities have ever conspired to bring the sky crushing down on his head, but because he plays the part of a homeless guy in his latest cinema release, Parked.

Not quite homeless, you will argue, should you consider a car an official form of residence. Far-fetched as the premise might sound, Meaney is long enough in the tooth, and boasts a sufficient amount of passport stamps, to know that people can very easily be reduced to living rough.

People that are widely regarded as compos mentis, but have had life's safety net pulled from under them when they least expected it. People just like you and me.

'Although I don't have much evidence of it in Ireland, I have seen people in the US and occasionally in Spain, and you know by the look of them that they are living in their cars,' he says.

'The cars are jam-packed with stuff, and it gives them away. I suppose you become aware, as you live, that not everybody has it as well as you do. It's very easy to slip through the cracks. There's every possibility that a perfectly normal and functioning human being can find themselves in this kind of situation. Take their security away and they fall into an abyss. It can

happen to anyone.'

'I got involved with Parked when a call came through from the director, Darragh Byrne. He told me that he had a script, and would I like to read it. I read it and loved it. Then Darragh and I sat down and checked each other out, to make sure that we could work together. That was it, I was hooked.

'I try to read a script from the audience's perspective to begin with, and then look at it from the character's point of view. I was intrigued by it. For me it was a different kind of character portrayal; a different challenge to anything I had tried before. This character is much more subdued and internal. I talked to Darragh and told him to keep a close eye on me, not to let me get too big.

'It's a story about three people that have reached a crossroads in their lives. Each one has lost their way in life and as the story unfolds, they help each other grope their way out of those difficulties. Ultimately it's about three people who, although they don't articulate it, recognise similarities between themselves.'

Born in Dublin in May, 1953, acting has been Meaney's way of life since his late teens. He attended the Abbey School of Theatre in the mid-seventies and while there, signed up to become a member of the company, establishing his professional status as an actor. Early theatre work saw him tread the boards in Dublin, London and New York before he upped sticks, taking his stock to the sun-spoilt streets of Los Angeles, in the mid-eighties.

There his career took a change of direction, providing his first taste of episodic television. Parts in Moonlighting, Remington Steele and MacGyver, among others, put him on the casting agents' radar, before he hooked up with Alan Parker in the 1990-film Come See The Paradise.

'That was when Alan mentioned to me that he had secured the rights to the book of The Commitments; it actually hadn't been published at that stage,' he says. 'I came back to Dublin and filmed it and subsequently it led to The Snapper and The Van.

'I suppose you could say my career has been a natural progression, rather than one big break. In terms of exposure, being nominated for a Best Actor Golden Globe for The Snapper brought me more into the spotlight. I am still hugely proud of The Van. I love that film. My relationship with director Stephen Frears was great and Donal (O'Kelly who played the part of Bimbo) was terrific in it.

'I thought it didn't quite get the praise it deserved, because it was unfavourably compared to The Snapper. In a way that's unfair, as The Snapper is a feel good movie; The Van is a different kind of story. It's about a guy having a mid-life crisis; it wouldn't put a smile on your face. Another movie that I'm very proud of was one that got lost in the shuffle after 9/11 called How Harry Became A Tree. Not many people saw it.'

Politically aware and active as a student, he joined Sinn Fein while still at school. With no Leaving Certificate under his belt, the credits on a glittering acting portfolio are all the more impressive.

Die Hard 2, Dick Tracy, Con Air, Under Siege – each came with big names, big budgets. Globally he is probably best known for his recurring role as Star Trek's Miles O'Brien. In fact, only he and Michael Dorn (who played the role of the Klingon, Worf) have made over 200 appearances in the Star Trek series. Quite the record, for an Irishman.

Meaney shares his time between homes in LA and Mallorca, with his French wife Ines Glorian and their sixyear-old daughter, who has just started school in Spain, meaning that from here on the family will become a more permanent feature on the Mediterranean shores. He keeps a close eye on developments back home in Ireland; he watched Dublin's recent AllIreland football victory from a reserved box in the Finnish embassy, in Helsinki. He also feels privileged to be part of an unprecedented crop of fine Irish thespians.

'The future of Irish acting is in great hands, way beyond what would be expected from a country our size. There's Brendan Gleeson, Stephen Rea, Liam Neeson, Ciaran Hinds. Of my generation we're flushed and I have never known a time when Ireland has had so many top international quality actors.

'We have great young talents in Colin Farrell, Cillian Murphy and Stuart Townsend. Colin Morgan gives a stunning performance in Parked; he plays Merlin in the BBC TV show and he says the two characters are like night and day. Watch him. He's got everything it takes to be top notch.

'There are some great young Irish women too – Kerry Condon, an extraordinary actress, and at the moment I'm working with Dominique McElligott, who's super, on an American TV series Hell on Wheels, which will hopefully make it on to Irish screens over the next few months.'

Parked currently plays in irish cinemas nationwide.

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