Pat O'Connor: 'Dancing at Lughnasa'
"Meryl was so professional, she didn't come over with any of that star stuff," said Pat O'Connor director of "Dancing at Lughnasa," in which Meryl Streep heads an ensemble cast of little-known actors.
Streep could have easily let her star power interfere with the filming of this small movie. But she didn't. At the start of filming, she was given a large Winnebago, while the rest of the cast was accorded "caravans" (Brit-talk for "mini-trailers'). According to Brid Brennan, who plays Streep's oldest sister in the movie: "Before the first week was over she had joined the rest of us in our little circle of caravans."
O'Connor says that the film's team spirit was one the elements that attracted Streep to the project in the first place. "Meryl was attracted to the role because she'd be part of an ensemble -- she wouldn't be carrying the movie," he explained, in a soothing brogue that felt like the next best thing to a visit to the Emerald Isle.
It's possible that Streep's approachability had something to do with O'Connor's directing style. He's had notable experience with ensemble casts -- his previous credits include "Circle of Friends" and "Inventing the Abbotts" -- and he runs a harmonious unit. "Pat is a very easy going director," said Brennan. "There's no tension. It filters down from Pat and it permeates everybody on the set."
The story of five colorful sisters on a farm in 1930s Ireland, Lughnasa was adapted from Brian Friel's Tony Award-winning play. But O'Connor refused to be fazed by the project's theatrical roots. "Directing is like writing or composing: It happens!" he said. "The source material, which in this case is marvelous, would not make me anxious. It's a good story to be told."
-- Sean Doorly