MAGNOLIA PICTURES, ELEMENT PICTURES / RUNAWAY FRIDGE FILMS PRODUCTION FOR FILM4 BFI PROTAGONIST PICTURES IN ASSOCIATION WITH BORD SCANNÁN NA HÉIREANN/IRISH FILM BOARD
A MAGNOLIA PICTURES RELEASE FRANK
A film by Lenny Abrahamson
94 minutes; 2.35 scope
2014 Sundance Film Festival
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Acclaimed Irish director Lenny Abrahamson follows up his award-winning films Adam & Paul, Garage, and What Richard Did with an offbeat comedy about a young wannabe musician, Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), who finds himself out of his depth when he joins an avant-garde pop band led by the mysterious and enigmatic Frank (Michael Fassbender), a musical genius who hides himself inside a large fake head, and his terrifying bandmate Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal).
Written by Jon Ronson (The Men Who Stare At Goats) and Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Men Who Stare At Goats), FRANK is based on the memoir by Jon Ronson. It is a fictional story loosely inspired by Frank Sidebottom, the persona of cult musician and comedy legend Chris Sievey, as well as other outsider musicians like Daniel Johnston and Captain Beefheart.
ABOUT THE FILM
In the world of alternative music, The Soronprfbs are the ne plus ultra of outsiders. A brilliant, ramshackle, barely functioning band, they are built around the eponymous Frank (Michael Fassbender), an unstable yet charismatic musical savant, who at all times wears a large, round fake head with crudely painted-on features - like Daniel Johnston hidden behind a cartoon smile. His closest musical collaborator is the forbidding Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal); part caretaker, part jailer, Clara is the antithesis of all things mainstream. The band is completed by Nana (Carla Azar), a Moe Tucker-like drummer, and Baraque (Francois Civil), a beautiful Frenchman who plays bass.
Into this mix comes replacement keyboard player, Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), after the band’s original keyboardist is hospitalized following an attempt at drowning himself. In his head, Jon's is a true creative, a maverick musical force; in reality he's a very ordinary young man trying to escape his hum-drum, small-town life. For Jon, this is the break he’s been waiting for, his chance to climb through the looking glass and into the world of artistic collaboration, real music-making, and rock 'n' roll adventure that he’s always dreamed of. But he discovers (and perhaps has always suspected) that he lacks the one thing he needs to make his dream come true – genuine talent.
Desperate to belong, but hopelessly out of his depth, Jon becomes more and more infatuated with the enigmatic and talented Frank: if only he could understand him, what makes him tick, how he goes to those furthest, creative corners; if only he could ‘get inside that head inside that head’.
From a lakeside cabin, where the band spend 18 months - and all of Jon's savings - recording their new album, to the stages of South by Southwest after the band becomes a viral internet sensation, FRANK tells the story of Jon’s struggle with Clara for control of Frank, his rise to power within the band, and how, ultimately, he comes close to destroying the thing he’s come to love.
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
Acclaimed Irish director Lenny Abrahamson follows up his award-winning films Adam & Paul, Garage, and What Richard Did with an offbeat comedy about a young wannabe musician, Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), who discovers he's bitten off more than he can chew when he joins an eccentric pop band led by the mysterious and enigmatic Frank (Michael Fassbender). Frank is a musical genius who hides himself inside a large fake head, and is always accompanied by his closest collaborator and fellow bandmate, the terrifying Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal).
Written by Jon Ronson (The Men Who Stare At Goats) and Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Men Who Stare At Goats), FRANK is a fictional story loosely inspired by Frank Sidebottom, the persona of cult musician and comedy legend Chris Sievey, as well as other outsider musicians like Daniel Johnston and Captain Beefheart. The idea sprung from a memoir by Ronson, who was himself the keyboard player in Sidebottom’s band.
Ronson teamed up with his The Men Who Stare At Goats co-writer Peter Straughan and wrote a screenplay about an aspiring musician who gets caught up in the world of an oddball band fronted by an unconventional genius who hides behind an enormous fiberglass head.
The project was brought to Tessa Ross and Katherine Butler at Film4 by producers David Barron and Stevie Lee. They then brought on board director Lenny Abrahamson and his long-time producer Ed Guiney. Abrahamson worked closely with Ronson and Straughan, developing and honing the script.
Abrahamson has a track record in films about oddball characters who have the uncanny ability to engage audiences, so it was no surprise that he would be drawn to the character of Frank. But he was also very taken by the Jon character, through whose eyes the story is told.
“We laugh at Jon because he clings to an idea of himself which is so ridiculously at odds with the person we see in front of us,” says Abrahamson. “But we also recognize ourselves in him; wanting to have, maybe kidding ourselves we really do have, capacities and talents we deep down know we lack. Most of us are smart enough to avoid situations where we might have to put our fantasies to the test, but the film takes Jon on a journey where he has to do just that.”
“It’s a hard film to categorize,” continues the director. “It’s very playful in tone and has some sequences of out and out, broad slapstick. But it has subtle, darker, more moving aspects as well. Frank is both a real, complex person and a kind of cartoon character. The head, with its fixed expression becomes a sort of blank canvas on which Jon can project his clichéd ideas of what creativity is all about. Jon, himself starts as the butt of the joke but evolves into something much more than that. So tonally the film is pretty rich – funny, tender, broad in parts, quiet and moving in others.”
Producer Ed Guiney concurs: “One of the things that is really striking about the film is the way it seamlessly combines various different types of comedy. Lenny has a great facility for using humor to get to the core of the characters, and can do so in a wonderfully entertaining and often very affecting way. You can see his love of pure, old-fashioned slapstick in some of the scenes, which hark back to old-fashioned comedies. The film also has some wonderful, delicate character comedy as well as being very poignant and emotionally resonant.”
