Monday, November 29, 1999

Martin Duffy's Trilogy

In Ireland, it sometimes seems, there is really only one type of director, the auteur, a filmmaker whose every move is regarded as part of a grander artistic statement that can only be written through pain and fidelity to a personal vision and long periods of inactivity.

There really is no option for a features director working in Ireland to exist in any other fashion. Which is why Martin Duffy has just spent some time in American.

"I just didn't want to get into that cycle that many Irish directors seem to enter. You make a film and its well received, but then you spend years and years trying to get the funding for your next film. So I decided a keep working instead," says the director.

Duffy, a former film editor and children's novelist, has opted instead to take the route of director for hire. Plenty of offers came in following his charming first feature, The Boy from Mercury, so the director simply accepted some.

"I think people when people wonder what you've been doing, they can respect that just in terms of the human commitment needed to embark on making a film," says Duffy.

The first project he embarked on is The Bumblebee Flies Anyway (showing at the Junior Dublin Film Festival) a children's film based on a novel by Robert Cormier. It stars a pair of hot Hollywood teenage properties: Elijah Wood, who first cropped up in the title role of Witness with Harrison Ford, and who has lately grown up fast in The Ice Storm; and Rachel Leigh Cook, who featured in the summer teen flick, She's All That.

It should perhaps not come as a surprise that Duffy, whose work has explored the world of young people, does not generally have much time for the machinery of building a Hollywood career.

"The American tend career paths rather than simply be actors. They don't just read a script a say 'that seems like an interesting role'. Everything has to fit into a plan for the way their career should be moving," he says.

After his lucrative spell as a "director for hire" Duffy feels he has the space to change tack again. He will make another film in Wales, starring Jonathan Price, but then it is back onto his own projects, even if he still sees the attraction of being a director in the American style. "I actually turned down another American film just this week. I had to sit down and have a cup of tea after that. I had to remind myself that even if nothing got moving, I wouldn't be on the side of the road for another eight months..."

His plan now is to begin work on a project that fans of George Lucas' Star Wars may just think they've heard somewhere before. "Yeah, this is going to sound very familiar," says the director rubbing the stubble on his chin, "but I want to make a trilogy of science fiction movies."

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