Melody Maker, February 27, 1988

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Melody Maker

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To hell and back


Allan Jones

Allan Jones talks to Cait O'Riordan about life after The Pogues and her acting debut in The Courier

Cait's husband Declan was in the kitchen of their suite on the sixth floor of Dublin's Gresham hotel, frying up some vegetarian sausages for their tea. While he slaved dutifully over a hot pan, she was swigging Guinness in the lounge and regaling the journalist with a vivid account of The Pogues on location in Spain, filming Straight To Hell under the increasingly manic direction of Alex Cox. Naturally vivacious, very funny, she was great company.

"It was hell," she said, wincing. "Unbelievable. I don't know how any of us survived. It was only three weeks, but it felt like three months. The flies. The shit. No water. Everyone hung over, dying of thirst. The bloody heat. The heat was blistering. After a couple of days, my face felt like a drying onion.

"And on top of all this, there was this little fucker, Cox, yelling at you every day. Alex turned into this complete megalomaniac, a monster, just fucking mad, screaming his fucking head off at everyone. And the actors. Jesus, they were awful. Christ, they were like a parody of what you'd expect. Nice people when they weren't acting, but you'd get them on the set and it would be, 'Now what's my motivation for this scene? Alex, we have to talk...' And the rest of us would be just praying for it to be over, you know, so we could all get home and have a decent drink."

Little wonder after this particular experience that Cait O'Riordan did not expect to ever find herself back in front of the cameras. This week, however, sees the release of a new movie, The Courier, in which she has a starring role. In the film, a thriller set in the Dublin underworld, she plays Colette, a bank clerk whose junkie brother, Danny, is the tragic victim of police harassment and mob violence. Her screen lover, Mark, is the courier of the movie's title, a despatch rider who discovers that he's being used to ferry smack across the city by the people who've killed Danny, an old buddy, and decides to get even the hard way. It's not a great film, but she comes out of it well, though she was modest about her own performance.

"People have said, 'Oh, we hear you're really good in the film," she said. "But what they really mean is, 'Thank God you didn't embarrass yourself.' Which I hope I don't. But I know basically that I wasn't called upon to do very much. She's very passive, this Colette character. She's just a nice girl caught up in something that's completely beyond her control. Her brother dies. Her boyfriend goes psycho. And none of it's anything to do with her. She works in a bank. So all I had to do was get me gear on, put me make-up on and be there in front of the cameras and say the lines. It wasn't really acting."

Engagingly self-effacing about her own contribution to the film, she was an eager publicist for the promise of its young Irish directors, Frank Deasy and Joe Leo, and what they wanted to say in The Courier about contemporary Dublin, the social problems that afflict the city, especially the drug-related crimes and increasing levels of narcotic addiction, specifically the widespread use of heroin.

"There's never been an Irish film like The Courier," she said. I mean, it's not exactly The Quiet Man. There are no stage Irishmen, no green fields, no shillelaghs. It's much more realistic about Dublin and what's happening here. The spread of heroin, you know, is pretty terrifying. I remember the first time I come here, I was 18, on my way, hitching to Clare. I was here for two days, and the first person I met in a pub was a junkie, a dealer. Now, I think if I met a dealer I'd punch him, but for those two days, I sat in this guy's kitchen, making up these bloody little envelopes.

"And then he'd take me into these places in town and there'd be all these people handing over their money and it would be desperate. There was nothing on the level of the film, shotguns and shootings. I've never been anywhere near that. But what the film shows is true. Heroin is everywhere now and it's sick. Something has to be done. That's one of the reasons I wanted to do the film, because Frank and Joe really care. I know it sounds sappy, but they really do."

When she was approached originally with what she understood would be a film about Dublin's smack problem, she immediately thought that she'd be cast as one of the movie's low-life casualties.

"I just assumed," she said, "that as an ex-Pogue, I'd be playing a horrible junkie type, you know. Which I think I might actually have preferred. I couldn't believe it when they offered me the part of Colette. A fucking bank clerk! You should see what I've got to wear in the bloody film. Frocks. Girl's clothes. When have you ever seen me in a skirt? I hadn't worn a skirt since I was 17. It was fucking weird. My first reaction was 'This is disgusting. I'm not wearing these clothes, they're fucking ghastly. You haven't got a fucking clue.' In the end, I just bit me lip and wore the fucking things."

The briefest mention of The Pogues had her ordering up another round of stout. We raised a glass to the recent success of "If I Should Fall From Grace With God."

"I nearly died when it went to number one," she said. "It's fantastic, because now no one can ever say they're just a joke. Cos right from the start, they've taken so much shit. All that drunken paddy thing, it's all irrelevant now, because the album is so great, you know. I think it was only that awful David Stubbs in your paper that didn't like it. But if he doesn't like something, it's usually a blessing. It's bound to do well."

Her own musical career, post-Pogues, has been uneventful, though lost year she signed a publishing deal and there have been occasional offers from record companies.

When I was doing the film," she recalled "a man from CBS called up, an A&R man, and he said he'd just seen me singing 'Danny Boy' in Straight To Hell and he thought it was lovely and he liked 'Haunted' and he wanted to sign me up. For my ego, this was wonderful. Cos when my ego raises its head, it's really fucking ugly, you know. So I thought, great. Then I thought, 'No. They're probably thinking Alison Moyet, so no thanks.' I just imagined them getting in a producer and the staff writers and I didn't want any part of it.

"I'd rather do it me own way, you know. It takes me a long time to get a song I'm happy with and a lot of what I write is shit, it makes me feel like Stock Aitken and Waterman. A lot of other songs I write always end up sounding like Billie Holiday, all very jazzy and cool. And 'Astral Weeks' is something that keeps coming out in my songs. I'll write something and it'll sound just like 'Madame George,' so I'll have to go back and start again. I keep writing this stuff and having to dump it.

"I know I waste an awful lot of time writing and I sweat buckets over it. But Dec helps me out, and I help him out a bit, which is how I got the publishing deal in the first place, writing a few songs with him. But the thing is, however long it takes me to do an album, I'm not in a hurry. I'm only 23 now. I can wait a couple of years until I've got enough material to make the kind of record I want to make.

"There's no great rush. I'm realty happy with the way things are. I've got the publishing deal. I have a lovely husband. I have a bit of money saved up. I don't want for anything. I'm not looking for a career. As long as I've got enough money for the paper and a smoke in the morning, I'll be happy. I don't feel like I've got to make a record or look for another part in a movie.

"To be honest, though I know you won't believe this, I'd really like to get a job as a librarian. It's true. We're getting a house up in the mountains here and if in 10 years time, I'm the head librarian in some little village along the coast then I'll be set for life.

"Who needs to be in bloody films, you know?"


Tags: Cait O'RiordanThe CourierThe PoguesDeclan MacManusStraight To HellAlex CoxDavid StubbsAlison MoyetBillie Holiday

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Melody Maker, February 27, 1988


Allan Jones interviews Cait O'Riordan.

Images

1988-02-27 Melody Maker page 40 clipping 01.jpg
Photo by Chalkie Davies.


Cover and page scan.
1988-02-27 Melody Maker cover.jpg 1988-02-27 Melody Maker page 40.jpg

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