Eoin Macken is an actor’s director. This is clear from the
way he talks about the process, from casting to the collaboration of
improvisation on set, and perhaps it should come as no surprise. Macken is
himself an actor, and has worked with some great filmmakers throughout his
career so far. This gives him a perspective that is invaluable, an
understanding of each side of the process. Pair that with a dream cast, and you
have the boldly original coming-of-age film, Here Are the Young Men. Part juvenile
delinquency drama and part psychological thriller, it is a film that leaves an impression.
Sitting down to talk with Macken about the filmmaking process and his directorial
style, I found an undeniably passionate artist inside of an actor blessed with
Ryan Izay: So, Here Are the Young Men is adapted from
Rob Doyle’s novel. What was it that drew you to the source material?
Eoin Macken: You read certain books, and they have
some kind of grit in them, that kind of drives you along, and it felt visually very
cinematic to me. And Rob’s book kinda really goes into the headspace of these
characters and explores something I thought was really dark and unhinged and
interesting, and I kinda provocative and wanted to explore what those
characters went through. When I read his words, it kinda made me think of a lot
of music, which is what I tried to put in the film. So I just was like, I want
to make this; I think there could be something cinematically really interesting
about this. And I was trying to shoot Dublin in a different way, that wasn’t
like the usual coming-of-age story; a lot more pulp and grit to it.
Izay: I notice that you seem to favor thrillers and
psychological thrillers in your filmography. Is that genre that you gravitate
Macken: Yeah, I do. I do, I think. I like the
darkness in people. I guess, you know, there’s something interesting about it…
there’s not a huge amount of darkness in my own life, I think, and I find that
sometimes allows you to explore those themes in an interesting way. And I did a
psychology degree, so I was always interested in what makes people tick. Also,
it’s kind of fun, when you’re shooting that stuff. It’s kinda fun. Especially visually.
You can play around with stuff, and I’ve always been inspired by, visually, a
lot of color and so forth. So you can kinda do crazy things when you explore
that kind of movie.
Izay: In terms of visuals, do you have any filmmakers
or films you to for inspiration?
Macken: Yeah, anything by Oliver Stone or David
Lynch. Or Kieslowski. I love a lot of Kieslowski’s stuff, like A Short Film
About Killing. Have you seen A Short Film About Killing?
Izay: Oh, yeah! It’s a spectacular film.
Macken: It’s amazing! And it’s just shot so beautifully.
And it’s all so chaotic, and that’s what I love about that. Those sort of
movies, they have a mood to them, right? And visually… they have a kind of
angst in the visuals. I always find that fascinating.
Izay: When I was looking through your work, I noticed
this wasn’t the first time you have adapted. Is it true that Leopard was based
off of a passage from East of Eden?
Macken: Well, no. I didn’t adapt that. That’s- I
think someone wrote that once. That was just inspired by the idea… I loved Steinbeck at the time, and that was inspired
by the idea of writing something similar. I’d read that book at the time and
Tom Hopper asked me to write something, so we could make something. So, what I
liked about East of Eden was the character of Lenny and so forth. So I tried to
write something for Tom that gave him something interesting to explore, and
that story just evolved, happened.
Izay: Is writing your own screenplays for the films
you direct something you prefer, in terms of the creative process?
Macken: Yeah, it’s not something I want to do exclusively,
you know. I’m doing some things with some other people’s writing at the moment.
It’s just that sometimes it gives you a bit more freedom to explore characters.
And also it just kinda happens, because when you’re starting out trying to make
films… It’s hard to make films, and sometimes the best way to do that is to
write things, and then go from there.