“Frank is someone who wants to hide away from the world” continues Guiney, “and the film is about how he moves away from his trusted allies and collaborators and takes a step onto a bigger stage, and what happens when he does that. The head is a barrier but it’s also a comfort and protection to him.”
After reluctantly accepting that there may be limits to his natural creativity, Jon appoints himself the band’s Svengali, hoping to give them the recognition he thinks they deserve. Jon initially believes either Clara, or else the band’s chaotic disorganization is holding the them back, but he discovers that there are other, more poignant reasons for their inability to achieve mainstream exposure.
“Jon disturbs the band’s perfect equilibrium,” explains Guiney. “He’s got more worldly ambitions - he wants to be a rock star. That desire rubs up against a group of artists who are happy making music for its own sake, so there are two opposing creative drives.”
Although the central character of Frank owes much to Sievey’s alter ego, the fact that Ronson and Straughan opted out of the standard biopic and instead took a big imaginative leap made the story a more appealing prospect to Abrahamson.
“This freed us up to imagine our own Frank who draws on aspects of some of the great outsider musicians – Beefheart, Daniel Johnston, Harry Partch – while at the same time staying true to Chris Sievey’s freewheeling creative spirit. The Frank of the film is an American musician, genuinely gifted, who for his own deep reasons, can’t live outside this disguise, this mask,” explains Abrahamson.
The fact that Frank remains very hard to pin down is part of the fun of the film, according to Abrahamson. “You have this shifting, hard to determine central presence. A lot of Jon’s time is spent wanting to penetrate the mask and to find the source of Frank’s musicality and to find out who the guy is. The audience is in the same position. Frank is mercurial and has massive mood swings; he can be genuinely crazy and at other times quite sweet.
Naturally enough, given the big fake head, we started to think about actors with a strong physical presence, and Michael Fassbender was top of the list. We were excited not just by Michael’s powerful physicality as an actor but also by the prospect of taking a face that everyone wants to photograph and hiding it. It’s a testament to Michael’s spirit of adventure as an actor that it appealed to him to do it and in the end he delivered a performance so nuanced and funny and physically impressive.”
When speaking to what first drew him to the film, Fassbender cited the writing: “It was the script,” he says. “It was so funny, I was laughing out loud. I didn’t know where it was going to go from scene to scene, it had me intrigued. It was a very original piece with moments of real poignancy within the comedy. It’s my kind of humor, it’s silly and fun with physical comedy and I really wanted to do a comedy and this fit the bill.”
He also had great admiration for Abrahamson. “I loved Garage and What Richard Did,” says the actor. “There’s a real sensitivity to the work. Lenny’s very precise, he does his homework and he knows how he wants to shoot, but he’s very open to ideas so we kept the looseness and put new things in on the day.”
The actor describes Frank as a “very pure person and quite fragile because of it. He doesn’t have the skillset to negotiate people and society, he suffers from anxiety and a mental illness but he’s a wonderful musician and that’s how he expresses himself. He’s a kind of weird James Brown, he’s the creative spark and various members of the group baby-sit him as he’s quite childlike. He and Clara, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, are quite co-dependent - she’s his nurse and he becomes a patient.”
That relationship is given a jolt with the arrival of Jon, says Fassbender. “Jon finds Frank really intriguing and mysterious and in a way so free. Jon is so lost in trying to find who he is as a musician and he sees an experimental and free performer in Frank and he looks up to him. In a way Jon wants to own Frank and that becomes a battle with Clara.”
Playing Jon is rising Irish star Domhnall Gleeson, who was attracted by the chance to flex his acting muscles on a character that transforms over the course of the story. “Jon is not necessarily ambitious, but he becomes ambitious and becomes willing to crawl over people and does some terrible things to get what he wants because he wants to be famous. He suddenly realizes that he could be cool, so he goes for it.”
“When Jon joins the band, he’s ineffectual and polite and very English which is completely at odds with the rest of the band who argue and bitch and fight with each other, but are still a very cohesive unit which produces really good music. He brings in this different dynamic and he sets off a chain of events which is really unhealthy for the band.”
Already a fan of Jon Ronson, Gleeson found the screenplay laugh-out-loud funny. “I thought it was really hilarious, “he says. “The dialogue was really well constructed, but what really made me laugh was the physical humor which was not only funny to read, but much funnier to imagine, and I really wanted to take on that side and see how funny we could make it. I also loved working with all the actors as everyone had a different way of working and a different vibe. I enjoyed not knowing what would happen on a daily basis!”
Working with Abrahamson also brought unique rewards. “I worked really closely with Lenny on the character before we started filming and I really enjoyed being directed by him,” says Gleeson “He’s very clever and he brought a lot of heart to the film and that’s a really good combination. He’s very specific but he’s open to suggestion.”
Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Jon’s nemesis, Clara. The character of Clara presented the actress with some intriguing challenges. “When I first read the script I thought Clara was tough and harsh,” says Gyllenhaal. “People are usually like that because they are unhappy, but her situation is made more difficult because she’s trying to make a connection with someone who always wears a plastic head. So she’s disappointed and she’s leading a sad life, but she’s in an amazing group and I think she gets off on playing in this wild band.”
“For me, FRANK is a film about connections and what it means to connect,” continues the actress. “When you’re around someone wearing a giant head it makes you question what it means to connect, how important and how terrifying it is, and about the part making art plays in that. Jon just wants to play music that a lot of people will relate to and that’s not in the band’s nature. Clara, in particular, knows how much you have to sacrifice to do that. There’s a different kind of connection made by making something that’s so specific and particular that maybe only a few people connect to it.”
