10 minutes with... director Jeremy Whelehan

10 minutes with... director Jeremy Whelehan

IRISH director Jeremy Whelehan brought his latest feature film starring Oscar-winner Kevin Spacey to cinemas across the UK for a special one night only screening earlier this month. NOW: in the Wings on a World Stage follows Spacey, Production Director Sam Mendes (American Beauty), and their theatre troupe as they deliver 200 performances of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy Richard III, across three continents. The documentary reveals some of the most intimate moments behind the scenes of the play that travelled between cities including London, Istanbul and Beijing, and is currently available to stream or download.

Jeremy, the film is about the journey of a theatre company, could you give us a summary of what audiences can expect?

It's a documentary feature film about live theatre and about becoming a part of a company. The film followed a production of Shakespeare's Richard III on a world tour, from London to Greece, Istanbul, Naples, San Francisco, Beijing, Sydney and closing with New York and Brooklyn.

Over the course of ten months these guys did 200 performances. The play stars Kevin Spacey who plays the title character, and the production was directed by Sam Mendes. They both collaborated on a film before called American Beauty and received Oscars for it.

The structure of the film has got two simultaneous timelines going. One is the night of the play from when the audience arrive to the curtain call, and the other is the first day of rehearsals right through to the end of the tour.

How did you become involved in the project, had you worked with Kevin Spacey before?

For me this project was born out of a whole lifetime and career, I worked for many years in Ireland in the film industry and then 10 or 12 years ago I came to London to work at a benefit with Kevin Spacey at the Old Vic Theatre [Spacey is the theatre’s artistic director].

Following that, I worked with him as an associate producer and directed a film called Beyond the Sea in 2004, and then I took this big left turn from my film career and began to work in the theatre at the Old Vic, which Kevin had just set up.

Shortly after that, in 2007/2008 I left the theatre and set up Treetops, my production company, so I'm working on film again. When Kevin told me he was doing this I told him I'd love to make a feature film about it.

So you travelled with the theatre company for the whole trip?

I produced and directed the film so I was there every step of the way, including sitting down and conducting interviews with the cast in the various parts of the world. I shot about 50-60% of the film.

You must have filmed a lot during this time, how did you manage to condense everything into a 90 minute documentary?

Absolutely, I mean we shot a lot. We toured 12 cities around the world. I was cutting as we went along, but the vast bulk of the edit took place last year.

Trying to tell the story of the 24/25 actors in the play and behind the scenes and the cities was definitely a challenge.

Is the film directed at Shakespeare fans?

That was a conscious thing when making this documentary. The thing about documentaries is that it can become very specialised. For me the most engaging and exciting documentaries are films that take you into a world that I know nothing about and show me a deeper understanding of it.

The idea is to make this film have a much broader appeal, for people that may never have even been into a theatre.

Tell me about your journey in becoming a director?

I grew up in Dublin and lived there all my life, went to school in the midlands down in Co Limerick and went to University College of Dublin where I studied Philosophy and then did a Masters in Film Studies.

After I graduated I began working on 35 little feature films, right in the 90s when Ireland was getting a huge amount of Hollywood money coming in.

Flowing out of that I came to Europe in the noughties and began working with people like Kevin, producing independent films, which then led to me working in the theatre as a director for a number of years. I've had a bizarre career.

You’ve been in London for 10 years, what is it about the city that has kept you here?

When I moved to London it was not one of those places where I had any ambition to live, I love travel and seeing the world, and there are certain countries in the world I really fell in love with but London wasn't one of them.

But opportunity took me here and work kept me here and slowly but surely I've fallen in love with the city. One thing I love about London is the whole world is here. You can walk down Oxford Street and see every race in the world.

Now I've got this great tribe of friends and family here, whilst I love to travel all over the world London is always going to be a hub for me. Dublin will always be home for me and between the two I will happily dance.