Thaddeus O'Sullivan Interview

The Miracle Club arrives in Australian cinemas this week and I recently spoke with director Thaddeus O’Sullivan about the project…

Matt:  How did this project first come across your radar?

Thaddeus:  It was about 15 years ago.  HBO were involved at that point, and they asked me to direct it.  Subsequently, they had some legal issues with the material, and it didn’t work out.  I was approached again 3 years ago.  By that point, it had gone through quite a number of drafts.  Kathy Bates and Maggie Smith were still interested in the project and soon after that, we moved on to the next stage.

Matt:  It’s a great cast but in the lead role, you have three wonderfully accomplished actresses – Maggie Smith, Kathy Bates, and Laura Linney.  How were you able to land them for what is a relatively low budget film?

Thaddeus:  Kathy and Maggie were attached about 15 years ago and then Laura Linney came in when I was attached.  She really liked the character and wanted to worth with Maggie.

Matt:  The power of the film comes from those leading performances.  Was it all there on the page from the start or did the cast have a say in shaping the great dialogue between them?

Thaddeus:  Jimmy Smallhorne wrote the original script, and his dialogue was very Dublinese and of a certain period.  The cast were interested in moulding that the relationships and backstories developed with a particular focus on Laura Linney.  It’s her character who represents the issues that drive the film.

Laura did a lot of homework on this character and needed to know where she was with each “beat” of the story.  Maggie had a very instinctive understanding of the character and she’s played many Irish folk on stage.  Kathy had to do a lot of work with the accent.  We had conversations going back 2-3 years and she had a dialect coach helping.  She was so dedicated that it was staggering.  She loved the role and wanted to give it her all.

Matt:  Is that actually Kathy Bates signing during the first act?

Thaddeus:  Yeah, that’s Kathy singing.  They all were.

Matt:  Period piece films tend to throw up their own challenges and this one is set in 1967s Dublin and the Lourdes.  The style of the old-school bus is one thing I enjoyed seeing.  How easy was it re-creating that period?

Thaddeus:  It was the period in which I left Ireland and so it was clear to me and sort of frozen in time.  It’s a period I was very comfortable with.  I had a production and costume designer who felt the same way.  Up until that point, Ireland had been a very conservative society and in the 1960s, things began to change.  This “crossover” made it a good place to set the film – moving from one era to another.

Matt:  He’s one of our breakfast show hosts – Craig Zonca is a big fan of short, concise movies which don’t overstay their welcome and this one clocks in at the perfect 90 minutes.  How much does running time come into your thoughts when shooting and cutting it all together in the editing room?

Thaddeus:  It only comes in when I’m doing TV series.  With regards to feature film, it’s a relief not to think about it.  Sony bought the film for the U.S. and they thought it was a really good length for the story.  It was very lean.  For me, I wanted to tell the story and not get bogged down in background and backstory.  I wanted to suggest it but didn’t want it to overwhelm the film.  I just wanted it to inform the characters and their motivations.  We did have more backstory in earlier drafts but if I’d done that, it would have been a longer, different kind of film.

Matt:  What are you working on at the moment?  What might we see from you next?

Thaddeus:  I’m in Canada doing post-production on a TV series called Hidden Assets.  We shot it in Ireland and Belgium and it’s the second series.  It’s a police thriller and that’s what I’m doing now.