“Clara is Jon’s antagonist “explains Gyllenhaal. “She’s fighting Jon and his desire to get a lot of people to like the music. She thinks, not only is that unimportant but it’s dangerous. She has Frank’s best interests at heart and she loves him and has based her whole identity around him, but she’s often very disappointed, although she doesn’t ever let that show. She’d rather die than show vulnerability but it always leaks out, and that’s interesting to watch.”
Acting alongside a character who is always hidden inside a giant head gave an extra dimension to the concept of connection. “The only way to do it was to believe that there was nothing unusual about it and that it was his real head,” she explains. “It made it almost impossible to connect with Frank the character because he was literally unreachable in the giant head; it made the character very internal.”
Working with Lenny Abrahamson afforded Gyllenhaal the chance for some genuine creative collaboration. “So much of the movie is imaginative and the script was very open,” says Gyllenhaal. “I had to come up with a lot of it myself as Clara doesn’t have much dialogue and Lenny was very interested and open to the way I wanted to play her and the stuff I’d come up with during the shoot. It takes someone with real confidence in their own ability as a director to let other people’s ideas in.”
When it came to creating the head that Frank hides behind, the filmmakers had to combine an arresting look with practicality, as Fassbender would be filmed in it for almost the entire shoot. “We discussed every kind of head that he might wear,” remembers Abrahamson, “but came back to the round cartoon head which positions the character between real and unreal. It’s so interesting that, while the ‘face’ never changes, somehow it seems to take on the emotions held in the scene. This has a lot to do with how Michael subtly emphasizes his movements so you can tune into what’s happening for the character, but it’s also just the way film works. Show a warm fuzzy image then cut to a close up of a face and the face seems to express one thing, show something scary or disturbing and cut to the same close up and the face says something very different. “
“The fact that I could wear a fake head through the whole thing had an allure,” says Fassbender. “The head is a bit weird to begin with as you can’t see much - it’s got a very restrictive vision - but it ended up being great fun! It’s liberating and gives you a sense of power. It makes you feel vulnerable but there’s a power and strength to it.”
“The possibility of mischief in being behind a mask is very great, “laughs the actor. “I looked at some of the Commedia dell’Arte which I remembered doing at drama school, and it gives you a sense of freedom. I liked the idea that the lead character of a film be behind a mask just the idea of why someone would want to be behind a mask for 15 years is interesting. It also meant I didn’t have to turn up for work until 5 minutes before filming – no hair and make-up, stick the head on and stroll into work!”
Joking aside, the head meant that Fassbender had to rethink his approach to acting. “There are no facial expressions so I found small movements more effective,“ he explains. “His movements are restricted, he’s quite retiring and socially inept but when he performs his alter-ego comes out and he becomes dangerous and confident. I liked playing with the masculine and feminine sides of his character in different scenes. But for the most part there’s a strangeness in his skin and we played around with that.”
Fassbender soon inhabited the head so completely that it became a part of the actor. Says Gleeson: “In some scenes it was just like being opposite Michael not wearing a giant head but in others, you didn’t know what he was thinking and that was important. It was a very weird experience, but brilliant and really funny. For all we know he could have just been rolling his eyes under the head during every take!”
Of course, what makes FRANK so unique is the integral part that music plays in the film - it’s almost another character. Abrahamson and his collaborators spent a long time deliberating over the kind of music they wanted to create. It was partly to situate the band, whose name ‘The Soronprfbs’ is deliberately unpronounceable, thus making for a wry running gag, within a very particular musical space that is neither too avant-garde nor too mainstream.
“You have to feel that the band are outside the mainstream, “says Abrahamson, “but there has to be something about them that draws Jon and the audience to them so they can’t be uber experimental. We tried to create music that was eclectic and constantly changing; it’s melodic but it doesn’t have a beginning and a middle - it just goes off so you keep hearing things that make you think if they just toned it down it could work really well. It’s strange but accessible. You can’t say what genre they are; they are an experimental pop band.”
Abrahamson and his musical collaborator Stephen Rennicks, who has worked on all the director’s films, initially approached a few well-known bands with a mind to adapt their music for the film. But in the end Rennicks, inspired by a whole raft of musical influences came up with a soundtrack of original songs that were then rehearsed by the actors before and during the shoot.
Fassbender, Gyllenhaal and Gleeson are joined by American musician Carla Azar (drummer with Jack White’s band and drummer/singer for Autolux) on drums, and French actor/musician Francois Civil on bass. “Carla is a superb musician and although she hadn’t acted before she’s an amazing physical and psychological presence, and anchored the band; and Francois is a great actor and also an amazing musician, so he was a no brainer,” says Abrahamson. “Their presence means that the rhythm section of the band is exceptional and that allowed the other actors, who are all very musical, to slot into something quite solid; the life that’s in the music and the ability to record the band live was down to them.”
All the band’s music we hear in the film was recorded live. It was a bold and risky strategy but essential to preserve the film‘s integrity. “Recording the music live was important so the audience believe they are watching and hearing a real band,” explains Abrahamson. “If you are doing it live you can also integrate the music and drama. To me this was vital – if we were tied to playback then there would be no freedom to improvise and play on the day. We had a mobile recording studio and Stephen worked with us on set so we could be flexible and change things. It was hard but they turned out to be a really good band!”
“We could never take films seriously when the actors weren’t really playing the music so we always said that this band is going to really have to play,” says Rennicks. “It had a huge effect on casting but Lenny is rigorous in trying to get to the truth in this world that he’s revealing, and the music is a huge part of that.”
