Interview: Brendan Gleeson & Don Cheadle

The Guard is a unique, buddy-cop comedy set in Connemara, Ireland that runs the gamut of nefarious deeds, like murder, blackmail and drug smuggling. When an international gang of drug traffickers move in on a small rural community, they attract the attention of the FBI, which sends Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) to intervene. Unfortunately, he has to deal with local cop Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) whose eccentric police work endangers the investigation. The two stars spoke with Working Author to share what working with each other was like and give some insight into their characters.

“I thought the script was hilarious,” Don Cheadle says regarding his attraction to the film. He especially enjoyed the character arc of Brendan Gleeson’s character. “He’s the most honest cop although you see him dropping acid in the first six frames of the movie. I just loved it. I thought it was great when I read it and just wanted to be part of seeing it get made.” Cheadle also has a producer credit on the film, which he partially dismisses. “The credit – I don’t care about that…. You do as a producer (does), which is exploit your resources to the best of your ability.”

Brendan Gleeson plays Gerry Boyle who is in many ways an absurd character who does a lot of shocking things that many would find unbecoming of a police officer, like drug use and procuring prostitutes. For Gleeson, however, the role was less about shock and more about depth. “That really bores the face off me,” Gleeson says of shock jocks, “where guys say shocking things, but there’s nothing behind it. There’s no real depth of thought…. The danger with Gerry was that he’d be a shock jock. Right? I don’t believe he was a shock jock, because I think behind all that stuff there was a whole other thing ticking and there was a whole life going on.”

On working together, Gleeson had only nice things to say about Cheadle. According to Gleeson, there were no surprises. “All he did was enhance his own reputation as far as I was concerned. On a daily basis there were always surprises. We were always kind of getting little tastes on stuff that I hadn’t seen before that were funny and good and interesting and subtle and layered. I don’t know why, but I kind of expected it from his work. And so sometimes it’s a great joy not to be disappointed by people.”

Cheadle, on the other hand, joked that he still wasn’t comfortable with Gleeson. “He’s a bully; you see how big he is!”

Nevertheless, Gleeson was unrelenting with his praise. “He’s a great actor, you know. And he works the way great actors work, which is collaboratively…. You can always raise the bar for people and they can always raise the bar for you. And collective stuff is almost always, for me anyway, far more interesting than any great, intense sort of separate thing.” He fondly recalls filming the scene where Gerry openly taunts Wendell with racist remarks and how Cheadle responded with an expression that his character has dealt with this scenario before. “And that’s really character work. That’s proper history…. That’s when it becomes joyous, because you can feel ‘ok, I’m dealing with a real person here now.’”

Both actors also agreed on how much they enjoyed the setting. Since Gleeson is already familiar with the location, he was delighted that for once he wasn’t the one who had to learn how things went. Cheadle also approved of being a fish-out-of-water. “That was the great thing about it…. I’ve never been to that part of the country and people in Ireland have never been to that part of the country. So I will be a fish-out-of-water, playing a fish-out-of-water. This is great. It’s not often you get to marry the circumstances in that way. So I just thought it was going to be a great addition to the piece – to not have to act that part. That part is just the truth.”

The Guard stars Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Liam Cunningham, David Wilmot, Rory Keenan, and Mark Strong. It opens in theaters on July 29, 2011.