Izay: Which would you say is more challenging, acting
Macken: They’re very different. I love acting. But I do also
find, acting’s very challenging and can be exhausting. It’s emotionally
exhausting, and directing’s not as emotionally exhausting on the day. But there’s
also, when you act at least you can go home and relax. When you’re directing a
project, it’s a constant 24/7 thing. And I kinda enjoy both, because they’re
both very different headspaces. So when I’m acting, I don’t think about
directing at all. But it also, I find for me, helps me then, to totally trust
who I’m working with, because I just trust them as a director. That’s how I
want to be. That’s how I want people to trust me. So I kinda find that freeing
in a way, to do that. And then when you’re directing something, it’s like a
total different creation of the story, and you’re responsible in a different
Izay: Are there any directors that you’ve worked with
as an actor that inspired you, either in a positive way… if it was negative, I
won’t ask for names.
Macken: No, no… There was two. One was Paul W.S.
Anderson, who I worked with on Resident Evil, and he came aboard as an executive
(producer) on this, and he helped me with some of the script. He directed an
awesome movie called Shopping (1994) earlier in his career, which I loved. And
I love Paul’s approach to filmmaking, because he really enjoys himself. And he
makes things he wants to make, and that’s also really important. And he’s very
definite about what he does, and he knows everything about cinema. And then Mike
Figgis, who I worked with, has a very different approach. And I just love Mike’s
approach to casting and working with actors. I remember one day working with
Mike on this movie called Suspension of Disbelief (2012). On the day, he goes “Okay,
so you’re going to do a monologue for this scene.” I was like, “What monologue?”
and goes “Oh, you’re gonna write it.” And he gave me like an hour to write the
monologue. This scene was already constructed but he wanted me to just do this piece.
And it was incredibly liberating, and it was also interesting, because the idea
for Mike is that once you know your character and what the context is, then you
should be able to say words in that character’s voice, because you’re in that
situation. And so that’s also quite interesting, because it forces you to consider
really understanding your character. So I found working with Mike that way was
Izay: You mentioned Shopping, so I have to make a
comparison, just in terms of your film. They are both films, I feel like, that
are coming-of-age, but also deal with delinquency, and maybe some issues of
masculinity in ways that are culturally relevant now. Was that something you
were aware of and wanting to address within your film?
Macken: Yeah, there were a lot of things I wanted to
address in the film, and I had a lot of fun with it. But yeah, I did… I found a
lot of those movies in the 90s were kinda what inspired me. Like stuff from Shopping
through to Natural Born Killers, through to Bronson, through to Trainspotting,
through to Requiem for a Dream… all that type of stuff. They were the kind of
movies that affected me from a visual point of view, and from a musical point
of view, and just what the characters went through. And I wanted to explore
that same feeling that I got from watching those movies, which made me uncomfortable,
and made me think about things, and made me question things… And also made me
not want to be a part of those character’s worlds, and be like “I don’t want to
do that. I don’t want to be that.” And I think that’s also important, to be
like “Okay, these are not places I want to go to in my life.” And so thematically,
I found that interesting. And also, there’s a lot of visceral, almost
foreboding tension and violence in those films, which is what I wanted to get
through this. I didn’t want this to be an easy film. It wasn’t deliberately
meant to be uncomfortable, but I didn’t want it to be an easy film to watch,
like here’s a nice coming-of-age film… It’s not that. You know, I wanted to
explore the morality of what happens when people are pushed to these places, what
forces people to be pushed to these places. Without it being too much of, “This
is what this is now.” There’s kind of different elements you can take from it,
Izay: You talk about the process of acting. What was
it like with your cast? Because you had an incredible cast… Was that a process,
or did it happen pretty organically?
Macken: It kinda happened organically. Again, I
mentioned Mike Figgis… I like to follow Mike Figgis’ etho, to an extent, which
is, you get a really good casting director on board. Daniel Hubbard was great and
we kinda just… I just like to meet people once, and have a chat, and you kinda
figure out who you want for the character, and how they understand it. And once
I met Dean and knew he was Matthew, that was kind of it, and you just build
around them. I wanted people who understood the characters and felt free to
explore, and to test themselves. Travis goes to crazy places, Finn does some
super-dark stuff, Anya is fantastic, Dean is great, Ferdia was brilliant. And I
wanted to get people to allow them to play. You know, they just create the world
and I just let them do their thing, kinda just guide them through some stuff.