“The tracks we composed all had to feel real, as if the band had created them,” continues the composer. “They also had to be weird and not commercial; they had to have something beautiful, but it had to be a bit inaccessible. So the music is melodic and harmonic, but just kind of wrong - almost childlike, a weird mash up of stuff. The band in the film are all co-dependent. This was a little travelling family who happened to be a band, but it was never about being successful.”
Abrahamson and Rennicks were both pleasantly surprised by their cast’s musical abilities. Both Gleeson and Gyllenhaal proved to be accomplished singers while Fassbender was so keen that he had to be cajoled into not singing as much as he wanted. “When they came together there was a real chemistry in the room,” recalls Rennicks.
A short rehearsal period before filming began allowed the actors to become comfortable playing with each other. Says Guiney “By the time we started filming it feel like the band really existed.”
Real-life musician Carla Azar playing drummer Nana found the band came together organically during the rehearsals. “I was worried it would feel awkward and forced but this particular group came together and it feels completely natural; that's Lenny's doing as he brought everyone together. We became a band during the music rehearsals. It feels as natural as my own band.”
Azar was also impressed with her band mates’ talents. “Francois is an incredible musician,” she enthuses “and Michael is just oozing with charisma no matter what he does, and for someone who fronts a band that is the main quality, and Maggie is great - it didn't feel phony for me at all.”
All the actors were also enthusiastic about the music they played; “The music is really entertaining, but it’s always odd,” says Gleeson. “Stephen has done a really great job with it. It’s always joyous and melodic but strange. We did two weeks rehearsal to have time to feel we were in a band and the first time we were all on stage together it was brilliant and felt odd and dangerous and I really enjoyed it. The keyboard is quite difficult and you have to just go with it, you can’t stop and say I’ve got something wrong. I learned it to a level that I can play the songs from the film but nothing else. Everything came from Steve, it’s his music and he created a structure; we were allowed to play within that. For Jon’s terrible songs I suggested I write them - then they would be bad, as I’m terrible at music so we did that and I would write something and Steve would say…‘That’s too awful.’”
“I really like their music, which is down to Stephen Rennicks and Lenny, who has been writing a lot of the lyrics,” says Fassbender. “They’ve created some off beat and quirky sounds with some moments of beauty and real honesty. We’re hoping to go on the road! We were joking it would be fun to play a few gigs!”
Carla Azar adds “I was really surprised - the music was really good. Stephen gave us the music template and then said play what you want, but I never wanted to change anything as it was so great.”
Maggie Gyllenhaal learned to play the synthesizer and theremin for her role. “It doesn’t come naturally to me at all. The theremin is really hard to play - it’s really like playing air and you’re changing pitch with your right hand and volume with your left but there’s no point of reference; you literally are just playing the air. I got really interested in it. Some of the sounds I got out of it were really beautiful but it was mostly luck. I could see myself continuing to play that. I loved the instruments Clara plays, they are so awesome.”
ABOUT THE CAST
MICHAEL FASSBENDER - FRANK
Born in Germany, and raised in Killarney, Ireland, MICHAEL FASSBENDER is a graduate of London’s prestigious Drama Centre. His breakthrough role came when he was cast in the epic Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks production, Band of Brothers. His big screen debut came with Zack Snyder’s hugely successful 300.
Fassbender’s performance as Bobby Sands in Steve McQueen’s Hunger won large critical acclaim and, following the film’s Camera D’Or winning premiere at Cannes in 2008, Fassbender scooped up numerous international festival awards including the British Independent Film Award (BIFA) and Irish Film & Television Award (IFTA) for Best Actor; a London Film Critics Circle Award; and Best Actor honors from the 2008 Stockholm and Chicago International Film Festivals. He was honored at the latter festival the following year as Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank. The portrayal brought him BIFA and IFTA nominations as well as his second London Film Critics Award. He was also an IFTA nominee for his performance in Marc Munden’s miniseries The Devil’s Whore. He went onto work with Quentin Tarantino in Inglourious Basterds opposite Brad Pitt and Diane Kruger. Other credits include Francois Ozon’s Angel, Joel Schumacher’s Town Creek, James Watkin’s Eden Lake, Neil Marshall’s Centurion, and Jimmy Hayward’s Jonah Hex.
In 2011, Fassbender was seen as the young Magneto opposite James McAvoy’s Professor X in Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men First Class, a role he recently reprised in Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past which is now the highest-grossing film in the X-Men franchise. He was also seen as Carl Jung opposite Viggo Mortensen’s Sigmund Freud in David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method and as Edward Rochester opposite Mia Wasikowska in Cary Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre. He also reteamed with Hunger director Steve McQueen to play a sex addict in Shame, which won him the Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the 2011 Venice Film Festival, the Irish Film & Television Award for Best Actor, a BAFTA nomination for Best Actor as well as a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor. He was also the recipient of numerous international awards and nominations in recognition of his performances in more than one film to include the Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Actor for Jane Eyre and Shame, the London Critics Circle Film Award for Best Actor for Shame and A Dangerous Method, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor for X-Men First Class, Jane Eyre, A Dangerous Method, and Shame, and the National Board of Review’s Spotlight Award for A Dangerous Method, X-Men First Class, Jane Eyre and Shame. He also took the Empire Hero Award at the Empire Awards.
In 2012, Fassbender was seen as the android David in Ridley Scott’s science fiction epic Prometheus. He also starred in several movies including the Untitled Terrence Malick Project, a story about two intersecting love triangles set against Austin's colorful music scene due for release in 2014. Fassbender also reteamed once again with both Steve McQueen and Ridley Scott. In Scott’s The Counselor, written by Cormac McCarthy, Fassbender plays a lawyer, opposite Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz, who finds himself over his head having got embroiled in drug trafficking.
