One of the more anticipated films around these parts, likely not hitting theaters until 2012 or even 2013, is Brendon Gleeson's directorial debut, “At Swim-Two-Birds.” No, we don't run a Gleeson fanclub, nor are we obsessive fans of Flann O’Brien‘s classic 1939 Irish novel, but the all-Irish cast circling this is too great to ignore.
They include Gabriel Byrne, Colin Farrell, Cillian Murphy and most recently, the addition of man-of-the-moment, Irish-German actor Michael Fassbender, who has cut a swath through Hollywood of late racking up roles in films by Ridley Scott, Steven Soderbergh, Matthew Vaughn, British helmer Steve McQueen, David Cronenberg, Jim Jarmusch and Quentin Tarantino. Even Tom Hardy can't currently boast those kind of stats.
While word of Fassbender joining the 'Swim-Two-Birds' cast was unknown until recently, in an interview conducted with The Playlist last week while promoting his indie comedy/thriller, "The Guard," Gleeson said, it's actually kind of old, under-the-radar news.
"That happened about a year ago really," he said of Fassbender's addition to the cast. "People never picked up on it, maybe because Michael wasn’t really quite the massive name he is now. But we were trying to tell people for ages, 'By the way, listen: we have the coolest thing on two feet coming in.' I haven’t asked any [actor] who said they wouldn’t do it. At this point I’ve been fretting about it to the extent that I don’t fret it anymore, I don’t sweat it at all anymore. I know that I’ll know what to do once we get out there. And it looks like next spring is going to be when it’s going to happen."
One assumes that means financing is in place and the film will be ready to roll come April of 2012, but Gleeson is not counting his chickens before they hatch, understanding full well the mercurial nature of film budgets and financiers. "It’s looking good, but I don’t believe anything now, anything ever," he said. "I can tell you as long as the day is long, 'Oh definitely, it’s going to happen,' and all that, but until I’m actually there, I don’t believe it. But at the moment it’s happening, I can feel it. It’s all looking good."
"At Swim-Two-Birds" is complex, not an easy read and certainly not easy material to adapt, but the actor-turned-director advises you attempt it anyhow. "When you come to pieces that you have to go on a third time to understand what the paragraph meant, don’t. Just bash through it," he recommended on how to read the book. "It’s really an accumulation of everything, and it starts to make sense. And then every time you read it after that, you find more and more and more and more. It’s one of those books: it operates on three separate levels."
And yes, those three different spaces will be broken up as such in the picture. "There will be three separate worlds in the film," he explained. "It’ll be a bit like 'The Wizard of Oz' in the sense that the real world will inhabit the imaginary world. It’s complex, but in the end, it’s just about a kid in college who stays too long in bed. And doesn’t really know where to put himself in the world and finds that his imagination kind of takes him away. And so that’s really at the basis of it, but it’s a lot of fun."
Gleeson said he can't count the number of times he's read the book and said he's written 14 drafts of the script, but he's finally giving up obsessing on getting it right. "I don’t really go at it anymore because as I say, it’s become a different thing. I think at some point, it has to move on. You can be fettered by the book as much as liberated by it. I was initially liberated by it, and now I just kind of want to leave because I know that there are kind of other aspects that are peculiar to the film as a film."
“At Swim-Two-Birds” was featured in Time Magazine’s Top 100 Novels Of All Time and centers on the idea of fictional characters rebelling against their creator. It follows a university student as he writes a novel behind closed doors that seemingly intertwines with characters in his own life. A closer look at the novel’s plot reveals a very complex, meta-fictional tale that would seemingly be impossible to summarize, but it has been described as “a collision between Ireland’s literary, heroic past and its grimy, mundane present.”
There's no word on who will play who in the film yet, but Gleeson said he'll be playing the uncle to the protagonist.