Galway Advertiser 2002/2002_10_31/GA_31102002_E1_024.pdf
Renaissance M a n
ichard H a r r i s was a real Renaissance man. An accomplished sportsman, actor, singer, producer and poet, he was an enigma that not many interviewers managed to reveal. The Galway Advertiser's MARY O ' C O N N O R interviewed Richard H a r r i s in November 1989, when the actor had just finished filming The Field in Leenane. As a tribute to H a r r i s who died in London last Friday evening, we reprint the interview in its entirety.
RICHARD HARRIS walks with a purposeful stride into Renvyle House Hotel. He closes the main door behind him and growls. It is 10pm. He has just finished a shoot that began at 6am. Head and shoulders above the crowd, the sombre features with their fine gold rimmed glasses are familiar from the silver screen. His hair is cropped and he sports a beard as white as blotting paper. Dressed in head-to-toe white and standing more than six feet tall, Harris is an arresting figure. One of the finest actors of our hotel, joins us briefly. who are only concerned with answered 'I'm right.' She wrote times, the 57-year-old supremo Conversation centres around the Dublin players. Provincial 'Wrong, wrong, wrong'. I replied has for decades graced stage and All Blacks clash with Connacht. players like Mannion have to be 'Right, right, right'." screen and won numerous awards Harris adores rugby. He was a twice as good to be selected. It's The correspondence eventually for acting. People hurry towards superb rugby player in the 1950s wrong and unfair," he bellows. petered out. him from every corner. He moves and was spoken of as a future Richard Harris grew up in "You can only say you're right before the hedgerow of smiling international. He played wing Limerick, one of five sons of a in so many words," chortles faces. He smiles fleetingly and forward and was capped as a well-to-do milling family. He was Harris. heads for the reception desk. junior for Munster. educated by the Jesuits at One of his ex wives has The receptionist hands him his "Was Mannion good?" he asks Crescent College. His own rugby described him as a "quintessential key and tells him the journalist excitedly. "And Moylett? He has career came to an abrupt end Renaissance man". He is very has been here since 8pm. "Where no fire." Hugh Coyle says he when he was 20. He contracted versatile and has starred in is she?" he asks. She nods in my admires the way the Kiwis move TB and had to spend three years movies, on Broadway in direction. Harris cranes his neck, five men in when they're going at home, six months of it in bed. musicals, collected Emmys and then goes back to sifting through forward. "They haven't been It was bad enough having TB but gold discs, published poetry, his telephone messages. tested yet" adds Harris. "You're worse to be told he'd never kick a recorded songs, and produced Moments later he makes his taking all this down, aren't you?" rugby ball again. plays and movies. Even today, his way over. He surveys my two he asks, eyes narrowing. I write Once recovered, he headed for looks and boundless energy defy male companions and me and in a like a thing possessed. How could London and a career in acting. He his age. perfectly modulated voice I not? Being with Harris is like spent a year at the London He still writes poetry. A book inquires "Which of you is Mary being with a human volcano. Academy of Music and Dramatic of his published in 1972 was a O'Connor?" He pours some tea and bites Arts before landing a part in the bestseller. He is putting the Harris is tired and hungry. He into a toasted cheese sandwhich. first West-End production of The finishing touches to a new prowls possessively around the "Do you know Noel Mannion?" Quare Fellow. "It was a volume called Fragments of a foyer, talking about Ireland's 2-0 he wonders. We talk about the production by the best theatre Broken Snapshot, which will be victory in Malta. Then suddenly 6' 5" Galway international who workshop in England. I was in the shops next spring. "It he halts, pulls in a chair and shot to fame last season. Harris is lucky to get in and they were features poems I've written demands "What do you want to clearly an admirer of his. lucky to get me." There is a between 1977 and 1988. I'm in know about me, Mary Suddenly he launches a flicker of a smile. the process of re-editing it." O'Connor?" blistering attack on the IRFU. He made a short, explosive Richard Harris hasn't touched Hugh Coyle, owner of the "It's run by bums and assholes appearance in Irish theatre. He alcohol since 1981. His last drink played the leading role in the was in the Jockey Club in 1959 production of JP Washington. All excesses are Donleavy's The Gingermun in apparently behind him. He is Dublin. One critic called it