by director/co-writer Conor McPherson
The Eclipse came about primarily through my interest in, and love of, the world of Irish playwright Billy Roche. Billy’s plays, including The Wexford Trilogy, usually centre around ordinary people living ordinary lives who suddenly have to face up to what is important—love, regret, thwarted ambition, shattered dreams and new awakenings. His plays usually happen in common, perhaps unremarkable places; a pool hall, a betting shop, a shoe repair store. But like Chekhov’s work they draw us deep into that place revealing its importance and spiritual necessity for its characters. His plays often contain an emotional blow (or two, or three) where characters suddenly reveal deep, long-held desires or disappointments which, in the hands of good actors, can completely floor an audience.
In 2004 Billy was working on a book of short stories and sent me one about a married man with two kids, Michael Farr, who volunteers at a literary festival and falls in love with a beautiful female poet he is assigned to take care of. He has his dreams crushed by another writer at the festival, an old flame who still has a place in the poet’s heart.
I had made some films in the past, and while I was happy to make them and learn something of the art of filmmaking, I felt I had never expressed myself cinematically. Something about Billy’s story—like all of Billy’s best work—ignited a flame in my imagination and I knew if I got the chance that I could use this story as a springboard towards trying to make a satisfying movie.
We worked on a few drafts of a screenplay together, but it was not until my wife suggested we make Michael Farr a widower that the film opened up into another dimension. I have always loved supernatural stories and having this man haunted by grief—literally—allowed the film to take on a metaphysical resonance that freed my creativity as a director.
Given its unusual mix of genres—love story and ghost story—we found it very difficult to raise the money for our film, but over four years managed to get just enough to do it—2 million euros—and we completed it in 2009. Ciaran Hinds, Iben Hjejle and Aidan Quinn play the central roles. I was so impressed with their talent and commitment. Their performances are just extraordinary (Ciaran won the award for Best Actor when we premiered the movie at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival, and Aidan won the award for Best Supporting Actor at the 2010 Irish Film Awards) and I’m really proud of them.
The look of the movie was inspired by films like The Shining, The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby and classic American movies of the 1970s. We filmed it in the beautiful town of Cobh, Co. Cork in Ireland. That The Eclipse has been picked up by Magnolia Pictures for U.S. theatrical distribution means that it has already exceeded my expectations. The warm response we have received wherever we have screened it in the United States has been the icing on the cake after the five years it has taken us to get to this point. I’m delighted it is playing at Landmark Theatres and sincerely hope you get an opportunity to see it. It has been a true labour of love.