Interview: Actress Emma Eliza Regan on Pete Doherty, Maud Gonne and Irish westerns
“IT’S very rare as an actress to open a script and be engrossed in the journey and get such an emotional investment in it, right from the start.”
Emma Eliza Regan is talking about her forthcoming film, an ambitious contemporary Irish Western called Darkness At The Edge Of Town, which will begin filming later this year in County Kerry.
The 24-year-old already has a huge number of credits on her acting CV including the IFTAwinning Aisling’s Diary;Love Eternal; Blood, Sweat and Wars and the drama Our Wonderful Home.
The plot of Darkness centres around a troubled teenage sharpshooter who decides to avenge the death of her estranged sister after she is found murdered in a public bathroom. Its script has already won awards, so hopes are high for the final product.
“I think what appealed to me initially was that it was the first Irish script I had read which had two young females from rural Ireland driving the film. This had never been seen before, ever,” Regan says of the feature.
“As an actress, once I read the script, I felt an emotional connection to Cleo (the heroine), like a little bond, and I could see what a wonderful opportunity it was for any young actress trying to prove her range and talent.”
Regan grew up in Moycullen, Connemara, where her father runs the village pub. So just how did that upbringing help in terms of effectively telling stories on screen?
“I think it was wonderful to be around characters and observing certain traits and characteristics,” she says, “quirks that I can draw from when I’m trying to understand a role. On another note, it gave us all a very strong work ethic coming from a family business.”
Regan recently played a character in The Second Coming loosely based on Maud Gonne, working alongside the British singer/songwriter Pete Doherty. What was he like?
“Well with regard to Pete… my lips are sealed,” she says. “But I think he is a true talent, an original and a poetic soul. My character was based on Maud Gonne, yes. The male character is in an unrequited love with her and that relationship element of the script was drawn straight from the well documented affair between WB Yeats and Gonne.
“I did a huge amount of research on her and I loved the whole process of that. I read about seven biographies; visited Yeats exhibitions in the National Library, saw all the old letters of Yeats which mentioned her in Coole Park.
“What I found fascinating was their shared interest in the occult and esoteric scripts. I am fascinated with the occult and it was a really interesting role, it’s good for an actress to discover the path of someone else and try and learn from somebody who went before you.
Regan has a busy few months ahead, working hard in what she describes as the “buzzing world” of Irish film. She continues: “There is definitely a huge energy at the moment in low budget Irish-made films and there are loads of young, talented Irish directors developing their own styles and making their own mark.
“It all seems vibrant and more accessible than it has ever been and there seems to be a real sort of energy happening right now. I’m feeling lucky to be a part of it. It’s very inspiring to see. I think the artistic influence is continuous and such an integral part of who we all are.
“We’re also a direct result of our history, and our history and our arts are entwined, so I reckon the films conceived in this time will be interesting. I don’t think they will have the answers but rather raise the questions.”
It’s an interesting point that Emma Eliza raises. Just how will recession Ireland be remembered for the art it produced? She fervently believes that cinema is a great way of showcasing a country, saying: “We all live in a very visual society. Words have lost a lot of importance and now it’s all about seeing things on a screen, whether it’s on our mobile phones or computers. It’s the way we all live now.”
“As a recession country,” she adds, “I’m not sure how the film industry will generate any more money or solve debt, but I think it has the power to pass on a story to other generations… the power to portray our country as it is and that has huge value in other ways. I also think film is a fantastic opportunity to showcase the wonderful scenery.”
Hitting an interesting phase in her career, the actress insists there’s nothing else she would rather be doing.
“I never had any illusions getting into this business,” she says. “You have to be grafting for all the right reasons. I wanted to test myself, to see how far I could go creatively, and as a person to maybe break through my own fears too.
“This can be a cruel business, full of ups and downs, so you need to have a thick skin and be in it for the right reasons.”
■ Darkness At The Edge Of Town is due to begin filming this summer.