B R I E F   S Y N O P S I S
Johnny (Paddy Considine) and Sarah (Samantha Morton of Morvern Callar and Minority Report) emigrate from Ireland to New York City with their two young daughters in tow, in pursuit of a dream. The family uses ingenuity and sheer strength of will to make the most of their new life. Ultimately it is their kindness to a stranger and that stranger's response in return that helps create their new home. Directed and co-written by Jim Sheridan (In The Name of the Father, My Left Foot), In America is the filmmaker's semi-autobiographical story, updated to contemporary times.
  In America
   
 

When I was auditioning the children for In America, I came into the room and saw little Emma Bolger, age six, and how could my eye not go towards her? I asked her to relax and she was very, very good…maybe too good. I didn't want the children to be in any way performers and I was scared she might appear too in control, so I asked my daughter Kirsten, who co-wrote the script with me, if there were any other children in the room who were good actors and she pointed out a pretty little girl. I asked her to read and she had gotten a few words through when I felt my jacket yanked from behind. I turned around and there was Emma staring at me. Her look was one of astonishment and I read into it that I had crossed a line of etiquette and she said to me, "is she reading my part?" I looked deep into her eyes and after what seemed like an eternity I realized I was out of my depth. I thought I cannot be diplomatic; I have to just tell the truth. So I searched for any weakness in her stare and when I found none I said, "nobody is reading your part—you're cast." She nodded and then said, "my sister is down in the car." I asked her what age her sister was and she said "ten," and I thought that had gotten me off the hook. The part is written for a girl of fourteen and I said, "she's too young." Emma responded "why don't you talk to her?" So I went downstairs and that is how the two Bolger sisters ended up in the movie.

On the first day of shooting I nervously said "Action" on the first take. Something went wrong, and I let out an expletive and said "Cut!" Sarah Bolger came over to me and said, "Jim, can I have a word?" She then took three steps away from the crew who all pretended not to be watching and she said, "It's okay to curse in front of me, I'm ten, but my sister is only six and it's rude to curse in front of her, so I'm going to have to ask you to stop." I looked at her and said that might be impossible so I asked her to take over and say "Action" in the future, and I said to Emma if she didn't like what was going on she could say
"cut" at any time. I thought about this and remembered back to my childhood when the Redemptorist Priests would come on the Missions and on the Thursday when they had gotten to the sixth commandment, at least the one that talks about adultery, they would turn to the congregation and tell them not to bring any children under eighteen years of age. And the next night my fellow altar boys and I would watch as the priest would foam at the mouth against our fathers. It was a complete reversal of positions and I realized that because we were in our altar boy gear we were somehow invisible. And that is what it must normally be like for a child on a film set in the world of adults. So I tried my best with the film to be as relaxed as possible all the time. And it is not easy to be relaxed when you are under pressure and the children invariably pick up on any emotions, negative or positive. So I relived the childhood of my own children through these two genius actor children. At one point my wife said, "sometimes I think you prefer those children" and my other daughter Naomi, who also co-wrote the script, said, "of course he does, he can rewrite them to do what they are told."

I have always made films about family, and I think one of the reasons for this is that my mother ran a boarding house for lodgers. At the age of twelve, I was relieved of the weight of the nuclear part of family and I think it did me a world of good and allowed me to see family in a new light. So perhaps in films I am always bringing the family back together.

Sometimes when you are making a film you cannot include real life stuff because it is too filmic and will blow the fabric of reality for an audience.

As in the movie, I did come across the Canadian border and once across my wife put the foot on the pedal. The roads were great, much better than in Ireland at the time, and we were flying down to Antioch where I was to perform a solo Beckett show. After about thirty miles the police flashed us and we waved back. About fifty miles later they pulled us over in a foul mood and brought us to a midnight court sitting in the hills above Syracuse. The judge was in slippers and had just gotten out of bed and in a temper he asked me how I was going to plead. I asked him what would happen if I pleaded not guilty and he said he would set bail. I didn't like the sound of that so I said I plead guilty even though my wife, Fran, was driving the car. He immediately fined me forty dollars so we went through our combined pockets and all myself and Fran could produce was thirty-six dollars and enough quarters and dimes to make thirty-eight. He wanted the forty so after a while each of the police-men forked over a dollar each and the judge asked me if the money was mine and I said "No," and he said he would give me a last chance at which point both of the policemen perjured themselves on my behalf. When we got back to the car they were concerned that we didn't
have enough money to make it to the University so they gave us five or six dollars each and told us that their grandparents were from Ireland. So that was my first day in America and the beginning of an epic journey that is the film, although that scene is not included as I didn't think it was realistic enough.

   

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