BY NANCY MILLS
ALAN PARKER HAS made more than a
dozen notable films, including Bugsy Malone,
Fame, Mississippi Burning and Evita. But the
one dearest to his heart is the mini-budgeted
The Commitments, based on Roddy Doyle’s
hilarious novel about unknown Irish musicians putting together a soul band. This 1991
cult classic, which celebrates its 25th anniversary with a Blu-ray edition, feels as fresh as
the day it opened.
The 72-year-old British director recently
reminisced with The Connection about his
experiences directing the film.
The Costco Connection: Were
you surprised The Commitments
received so much international
Alan Parker: It was a very enjoyable
film to make, but even when you feel
you’re doing good work—which we
undoubtedly did—you still never
know how it’s going to be received. I
was surprised that, of all my films, it
was the one that was universally liked
CC: Talk about the casting process.
AP: We scoured the country for bands. In
Ireland, small country that it is, they say that
there are 1,200 bands playing at any given
time. We saw 64 bands from Dublin and had
an open call where I auditioned a further
1,500 hopefuls. It took about three months. I
was looking for musicians who could act
rather than have actors cheat the music. They
had to start off badly as a band and then progress to the finale.
CC: What’s your secret working with
AP: Getting the casting right. You can’t manufacture a performance. Then you have to
create an environment on set which is encouraging and nonthreatening. I had the luxury of
a long rehearsal period. I would swap the
roles around and let the actors listen to how
their part might sound. The girls were better
actors, and the boys learned from them—
their timing and intonation.
CC: You’ve said making ;e Commitments
was the best time you’ve had making a ;lm.
AP: Yes. Probably because there were no
movie stars around—no trailers, entourages
and histrionics. The kids were very enthusiastic, undemanding and happy to be there.
THE COS TCO CONNECTION
The Commitments 25th Anniversary Edition
Blu-ray (Item #1093806) arrives in all warehouse on 8/30, with exciting extras. Long-term
OUR DIGITAL EDITIONS
Click here to watch an original trailer
for The Commitments. (See page 13
CC: Did the film remind you of your youth?
AP: I grew up in North London at the beginning of the ’60s. Everyone I knew wanted to be
in a band. As with The Commitments, it was a
route out of a limiting working-class environment. I was completely ungifted at learning
the guitar, and so took to writing instead.
CC: A favorite memory from the ;lm?
AP: Oh dear, so many. All I can say is that
every morning I woke up I smiled and couldn’t
wait to get to the film set. The funniest
moment was when Joey the Lips (Johnny
Murphy) rode his small motorcycle up a wall
by mistake. The local dogs went berserk. All
of it is on film.
CC:Why do you think the movie has
become a classic?
AP: Although it’s set in Dublin, it’s about the
hopes and dreams music brings to young kids
everywhere, from Finglas [Ireland] to Philadelphia and Memphis to Minsk [Belarus].
CC:When you cast Glen Hansard, did you
imagine he might one day win an Oscar for
Best Song (“Once”) in 2008?
AP: Glen was always very talented—indeed,
at the time of making the film, his band The
Frames was the only one that had a record
deal. In many ways he plays against type, as he
plays the dopey Outspan character in our
film, when in actual fact Glen is very smart, to
which his Oscar and Broadway Tonys attest.
CC: A character you most identify with?
AP: Jimmy Rabbitte, the manager: mostly
exasperated, but enthusiastic and eternally
optimistic, even when the evidence is to the
contrary—just like a film director! C
Nancy Mills, a Los Angeles–based journalist,
writes about film and TV.
Commitments director Alan Parker (far left)
and the actors who made up the ;lm’s soul-music-loving Irish band.