In McQueen’s critically acclaimed Twelve Years a Slave, based on the incredible true story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York who is abducted and sold into slavery, and his subsequent fight for survival and freedom, Fassbender plays Edwin Epps, a malevolent slave owner. Epps prides himself on being a "slave breaker" and is tested by the resilience and intellect of Northup. Twelve Years a Slave was nominated for nine Academy Award nominations including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Fassbender.
DOMHNALL GLEESON – JON
Domhnall Gleeson was chosen as one of Variety’s 10 Actors to Watch and received an Acting Award as part of the Hamptons International Film Festival Breakthrough Performers Program at the 20th Annual Festival in October 2012. Domhnall recently wrapped production on Unbroken directed by Angelina Jolie and he most recently completed filming Ex Machina, directed by Alex Garland, in which he plays the lead role of Caleb. The film also stars Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander. He is currently filming the highly anticipated Star Wars: Episode VII, directed by J. J. Abrams opposite Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Adam Driver, and Mark Hamill.
Other recent projects include John Michael McDonagh’s Calvary, Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror: Be Right Back for Channel 4, About Time directed by Richard Curtis for Working Title, and Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina alongside Keira Knightley, Jude Law, and Alicia Vikander
Other projects include the critically-acclaimed Sensation, directed by Tom Hall, Dredd directed by Pete Travis, Shadow Dancer, directed by James Marsh, the Coen brothers’ True Grit (opposite Jeff Bridges and Josh Brolin), Mark Romanek’s Never Let Me Go (alongside Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield), Ian Fitzgibbon's Perrier’s Bounty and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Parts I & II, directed by David Yates. His other film work includes A Dog Year for HBO films opposite Jeff Bridges, Studs, Boy Eats Girl, and the Oscar-winning short, Six Shooter.
Theatre work includes Macbeth, directed by Selina Cartmell, Great Expectations directed by Alan Stanford, Chimps directed by Wilson Milam, Well of the Saints directed by Garry Hynes, She Stoops to Conquer directed by Patrick Mason at The Abbey Theatre, and The Gate Theatre’s production of American Buffalo directed by Mark Brokaw.
TV credits include: Your Bad Self directed by John Butler (Domhnall was also part of the writing team) and The Last Furlong, directed by Kieran Carney.
In 2006 Domhnall was nominated for a Tony Award in the category of Best Featured Actor, for the Broadway production of Lieutenant of Inishmore, directed by Wilson Milam. Other awards for the same role include a Lucille Lortel Nomination for Outstanding Featured Actor and a Drama League Citation - Excellence in Performance. Domhnall won an Irish Film and Television Academy Award for his performance in Nicholas Renton’s When Harvey Met Bob, in which he starred as Sir Bob Geldof opposite Ian Hart as Harvey Goldsmith. He was also named as a Shooting Star at the 2011 Berlin International Film Festival.
Domhnall is also a writer/director whose short film Noreen was featured at the 2011 Tribeca, Boston, San Francisco, and Newport Beach film festivals. Domhnall’s father, Brendan Gleeson, and brother, Brian Gleeson, also star in the film.
MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL – CLARA
Maggie Gyllenhaal is one of the great young actresses of today. She gained critical acclaim and an Oscar nomination for "Best Supporting Actress" for her portrayal of Jean Craddock in Crazy Heart alongside Jeff Bridges, further exemplifying her talent and versatility as an actress. After receiving rave reviews out of the 2002 Sundance competition for her starring role opposite James Spader in Lion’s Gate’s Secretary, she went on to receive a Golden Globe nomination for “Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical”, an Independent Spirit Award nomination for “Best Actress”, a Chicago Film Critics’ Award for “Most Promising Performer”, A Boston Film Critics’ Award for “Best Actress”, a National Board of Review Award for “Breakthrough Performance” and an IFP/ Gotham “Breakthrough Performance” Award.
Maggie made her feature film debut in 1992, alongside Jeremy Irons and Ethan Hawke in Waterland. This was followed by a memorable performance as “Raven”, the Satan-worshipping make-up artist in John Waters’ quirky Hollywood satire, Cecil B. Demented, which led her to a co-starring role in Donnie Darko, a fantasy-thriller about disturbed adolescence.
Years later, back at Sundance in 2007, Maggie starred in Sherrybaby; she played a female convict struggling to overcome her drug addiction and regain custody of her daughter. The film was well-received by critics and garnered her second Golden Globe nomination, this time for Best Actress in a Motion Picture-Drama. Gyllenhaal was also nominated for a 2006 Independent Spirit Award for her role in Don Roos’ Happy Endings, opposite Lisa Kudrow and Tom Arnold.
She was Rachel Dawes in the Warner Bros. box office hit Dark Knight directed by Chris Nolan. She was also seen in Sam Mendes’s Away We Go.
In August 2006, Maggie was seen in Trust the Man with Julianne Moore, Billy Crudup and David Duchovny and in Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center with Maria Bello and Nicholas Cage. She also starred in Marc Forster’s Stranger Than Fiction with Will Ferrell, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah and Emma Thompson.
In the past few years, she appeared in John Sayles’ Casa De Los Babys with Daryl Hannah and Lily Taylor and Mike Newell’s much-anticipated Mona Lisa Smile in which Maggie co-starred with Julia Roberts, Julia Stiles and Kirsten Dunst. She was also seen in Criminal with Diego Luna and John C. Reilly as well as Spike Jonze’s Adaptation.
