Two of the Chicago-born brothers Quinn, Paul and Aidan, spoke in Dallas recently about the joys and difficulties of their joint project “This Is My Father.”
In one way the film is a labor of love and filial piety. Paul’s script was loosely based on a story told by their mother (it had actually involved a neighbor of hers), and his depiction of the strong-willed young girl who falls in love with a far-poorer farmer was based, to an extent, on his parent. And since the brothers had each spent some years in Ireland, it related to their own experience.
“We lived in Ireland in ’72 and ’73,” Paul recalled. “And we spent a lot of time in the country, because our family had a lot of farmers, and in the Ireland of that time, in certain areas it was like going back hundreds of years. So you get a taste of something old and rich. It really impressed me at that age, and stuck with me.”
The script, however, was not written with Aidan in mind. “It was selfish on my part,” Paul said about enlisting his siblings in the project after the script had been finished. “I thought, the only way I’m going to get to direct this film is if I put everyone I know in it. And who do I know? I know Declan, I know Aidan, I know Johnny [Cusack, with whom he’d earlier founded a Chicago theatre company]. Fortunately, Declan and Aidan really liked the script and responded to it. I think otherwise they would have found their schedule quite busy. Don’t you think?” he asked his brother.
“Probably,” Aidan replied. The actor, who’s been much trimmer and hunkier in films from “Reckless” through “The Mission,” “The Playboys,” “Avalon,” and “Legends of the Fall,” remarked on how he had to change his appearance for this role. “I had a great hair and makeup man,” he said. “And we designed the look–with an eye-piece and false teeth we
had made up at a dentist’s. We really wanted to get away from any good-looking, glamour thing. And Paul had the great idea that I should gain a lot of weight, and I have him to thank because I haven’t lost it all yet.”
Still, the 37-day shoot, while demanding, wasn’t the most difficult part of the project; securing a distributor for the picture once it was completed was. It travelled the festival circuit for a year and was nearly sold to television before the brothers discovered that their sales representative had turned down offers which he considered too low. The brothers then contacted Sony Pictures themselves and reached an agreement to get the film into theatres. “Thank God there were two of us, because there were times you just get so depressed,” Aidan said of the long search for a distributor. “We knew audiences loved it, and we knew critics loved it. So we wondered, what’s the problem?”
And as of now, there isn’t any.