“I’d do anything for the break…” hmv.com talks to Sing Street star Ferdia Walsh-Peelo
Ht Irish comedy Sing Street comes to DVD today (you can order it on the right-hand side of the page), it tells the story of a young Irish boy who decides to flee his stiffling Irish hometown by starting a rock and roll band. The movie stars Ferdia Walsh-Peelo as Connor Lawler and we spoke to Walsh-Peelo about creating Cosmo, discovering the 80s, and whether or not he will leave Ireland for his career...
You went through an extensive audition process. Why did you want the role so badly?
“I’d do anything for the break. I was a musician, I was trying to get myself known, and it just sounded like something so perfect for me, you know? It sounded like they were describing me in the little bio [of the character]. It just sounded like something that I would have loved to have done, and I did love doing it. And I was so lucky to land it."
Talk about working with writer/director John Carney to create Connor.
“I acted really natural, and John was really into that. He asked what I thought. He didn’t really say, ‘This is what I want Connor to be like.’ He just left me to do it, and that was the really nice thing about it. It was very natural. It was very enjoyable, and I was just myself. I suppose Connor is very similar to me at that time.
“But the great thing about Connor in the film is that there’s the change between him being an insecure, doesn’t-know-who-he-is, having-a-rough-time-at-home kind of private school boy to this young man who is confident. Through music and love he finds that, you know, and that is what the story is about. And that’s really what I wanted to get in the film was that change. And it’s quite a big change in young people. Some people go in the other direction, rather than attaining that confidence.”
How familiar were you with ‘80s music going into the film?
“I didn’t know much to be completely honest. I hadn’t reached the ‘80s stage. I’m sure if I hadn’t done Sing Street I would have found out about it and I would have explored that, because as a musician I was exploring different kinds of music all the time. It started with a love of the Beatles and exploring that kind of genre in the ‘60s and that kind of rock & roll genre. I suppose that kind of inspired me loads to go out and form a band and play blues music, and then it changed and I’m playing music. It’s great.
“I have always gone through different phases. You do that growing up; you do that coming of age. You kind of go through all those different phases where I loved Elvis for a while, and I thought, ‘Elvis is f**kin’ class!’ And I was getting my hair cut like Elvis, like these other guys that I was watching, like these bluegrass guys. I got this haircut when I went to Sing Street where I had the sides shaved and I got this rockabilly haircut. I just went through all those phases. It was very purely rockabilly, but I’m sure once I hit after Sing Street and stuff, I went into the more New Romantic style.
“They actually bought me this brilliant jacket that I wore for ages on set - John and the producer Anthony [Bregman] bought it for me – which is like a Royal Air Force jacket; big shoulder pads, New Romantic style. And I got into that, and it’s all part of the music; kind of the makeup thing. I’m looking forward to going out on stage with the Sing Street lads and experimenting with that."
Do you prefer looking like Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet or Robert Smith?
“Robert Smith probably. He’s pretty fun.”
Saoirse Ronan is probably the best-known young Irish actor right now, and she has spoken up about her complex feelings of leaving Ireland to live and work abroad. How do you feel about the idea of leaving Ireland for the sake of your acting career?
“I love Ireland. I love Dublin, and I grew up there. Fortunately these trips have been short and really packed up. But I was in London yesterday, and it feels like we’ve been gone weeks when I’ve literally been gone from home two days. It’s just that distance and the amount I’ve done in those few days. I was in London for this photoshoot, and it was a beautiful part of London, in Soho, and I really enjoyed it, and I’d happily live out here. But it’s all very far ahead from moving out. The film has brought me places I’ve never been - Utah, for Sundance, and this is my first time to Canada. If it wasn’t for Sing Street, I wouldn’t be out here.”
You’re only 16. Do you have a sense of what you want to do ongoing?
“I’m really lucky. I have so many options. I’m a musician, I love music. I’m 16, I’m taking a year off school. I don’t know if I’m going to go back next year or what the crack is there. I definitely want to do more acting jobs. I want to explore that and see where that takes me. And I’m really lucky because I have so many options. And I’m at a great age as well where there’s no pressure.”