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Categories: Interviews

Marija Makeska talks with Sean Cronin, an actor known for playing baddies in such films as “The World is Not Enough” and “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” who is also the director of the upcoming drama “Give Them Wings”

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Actor, cinematographer and director Sean Cronin has been on the film scene since the early nineties, first coming to prominence with a variety of supporting roles in blockbuster films such as The Mummy and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, most of which had him playing some sort of villain. Since those roles Sean’s career has developed into an incredibly diverse one, with a variety of roles in front of and behind the camera.

His latest feature and his big-screen directorial debut, Give Them Wingsis the inspiring true story of wheelchair-bound Paul Hodgson, who as a child was left unable to speak or move after a bout of meningitis. Give Them Wings tells Paul’s heartwarming story that involves his estrangement with his father, care for his ailing mother, and love affair with Jane. It stars, among others, Mark Stobbart, Bill Fellows, Katie Sheridan and James Baxter. 

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Why drew you to the subject material of Give Them Wings?

What is amazing about Give Them Wings is that it is a true story about Paul Hodgson. He was a child of about 11 who was told he would never move or speak and he, against all odds, has won awards, made award-winning movies, written novels. He is just an incredible guy.

One of the first things he ever said to me was ‘I can’t move much, but I can hold a pint’. There is this wonderful scene in the film where he pulls this girl and he goes ‘I can make love to you but you are going to have to carry me up the stairs’. Paul is just a really funny guy, he’s been dealt a terrible hand of cards, yet he has got this amazing dark sense of humour, and that is what drew me to it.

It is a wonderful true story of someone that had a shit start in life and is just winning. And it is just amazing, people moan about their misfortune while this guy couldn’t even move and speak until he was about 20 years old, but he doesn’t care. Paul is just a funny guy having a great life and every day he wants to succeed. He is just an inspiration and that is why I said yes to directing it, because of him.

How long did it take you to jump into a preproduction phase?

We are still closing finance now; we are very close to closing it up. But preproduction has pretty much started. It is an easy film to pre-produce, it’s not a period drama, or like a vampire movie. It’s real life and a lot of it is set in the 80’s. So we set it up with a lot of clothing and cars from that area. But it always takes a long time to get finance. This one has been quite easy because it is a heartfelt movie, people care about Paul and they care about his story. Even though it has taken a long time, we are almost there. We will be in preproduction within the next couple of weeks. We will be shooting, hopefully, by the end of June.

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It might be early, but do you have any distribution plans?

We have had four or five offers so the distribution is not a problem. It will be a nationwide release, and it will be released globally across North America and most of Europe. It is not going to have a massive five-week run at the West End, but depending on the plan that will be attacked over the next few weeks, hopefully we get three or four quite big weekends. You have got to remember films like Untouchable, which is also about a disabled guy, cost 9,5 million euros to make, which is like 16 million dollars and it grossed 382 million dollars at the box office. So these kinds of films, if handled correctly, shot beautifully and directed with a conscience, it could make a lot of money. They are much easier to sell than, for example, gangster films that we have seen all before, because this is a real story about a real guy and people have more empathy with something like that.

In the movies you are the villain, but who are you in real life? 

I am not really a villain; I am just a pretend villain. I do not know why I always get cast as a villain, but I’ve never played anything else. Although, I am doing a film right now called The Other Side of Love, where I play a sympathetic father. It’s a romantic comedy, and it is my first rom-com coming up. But I like being a villain, it’s fun. I’ve been a villain in some of the biggest films in the world – James Bond, Mission: Impossible, Harry Potter – lot’s of the quite big ones. Everyone loves a villain but unfortunately I die in every film I’ve ever been in! I’ve never, ever lived to the end of the film, ever, I always get killed! 

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What is it that you love the most about directing?

Hanging around on set waiting to be killed is fun, but directing, turning my vision into a reality, controlling the entire thing and making that vision real is a higher calling than just paying super-villains all the time. I’m not saying acting’s not fun – just hanging around in a Winnebago eating fillet steak is great – but I like directing. It’s a much harder job, and it’s much more fulfilling than playing villains. 

How difficult (or easy) is it for you and the casting director to find what you are looking for in a role?

I always cast my own actors; I have casting directors helping me but I always have the final say. If you look at the period drama I’m doing, the Admiral looks like the Admiral, the Captain looks like the Captain, etcetera. Casting is so important, you can’t just put anyone in and expect them to play the role, unless they’re very versatile. The Admiral I cast in Iron Gate has got these wonderful aquiline features, he is really distinguished, he just looks the part. And for Give Them Wings we’ve cast a guy, who not only looks quite like Paul, but he also really got into the role of how disability affects you and how being in a wheelchair and being paralyzed from waist up, is like. He managed to capture that. It’s all about casting, you’ve got to get it right. 

How easy or difficult was to finance this film? Tell us about some good and bad experiences.

It was very difficult to finance it. Every film is hard to finance. Unless you have an exit strategy, unless you have a plan of attack, it is very unlikely you are going to get proper theatrical release distribution. So one of the biggest problems with any film, once you’ve done it, is that you can’t get distribution. Little low-budget gangster films are never really going to see the light of day, they might get three or four showings and literally end up on the supermarket shelves for a few weeks and they’re gone. So it’s very important that you have A-list talent, so you’re guaranteed proper global distribution. We’re very lucky with Give Them Wings; it’s a charity film about hearts and mind. We have got some fairly big actors attached. So yeah, it’s hard to get distribution but it’s easier than most because of the fact that it’s a true story about someone disabled and people care about it.

What is your personal greeting to the readers of “The Spread”?

 Thanks for reading, and I would love you to follow me on twitter: @SeanPCronin.

Marija Makeska is a writer, poet, filmmaker and a visual artist living in Detroit, USA. She enjoys spending her time with people from different cultures while working on various projects with pagan, or gothic themes.

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Posted on Jun 1, 2015

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