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
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
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
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.