If you get people who really understand their characters, and they’re just
really, really great, really talented, you kinda just let them play. You know?
Izay: You got a lot of these actors as their careers
are really starting to take off. Was that just happenstance, or was that intentional
when you were casting?
Macken: A bit of both. Just trying to find the right
people first and foremost. And trying to find the right people that would balance
each other. Because I think a lot of acting is about the chemistry between
people. Also, there’s no point casting anyone if they didn’t fit the character,
so for me they all fit, they all embody the characters perfectly. But yeah, I
mean there’s certain people you can just tell straight away are gonna do great.
So, Dean hadn’t done 1917 yet, but you knew Dean was going to be a rock star, because
he’s awesome. You just knew these things were gonna happen.
Izay: And was that Noomi Rapace that I saw in the
Macken: It was! It was Noomi Rapace.
Izay: Was that from working with her on Close?
Macken: Yeah, yeah. Well, she happened to be in the
UK at the time, when we just worked together in Close and we got on really well,
and we were writing together and kinda working on some stuff, so she wanted to
be a part of it. Yeah, I mean her character wasn’t really in the script. I mean
it kinda was there; it was a small thing. And I was like, “Do you wanna do
this?” and she was like “Yeah!” and we just kinda hung out and she wanted to be
a part of it. So it just became a fun little thing. I mean, she’s got the
weirdest part in the whole movie.
Izay: I mean, it’s I the fantasy sequence, so it worked.
You’ve also got Travis Fimmel a pretty bizarre role from what we’re used to seeing.
Macken: Yeah, again, that’s a very deliberately provocative
scene, which is also designed to take you out of the film in a way, and I think
that either connects or it doesn’t, but at the same time, I was having fun making
that piece of cinema. It’s just fascinatingly bizarre. And there’s a bunch of
different metaphors in it, and I was like “Let’s just explore this,” because it’s
not often you get to do that.
Izay: Were you always intending to cast yourself as
the American homeless man?
Macken: (laughs) Oh, you noticed that? I was the guy
that got beat up.
Izay: I did notice that.
Macken: No, that was just circumstance, where the guy
who was meant to do it got delayed in traffic. So, I was like, alright. I’m
gonna do this. (laughs and throws hands up)
Izay: It was a nice little cameo.
Macken: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Izay: I thought it was intentional, putting yourself
in that particular role.
Macken: Well, now that you say it, maybe subconsciously
it was. Maybe that’s what happened. Maybe I told that guy the wrong time… No.
Izay: The self-punishing artist.
Macken: (laughing) Yeah, exactly. The self-flagellating
artist. Good Lord.
Izay: So is there anything else you’re working on now
that you can tell us about?
Macken: Yeah, I’m currently writing a script called
Abeline, which is kind of my version of True Romance meets Badlands. That’s
hopefully what I’m going to make next year. And I’ve got a movie coming out
shortly called Till Death, which I did with the guys from Millenium and Megan Fox.
And then I just did a horror movie called The Cellar with Brendan Muldowney in
Ireland. Myself and Elisha Cuthbert… It was a pretty crazy horror film. So
yeah, there’s a few things going on. I’m trying to keep busy in this crazy
world we’re all living in at the moment!
HERE ARE THE YOUNG MEN was released on digital April 27 from
Well Go USA Entertainment and is available across all digital platforms.
HERE ARE THE YOUNG MEN, based on the acclaimed novel by Rob
Doyle, catalogs the last hurrah of three high school graduates intent on
celebrating their newfound freedom with an epic, debaucherous bender. However,
when a horrible accident sends them spiraling, the trio must grapple with the
most daunting challenge of their lives: facing their own inner demons.