Also accomplished on stage, Gyllenhaal starred as “Alice” in Patrick Mauber’s award-winning Closer at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles for director Robert Egan, and previously at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. She has also appeared in Anthony and Cleopatra at the Vanborough Theatre in London. In 2004, Maggie starred in Tony Kushner’s play Homebody/Kabul, which ran in both Los Angeles and at B.A.M. Next, Maggie will be seen alongside Peter Sarsgaard and Mamie Gummer in Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov.
In August 2010, Maggie was seen in Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang with Emma Thompson. In 2011, Maggie appeared in the Anton Chekhov play Three Sisters alongside Peter Sarsgaard, Jessica Hecht and Josh Hamilton and also starred alongside Hugh Dancy in the romantic comedy, Hysteria. In 2012, Maggie starred in the drama, Won’t Back Down alongside Viola Davis and directed by Daniel Barnz.
Maggie was most recently seen in White House Down, directed by Roland Emmerich in which she starred alongside Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx.
Maggie recently wrapped filming the BBC/Sundance original series The Honourable Woman in the U.K. This series is set to make its British debut in May 2014 and in July 2014 in the United States.
SCOOT MCNAIRY - DON
Scoot McNairy is an award winning actor and producer. Most recently he starred in Ben Affleck’s Argo, which won the Oscar for Best Picture of 2013 and won McNairy a SAG award which he shared with the cast that includes Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, and John Goodman. He will next be seen in The Rover opposite Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson and he is currently starring in the highly anticipated AMC series Halt and Catch Fire opposite Lee Pace.
McNairy was recently seen in the action film Non-Stop opposite Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore. Other recent projects include Steve McQueen’s Twelve Years a Slave, which reunites him with Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender which was nominated for nine Academy Awards including Best Picture; and Touchy Feely opposite Ellen Page and Allison Janney, which premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and was released by Magnolia Pictures in September 2013. Later this year McNairy will star opposite Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in the highly anticipated film adaptation of the smash hit novel Gone Girl as well as the thriller Black Sea opposite Jude Law and directed by Academy Award winning director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland).
McNairy was nominated for Best Actor at the 2010 British Independent Film Awards for his work in the critically acclaimed film Monsters from director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla). Other prestigious nominees included Colin Firth and Jim Broadbent. His film In Search of a Midnight Kiss, which he both starred in and produced, won the John Cassavetes award at the 2009 Independent Spirit Awards.
McNairy also starred in Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly opposite Brad Pitt, Ben Mendelsohn, and James Gandolfini, which was in competition at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival; and he had a supporting role in Promised Land from director Gus Van Sant and also starring Matt Damon and John Krasinski.
Along with his longtime friend and manager John Pierce, McNairy formed The Group Films. They just wrapped production on the film Frank and Cindy, the theatrical adaption of the award-winning documentary of the same name, starring Rene Russo and Oliver Platt. McNairy is also producing the sequel to his hit film Monsters.
CARLA AZAR – NANA
Carla Azar is regarded as one of the most respected drummers of today. She’s primarily known for her unique, driving drum beats, as well as providing some lead vocals in the critically acclaimed, experimental rock band, Autolux - from Los Angeles, California. The band came to prominence in 2004 with the release of their debut album Future Perfect, and gained critical acclaim with the release of their 2010 album, Transit Transit.
Azar took a break from Autolux in 2012 to go on a world tour with Jack White, after playing drums on Mr. White’s 2012 solo album, Blunderbuss, which was nominated for three Grammy Awards in 2013. She recently played in a BBC film documentary, produced by T Bone Burnett and Jack White, called American Epic. The film is about the American recording industry during the 1920’s and 1930’s.
Carla has contributed drums on T-Bone Burnett's 2005 album, The True False Identity, playing alongside (double-drums) with legendary drummer, Jim Keltner. John Frusciante asked Carla to play drums on his 2005 album Curtains, after seeing an Autolux show in Los Angeles. In January 2008, Azar entered the studio with PJ Harvey to provide drums on her and John Parish’s 2009 album, A Woman A Man Walked By. In 2011, Carla played on Bright Eyes' album, The People's Key.
Carla worked on the soundtrack to The Coen Brothers’ 2000 film, O Brother Where Art Thou and 2003’s Cold Mountain, directed by Anthony Minghella - providing drums and various other percussion instruments. She also played drums on a cover of the Beatles song, Tomorrow Never Knows with Alison Mosshart for the movie soundtrack Suckerpunch. In 2002, Azar and Josh Klinghoffer supported Vincent Gallo in Japan as his touring band in support of his record, When. Besides drums, Azar also played guitar and mellotron on the tour. She has collaborated with Australian painter, Mark Whalen on several art exhibitions from 2009-2011, creating music for installation rooms for the artist.
Carla is currently in the studio with Autolux, finishing their third LP, to be released in 2014.
FRANCOIS CIVIL - BARAQUE
François Civil was studying acting when he landed a role in Le Cactus, directed by Munz and Bitton, shortly after which Laurence Ferreira-Barbosa cast him in his first lead role in Soit je Meurs, Soit je Vais Mieux for which he was nominated for the Most Promising Actor Award at the César Awards in 2009.
He continued his theatre studies while working in both film and television, notably in Dans nos Veines by Guillaume Senez for which he won the Best Actor Award at the Brussels Short Film Festival, and two Acting Awards at the 15th Jean Carmet Festival. He was nominated again for the the Most Promising Actor Award at the César Awards in 2012 for Nos Résistances directed by Romain Cogitore. He then appeared in Bus Palladium directed by Christopher Thompson and Elles directed by Malgorzata Szumowska, alongside Juliette Binoche.