a lewd submerging himself in nothing play that would destroy the moral more dangerous than hard work fibre of the nation. It was taken nowadays. "I was anointed three off after three nights. or four times," he says, out of the But Harris had made an blue. indelible impression on film He wouldn't class himself director Lindsay Anderson. "He health conscious and when I ask saw me and thought I was if he jogs or works out, he wonderful. So I was. I was in explodes with laughter. "Oh no" Hawaii doing Mutiny when he he assures me, "I couldn't bear sent me the script for This it." Sporting Life. I turned it down. "When George Bernard Shaw They rewrote it. I liked it and said was 90 years old, someone asked I'd do it." him did he exercise. His reply He played the lead as rugby was 'I take exercise walking league player Arthur Machin in behind the coffins of friends who the powerful adaption of David died exercising.' I'm like that," Storey's book. It won him huge quips Harris. critical acclaim and a place He sips his tea and growls among the greats. again. "It's cold. I'm doing too The rest is history. Films like much talking. Wait here," he Camelot, Mutiny on the Bounty, commands. He returns with a The Snow Goose, Cromwell, fresh cup and leaves it on the Guns of Navarone, and A Man table with his box of artificial Called Horse, rank among his sweetener (he can't take sugar) best known. 10 Silk Cut king size, and a blue He reads every review that is plastic cigarette lighter. He dosn't written about him. "Don't believe light up. the actors who say they never "Look at the time," he booms. read their reviews. Every actor "It's twenty to 11." He jabs an does. I have all mine and then I imaginary watch on his left wrist. read them on stage to embarrass "I'm leaving tomorrow and I the critics who attack me. haven't started packing yet." "Pauline Kael, one of the Dramatic outburst over, he settles biggest reviewers in England, back into his chair and talks for a wrote a review I didn't like. 1 sent further 30 minutes. her a letter. It was all of two lines. Jim Sheridan, director of The 'Dear Pauline Kline, you are an Field, offered Harris the part of idiot.' She replied 'Dear Mr the priest in the star studded film Harris, you are wrong.' I which portrays traditional Irish
attitudes to land and women. But the Limerick born actor wanted the starring role of "Bull" and knew he was going to have it although the late Ray Mc Anally was first choice. He came here a month before filming started. "I studied the people, the accents, the land, the pubs. I read a lot of books about the O'Flahertys, etc." He found it hard to switch off at night. The filming has finished in Leenane now and the location shifted to Ardmore Studios in Bray. Harris has enjoyed working here but says coming to the end of a film is a tremendously exciting time. Satisfying too. What's next? He starts rehearsing a Pirrendello play in London on January eighth. It opens in the West End in March. From now until then, he intends to laze about. "I want to waste time, we're all too busy these days. I'm going to find time to waste time." He is lavish in his praise for Garry Hynes whose production of A Whistle in the Dark he saw in London. "I think she's awfully good. Druid's Playboy of the Western World was the best I've ever seen. She will be recognised yet. Talent always wins out in the end." On the new generation of actors, he singles out Daniel Day Lewis, star of My Left Foot and My Beautiful Launderette, for special praise. He claims Day Lewis is light years ahead of English actor Kenneth Branagh.
"He's the best of the young English actors. He's genuinely wonderful. Young actors are very sparse in England. America has quite a lot, Sean Penn, etc." Will he return to live here? "I might. Maybe I'd buy a house and some land in Mayo. I like it there." His home is in the Bahamas and is worth six million dollars. The screen and stage star is a doting grandfather. His eldest son's first daughter was born six weeks ago. She's called Ella and is the apple of Harris' eye. "Her mum and dad are beautiful people. They live in LA but were in London the week before last. I went over to see the baby. She's lovely. "I put her on my knee and she looked up at me and said 'I'm delighted you're my grandfather, Richard Harris'." He catches my amused expression and grins. "She has impeccable taste." Famous and nearly famous actors rub shoulders in the hotel foyer and all at once Richard Harris is the necleus of a group of excited people. "The party's off, the pub is too crowded," someone calls. And suddenly he's not here anymore. He is climbing the wooden staircase to his bedroom. In there he will pack all his belongings and sit in silence, learning his lines from a walkman. Like he does most nights