Byline: Godfrey Deeny
DUBLIN — Jim Sheridan, the Irish director and screenwriter known for his gritty films, such as “In the Name of the Father,” “The Field” and “My Left Foot,” has been working lately on a more ephemeral subject: fashion.
But it isn’t another “Ready to Wear.” Sheridan’s newest film, “Three Moons,” is a documentary about John Rocha, the Dublin-based designer who made his Paris runway debut in October.
“My concept was clothes as a statement, where they take on a meaning other than to just keep you warm,” says Sheridan. “Poor people only see the price tag.”
Sheridan’s impressive track record places him at the forefront of the current Irish film boom, which has seen the industry grow sixfold in two years to $150 million. His first movie, “My Left Foot” won Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress Oscars for Daniel Day-Lewis and Brenda Fricker. His next two, “The Field” and the controversial “In the Name of the Father,” picked up a total of eight nominations.
Sheridan’s films have all had Irish themes. His latest subject, Rocha — the son of a Chinese mother and Portuguese father — grew up in Hong Kong, but now lives and works in Ireland.
“Jim likes strong contrasts, like how someone like me, from a working class background in Hong Kong, ends up showing in the Louvre,” explains Rocha, who presents his fall-winter collection in Paris on Friday. Fittingly, it’s St. Patrick’s Day.
“The only problem with these sort of films,” notes Rocha, “is that normally they are made when you are about to die! Jim was great to work with, though I failed in one respect — I didn’t change his dress sense.” Rocha’s fashion is a mix of Celtic inspiration and funk, often employing local Irish fabrics like linen. “Three Moons” is named after his October collection.
For his next feature, Sheridan hopes to explore the far rougher terrain of boxing. He’s working on a script about Barry McGuigan, the former Irish world featherweight champion, who is also an old friend — Sheridan even sat in his corner at title fights.
These days, the Sheridans own a roomy red-brick home in Dublin, a country hideaway in the nearby Wicklow hills and a place in Nice, France.
“I write parts for myself, as if I were going to act them,” Sheridan says. “I don’t write with a particular actor in mind. But Daniel is always very close to what I had in mind. I think Daniel is a genius, because when he gets his adrenalin going, he’s totally in control. When he’s on, it’s like a Zen thing. He’s this great animal who he just made for the jungle of acting. He’s that good.”
Ever since Day-Lewis won his Oscar, Sheridan has been recognized for his ability to cull exceptional performances from his artists.
“Cinema is about making the invisible visible. And acting is a funny way of doing nothing,” he says. “Directing is the ability to make people trust you. Otherwise, they [the actors] become puppets.”