Acting funny

Dylan Moran's movie debut

Dylan Moran is making his movie acting debut opposite Michael Caine in the new comedy The Actors in a story, by Conor McPherson and Neil Jordan, of two dead-end thespians who cook up a scam to pose as gangsters to collect a debt.

McPherson, who also directs, says the backstage world of the actor is rife for comedy.

"I've met some right tulips in my time," he said. "There are a lot of actors working in theatre who are larger than life with big personalities and that really lends itself to comedy. Their vanity and self-absorption is intrinsically funny."

Moran plays Tom, a young actor reluctantly persuaded to pose as several unlikely characters to swindle the cash. But first he had to undergo a tough round of auditions, up against hundreds of other actors desperate for the part.

"The process of casting Tom was going to involve testing," said co-producer Redmond Morris. "It was always going to be a young actor who hadn't done an awful lot."

"Dylan tested brilliantly," McPherson added: "He just was that character. He looks like he landed from another planet, with that wide-eyed look and that innocent quality intrinsic in his own personality, I just knew he was right."

The fact that Moran has a couple of TV series to his name - Black Books and How Do You Want Me - also meant that he had the acting credentials to back up the first impression.

"The huge surprise to me, when we got going, was what a technically perfect actor he is," McPherson said.

"I firmly believe that Dylan has a huge future as a film actor if he chooses it. He makes the comedy work, obviously, but what an actor! He has a gift for understatement that you really need to be born with, and this means he never looks like he's trying too hard.

"I think this makes audiences trust him and even love him because he just seems like he's being himself. And that's always the mark of a huge star.

"The chemistry he creates with every character he comes in contact with just burns off the screen. I feel so lucky to have met Dylan. He really does a wonderful job."

Moran, too, was delighted to get the part: "This was a fantasy script," he said: "It was such a trip to bugger about and pretend to be all these different people. The whole thing really made me laugh, the sheer lunacy of it."

Moran was teamed up with Michael Caine, who surprised producers by immediately agreeing to take part.

"You always look very carefully at a script when it's a comedy," he said. "For every ten dramatic scripts you only get one good comedy. Conor is such a clever writer, he writes terrific dialogue.

"The script made me laugh out loud and that hasn't happened since Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. The combination of a great script and the team involved made this film irresistible."

McPherson was equally full of praise for his A-list star. "Michael has a natural edginess to him," he said. "Like all good actors he's very competitive. He takes no shit from anyone and I think we recognised a certain stubbornness in one another, which ironically really helped us to get along and work really well.

"He trusted me to listen to his ideas, but also trusted me to tell him if they were a bit weird. He said to me when we first met: 'Conor, I'll have a thousand ideas, but only about five of them will be brilliant, and it's up to you to find out which ones!' But he wasn't kidding.

"Him and Dylan were constantly coming up with stuff, together and separately, and both of them intrinsically understand the secret of improvisation - you must support the person you are improvising with.

"It's no use denying the other actor. You must constantly be saying yes to your partner, as soon as you deny them, just to get a laugh or embarrass them, the improvisation dies.

"Dylan and Michael were not only great at that but they also did it staying totally within their characters. It was a joy to watch."

Co-producer Morris agreed: "The chemistry between everyone really worked. Even though they are on opposite ends of the experience spectrum, Michael and Dylan gel tremendously well. The balance is right."

The Actors opens on May 16.

First published: May 15, 2003

Published: 22 Mar 2009

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