In 2013, he participated in the 20th edition of the ADAMI Talents at the Cannes Film Festival with the film Pour le rôle directed by Pierre Nimey. He won the First Rendez-Vous prize at the Cabourg Film Festival for his performance in Macadam Baby directed by Patrick Bossard, and appeared in Fonzy the adaptation of the Canadian film Starbuck, directed by Isabelle Doval and followed by Downstairs directed by John Erick Dowdle.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
LENNY ABRAHAMSON - DIRECTOR
Lenny Abrahamson was born in Dublin in 1966. While studying physics and philosophy at Trinity College Dublin, he directed short videos with the Trinity Video Society, which he co-founded with Ed Guiney. He graduated in 1991 with first class honors.
His first short film, 3 Joes, won the Best European Short Film Award at the 1991 Cork Film Festival and the Organizer’s Award at the 1992 Oberhausen Short Film Festival. He directed numerous commercials for television in Ireland, the UK and worldwide before taking the helm on his first feature film, Adam & Paul, a stylized, downbeat comedy written by Mark O’Halloran and released in 2004. Adam & Paul won the Best First Feature award at the 2004 Galway Film Fleadh and the Grand Prix at the 2005 Sofia International Film Festival.
His second feature film, Garage, another collaboration with writer Mark O’ Halloran, was selected for Director’s Fortnight at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival and won the CICAE Art and Essai award. The film also won the awards for Best Film, Best Director, Best Script and Best Actor at the 2008 Irish Film and Television Awards (IFTAs).
Lenny has also directed for television: his four one-hour TV films for RTE, Prosperity, won the Best Director for TV award 2008 Irish Film and Television Awards.
What Richard Did, his third feature, was released in 2012 to critical acclaim. The film, written by Malcolm Campbell, presents a stark portrait of a privileged Dublin teen whose world unravels over one summer night. What Richard Did premiered at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival and was also selected for the 2012 BFI London Film Festival and the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival.
Lenny is developing a number of projects with Element Pictures including an adaptation of the critically and commercially acclaimed novel Room, written by author Emma Donoghue. He is also developing a film based on Sarah Waters’ novel The Little Stranger with Potboiler and Film4.
ED GUINEY – PRODUCER
Ed Guiney runs Element Pictures with Andrew Lowe. With offices in Dublin and London, Element Pictures works across production, distribution and exhibition. Upcoming Element productions include Yorgos Lanthimos’ first English language film, The Lobster, due to shoot in Spring 2014, Glassland, Gerard Barrett’s follow up to the critically acclaimed Pilgrim Hill starring Jack Reynor and Toni Collette, and Room, an onscreen adaptation of Emma Donaghue’s award-winning best-selling novel to be directed by Lenny Abrahamson.
Element is currently in post-production is Jimmy’s Hall (Ken Loach) a co-production with Sixteen Films. Other recent films include What Richard Did (Lenny Abrahamson), starring Jack Reynor, which opened to great acclaim at the 2012 Toronto Film Festival, Shadow Dancer (James Marsh) starring Clive Owen and Andrea Riseborough; The Guard (John Michael McDonagh), starring Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle (currently the most successful independent Irish film of all time) and The Wind That Shakes the Barley (Ken Loach), starring Cillian Murphy, which won the Palme d’Or at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. Guiney also produced Abrahamson’s Garage and executive produced his first film Adam & Paul.
STEVIE LEE – PRODUCER
Stevie Lee has worked with writers one way or another since she left university; first as a literary agent with Judy Daish Associates, then as a script editor and Head of Development at Contagious Films. At Runaway Fridge Stevie has produced The Making of A Lady for ITV (2012) and The Dog Thrower for Sky Arts Playhouse Presents (2013).
DAVID BARRON – PRODUCER
As well as producing FRANK with Ed Guiney and Stevie Lee, David Barron is producing Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella, their sixth feature collaboration with Branagh as director.
David and Kenneth have most recently collaborated on the spy thriller Jack Ryan due for release in January 2014 and starring Keira Knightley, Chris Pine and Kevin Costner, alongside Branagh himself. Their previous feature film teaming as producer and director also include: Love Labour’s Lost; Hamlet; In the Bleak Mid-Winter and, as associate producer on Kenneth Branagh’s Frankenstein. David also producedOlliver Parker’s Othello in which Branagh played the part of Iago.
David is perhaps most recently best known for his pairing with producer David Heyman, initially with the Harry Potter film series and then with writer-director David Hare’s Emmy Award-winning and BAFTA nominated Page Eight,starring Bill Nighy, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon and Rachel Weisz. Heyman and Barron are currently producing the second and third instalments of the series, Turks & Caicos and Salting the Battlefield, which see the return of Bill Nighy and Ralph Fiennes, but this time welcome new top line cast including Helena Bonham Carter, Christopher Walken and Winona Ryder.
In his 30 year career David has worked on many film and television projects. These vary from Clive Barker’s Nightbreed and Tony Randels’ Hellbound: Hellraiser II to Jim Henson’s The Muppet Christmas Carol; Neil LaBute’s Possession and Metin Huseyin’s It was an Accident.
JON RONSON – CO-WRITER
Jon Ronson’s non-fiction books, The Psychopath Test, Them: Adventures with Extremists, Lost at Sea and The Men Who Stare At Goats have all been international and New York Times bestsellers. The Psychopath Test spent nearly two years on the UK bestseller list.
