BARRY WARD ON 'REALIVE'

REALIVE is the new film from Spanish filmmaker Mateo Gil, who worked on the screenplays to the Alejandro Amenabar films TESIS (1996), OPEN YOUR EYES (1997 - remade in 2001 as VANILLA SKY), THE SEA INSIDE (2004) and AGORA (2009), wrote and directed NOBODY KNOWS ANYBODY (1999), and directed the Western BLACKTHORN (2011) with Sam Shepard as an older Butch Cassidy. REALIVE continues Gil's fascination with how far humans will go to escape the realities of mortality, and the ethical issues posed by the possibilities of developing technology. Marc (Tom Hughes, CEMETERY JUNCTION), faced with terminal cancer, has his body cryogenically frozen, and is resuscitated seventy years later, and has to wrestle with the realities of his decision. It's a thought-provoking, atmospheric sci-fi drama that also features Charlotte Le Bon (THE WALK, ANTHROPOID), Oona Chaplin (the Tom Hardy TV series Taboo) and Irish actor Barry Ward as Dr. West, the man in charge of the cryonics program. Ward is an experienced, gifted actor who hails from Ireland and has worked extensively in film and on TV. He made his debut in the 1994 TV mini-series Family, directed by Michael Winterbottom, who also later directed him in THE CLAIM  (2000). In 2014, Ken Loach selected Ward as the lead in his acclaimed drama JIMMY'S HALL. I spoke with Ward about what attracted him to REALIVE, his experience making the film, and working previously with Michael Winterbottom and Ken Loach.
     
What was your first impression of the script to REALIVE? 
When I read the script I was struck by the nature of the issues it deals with as they are not often present in contemporary cinema - namely ethics, mortality and scientific enquiry.

How closely did you relate to the themes of the movie? 
I can say I have an intellectual curiosity in said issues, without experiential references: To qualify, Mateo's movies are thought experiments.

What excited you the most about the opportunity to make the movie? 
Mateo always maintained that we were not making a sci-fi film, but a drama set in the future. That said, these future dramatic scenarios appealed to me immensely. I saw it as a great opportunity to research and explore recent scientific developments and the philosophical questions such events pose.

What was the experience like of working with Mateo Gil? 
Working with Mateo was an absolute joy and a pleasure. I read once that he's less a film-maker than a philosopher who makes movies. He inhabits an interesting place, in that regard.

Were you familiar with Mateo's other work as a director and his scripts for OPEN YOUR EYES, THE SEA INSIDE and TESIS? How much of a fan were you? 
I was really only familiar with his work through reputation. I had not seen, but heard lots about, his work. He has fine pedigree, and occupies a very interesting space in the world of films.

Do you usually respond to science fiction movies? What unique things do you feel they can accomplish? 
I do respond to sci-fi films, yes, though not especially. There are obvious classics which I've watched, and I can say they are a joy to watch, but I've not had many sci-fi scripts sent my way. I am definitely interested in making more in the future. I think as a genre sci-fi is uniquely placed to deal with issues other genres find less accommodating. I think for this and other reasons it will always endure. If movies offer up a mirror to reality, sci-fi is multi-faceted: it can be clearer, opaque, transparent, askew. I think all forms of communication are inherently metaphoric; sci-fi offers a larger glossary, an enriched vocabulary.

What was the greatest thing you took away from the experience of making the film? 
One takes away lots of great things from every film shoot, but specifically with REALIVE, perhaps challenging the (commonplace) fear of public speaking was something. Contrary to popular belief, a lot of actors share that fear. (For me to call it a fear is perhaps an exaggeration. I don't fear it as much as dislike it.) I also made some great friends on that shoot. Charlotte Le Bon is a great talent, and super funny. Julio Peron is like the Spanish 'Dude'. And one cannot help but learn lots from Mateo Gil.

You shot the film in Spain with a largely Spanish crew and actors from different countries. How was that experience? 
The shoot involved a truly international cast & crew. French-Canadian, Irish, Spanish-American, Hawaiian, Afro-Colombian, Belgian. It was certainly the most mixed race experience of my life, and as a result very eye-opening. It made it all the more interesting and joyous. An Irish actor once said to me that 'actors are a tribe'. I think there's truth in that.

Is the opportunity to travel the world and work with people from all over the world one of the things you enjoy the most about being an actor? 
Yes, the opportunity to work abroad and with people of various races and creeds is a hugely attractive part of the profession for me. A perk, if you will. It's eye-opening at every turn.

You made your debut in the TV mini-series Family, directed by Michael Winterbottom. You later worked with him on THE CLAIM (2000). I believe Winterbottom to be one of the most extraordinary filmmakers out there. How did working with him help your growth as an actor? 
Michael Winterbottom, along with casting director Leo Davis, street-cast me as a 13 year old. To say he helped my growth as an actor is an understatement. Before then I had no acting experience or desire. Safer to say I was a seed he stumbled upon, whereupon he planted and watered me.

Would you say working with Ken Loach on JIMMY'S HALL a huge learning experience for you? What kind of a director is Loach? 
Almost twenty years later to the day, Ken Loach cast me in my first ever film lead role. Of course it was a massive learning experience, and one in which I was politicised to a far greater degree than ever before. As a director he is no different to how he is as a man- kind, insightful, mindful, funny and inspiring. Every actor who has ever worked with him will tell you he is the best. No experience can ever come close. He's a real actor's director. Everything feels set in place to coax the best performance possible. And all for a good cause! His films are most important.

Can you talk about some of the work you have coming out soon? 
Coming out soon are MAZE, the true story of a prison breakout in Northern Ireland, 1983, and three TV series: The End Of The Fucking World for Channel 4/Netflix; Britannia for Sky Atlantic/Amazon and Save Me, also for Sky.

REALIVE is currently in selected theaters and on VOD, and is scheduled for DVD release on October 3.  

The trailer for REALIVE. 

Interview by Paul Rowlands. Copyright © Paul Rowlands, 2017. All rights reserved.