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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

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SHERIDAN, JIM: The Boxer

MY LEFT JAB
Jim Sheridan made quite leap from theatre to film director, winning plaudits and Oscar nominations for his two films, My Left Foot, and In the Name of the Father. In Australia to promote his latest film, the romantic drama, The Boxer, Sheridan talked to PAUL FISCHER.

A tired Jim Sheridan booked into his Sydney hotel after the long trans-continental flight, and did what very few jet lagged film directors do: "I was stuffed when I got here, but they have this terrific gym at the hotel, and after a few rounds on the exercise bike, I was as good as new", the Irish film maker says.

Sheridan and Daniel Day-Lewis are two names that seem to have been fused together by celluloid; first with My Left Foot, then with In the Name of the Father. The pair continue the theme of injustice and IRA terrorism with The Boxer, and despite many who feel that there have been too many films dealing with 'The Troubles' of Northern Ireland, hmatically, this period of social and political unrest remains fascinating to directors such as Sheridan. "I think that's because it's there in your face and you're dealing with it. You're living in a place, and it's just like you're led to it emotionally. It's almost as if I can't help it. It's not that I really want to do it, it's just that I can't STOP doing it."

"It's a more mature film, very reflective and offers one a different outlook, in a way."

The Boxer revolves around 32-year-old Danny Flynn (Day-Lewis). Released after his 14-year prison sentence for IRA activities, he returns to his old neighbourhood and sees former flame Maggie (Emily Watson), who has an unhappy marriage and now raises her son alone while her husband is in prison. To get back in the boxing ring, Danny gets the community-centre gym back in operation and starts training, encountering opposition from militant IRA members, including Harry (Gerald McSorley). Danny and Maggie grow closer, but after a bomb sets off events leading to the destruction of the gym, Danny leaves for a disastrous boxing match in London. More grim situations arise when he returns to Belfast.

The film's gestation was a lengthy one, Sheridan explains. "I started off years ago having written a book about Irish boxer Barry McGuigan, and I'd always wanted to make a film of it, which I tried to do. I wrote a fictional piece based on his life, but it didn't really work. Then Daniel started training with Barry, so I wrote another draft with Terry George, based on The Prisoner's Wife. It started from there."

Commenting on the stylistic difference between The Boxer and its predecessors, Sheridan remarks that it's not as much of a rebel film as the others. It's a more mature film, very reflective and offers one a different outlook, in a way." He also sees it "as a very positive piece".

"I think he's just as obsessive as he ever was" on Daniel Day-Lewis

Working with Day-Lewis now for the third time, Sheridan admits that Day-Lewis' obsessiveness as an actor hasn't changed much since My Left Foot. "I think he's just as obsessive as he ever was, really focused on everything he does. He just delves into it very deeply. I think if his attitudes have changed, they've changed in relation to his stardom. He doesn't like that side of it, but likes to be private."

The Irish film industry has come a long way since Sheridan's My Left Foot burst on the scene. He's pleased that "we have a healthy industry and we can tell so many unique stories." Sheridan hopes to also produce films and encourage young Irish directors. His next film, will be "a comedy set outside of Ireland."

Despite the plethora of Hollywood offers following My Left Foot, Sheridan chose to remain in Ireland, where he wrote and directed The Field (1990). Featuring a tour-de-force performance (Oscar nominated) by Richard Harris as a farmer who vigilantly defends his land from an American real estate developer, the film solidified Sheridan's reputation as an "actor's director". Sheridan has continued to work in Ireland, writing the screenplay for Mike Newell's Into the West (1992), a delicate yet rousing "fairy tale" about two gypsy children who go on the lam with a possibly mystical white horse.

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