The Men Who Stare At Goats was adapted into a film (by co-writer Peter Straughan) starring George Clooney. His many documentaries include Stanley Kubrick's Boxes, The Secret Rulers of the World, and seven series of the BBC Radio 4 program Jon Ronson On…
In the UK he writes regularly for The Guardian and in the US he’s a regular contributor to the PRI show This American Life and GQ magazine. FRANK, co-written with Peter Straughan, is Jon’s first fictional screenplay. He’s currently writing and directing a silent comedy, and working on a book about public shaming.
PETER STRAUGHAN – CO-WRITER
Born and raised in Northeast England, Peter Straughan originally started writing theatre before moving into radio, television, and film.
He became a sought-after screenwriter when he adapted Jon Ronson's book The Men Who Stare at Goats, directed by Grant Heslov and starring George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges. Peter re-teamed with Jon Ronson to write the screenplay for Frank.
Other screenplay credits include How to Lose Friends and Alienate People and The Debt, adapted from the Israeli film Ha-Hov, directed by John Madden and starring Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington and Jessica Chastain.
With his late wife Peter wrote Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Tinker took home Best Adapted Screenplay and Best British Film at the 2012 BAFTAs; in addition it won Screenwriter of the Year and British Film of the Year at the 2012 Richard Attenborough UK Regional Film Critic's Awards. The film was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the 84th Academy Awards.
He is currently adapting the Hilary Mantel novel Wolf Hall as a dramatic TV series for Company Pictures and BBC Television, along with political satire, Our Brand is Crisis which will star Sandra Bullock and will be produced by George Clooney's Smokehouse Pictures, and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, an adaptation of David Mitchell’s novel, for Brad Pitt’s Plan B.
NATHAN NUGENT – EDITOR
Nathan worked on documentaries and in television before working on his first feature film, the Bosnian war drama As If I’m Not There in 2010. His other feature credits include Sensation, starring Domhnall Gleeson, The Rafters directed by John Carney, and he previously worked with Lenny Abrahamson on What Richard Did, for which he won an IFTA in 2013.
His work in documentaries includes Waveriders and Skin Deep and he has also cut a number of short films including the 2008 Oscar nominee The Door.
STEPHEN RENNICKS - COMPOSER
Stephen Rennicks lives and works in Dublin, Ireland. Stephen originally studied architecture before getting involved in music, theatre and film. He has been the recipient of several Arts Council of Ireland Awards and has had work exhibited at the Irish Museum of Modern Art.
His compositions for feature films include: The Stag directed by John Butler, Eliot and Me directed by Fintan Connolly, The Pipe directed byRisteard O’Domhnaill), Happy Ever Afters directed by Stephen Burke, Eden directed by Declan Recks, Pride and Joy directed by Ronan Glennane and Man about Dog directed by Paddy Breathnach.
He has previously worked with director Lenny Abrahamson on What Richard Did, Garage and Adam and Paul. RICHARD BULLOCK - PRODUCTION DESIGNER
Richard’s feature film credits include the recently completed X plus Y directed by Morgan Matthews and starring Sally Hawkins and Eddie Marsan. His other feature credits include Spike Island and Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, directed by Mat Whitecross.
Production design for television includes Tom Green’s Blackout and Christopher Spencer’s Sinking of the Lusitania, and Stonehenge Decoded for which Bullock received an Emmy nomination in 2009.
Richard learnt his craft working on art departments on Bunny and the Bull, Star Wars Episode 2, Waking Ned andnumerous other feature films, television dramas, commercials and music videos.
JAMES MATHER – DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY
After graduating from Dun Laoghaire College of Art and Design with a Degree in Cinematography, James became a Union Director of Photography and began shooting commercials for numerous clients including Guinness, Coca Cola, Mitsubishi, Carlsberg, McDonalds, Allied Irish Bank, Volkswagen and National Lottery.
James recently completed Season Two of Vikings as the series Second Unit DP, and he has shot several other television series including Cold Feet and Sweet Medicine. Additionally, James Co-Directed and shot Lockout (2012) for Europacorp.
James was fortunate to work with Lenny Abrahamson again on the upcoming feature film Frank having enjoyed working with Lenny on his first feature Adam and Paul and television series Prosperity.
James is currently co-writing a feature film for Start Media with Stephen St. Leger.
SUZIE HARMAN – COSTUME DESIGNER
After graduating in graphic design, Suzie moved into the world of fashion and evening couture, spending five years learning the skills of couture dressmaking and pattern cutting. Taking these skills with her, she embarked on her career as a costume designer in 1999.
Harman has designed many independent British films, as well as working as costume supervisor and assistant costume designer. Her design work includes feature films, commercials, television drama and styling photo-shoots.
She has worked with a diverse range of directors and her credits include Rock n Rolla, directed by Guy Ritchie, The Shadow Line, directed by Hugo Blick and Now is Good directed by Ol Parker. She has also worked with Kenneth Branagh, Paul Greengrass and Alejandro Inarritu.
Suzie most recently worked with rising directorial talent Gerard Johnson on Hyena for Number 9 films and Film Four. She is currently working on Man Up, starring Simon Pegg for Big Talk productions.
Her styling work has been published in Vanity Fair and Vogue.
and Michael Fassbender
François Civil Carla Azar
Tess Harper Bruce McIntosh
Haley Derryberry Lauren Poole
Directed by Lenny Abrahamson
Written by Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan
Based on the original newspaper article by Jon Ronson
Produced by Ed Guiney
Executive Producers Tessa Ross
Line Producers Noëlette Buckley
Director of Photography James Mather
Production Designer Richard Bullock
Editor Nathan Nugent
Music by Stephen Rennicks
Costume Designer Suzie Harman
Casting by Fiona Weir