The Irishman in a field in England
Having spent his 20s “floating around” Belfastman Michael Smiley was a late-comer to acting. He talks about his role in Ben Wheatley’s radical new English Civil-War film
“I grew up in a working-class estate on the outskirts of Belfast when there were no prospects and no employment,” he syas. “Acting wasn’t for the likes of me. Going to Rada wasn’t something I ever thought about. I had a lot of catching up to do. I don’t know any shortcuts. With stand-up you do your apprenticeship, you find your voice, you find the subjects you want to talk about. With acting you’re thrown into different stories and different rhythms every time. Growing up I was a high-energy wee lad running mad. I still have that energy, and now I have somewhere to put it.”
In keeping with the actor’s autobiographical Fringe shows Confessions of a Catholic Buddhist and Re:Cycling, his life appears to have been fairly random in its progression. Does he generally fall arse-over-tit into employment opportunities?
“I think a lot of people do. I think most lives don’t happen according to five-year plans. You take this turn or that turn. And the stars align. And you’re off on another path. Random is good. If you keep on going and enjoy life then it’s never a waste.”
Official Trailer for 'A Field In England'
A Field in England, in keeping with its star’s philosophy, is a radical new venture. From today the film will be available on multiple-media formats – cinema, TV, video-on-demand.
“I think every time the Tories get into power and start putting the squeeze on, something happens,” says Smiley. “That’s where punk came from. That’s where acid house came from. That was good for me because that way I got to spend time chilling out on sofas listening to all these hopes and dreams. And now it’s happening with film. All these people are realising they can make their own movies on their laptop, upload them to YouTube and publicise them on Twitter. Anything is possible. And A Field in England is testing that out.”
Speaking of Twitter, the father-of-four did tweet up something of a storm when his domestic partner Miranda Sawyer tuned into Glastonbury last weekend.
“I found myself shouting ‘No!’ Get it off!’ I used to go to Glastonbury in the ’80s. I went about 10 times. And I’ve performed there. It didn’t used to be a convenient place for Beyoncé to start or end her world tour. The idea of f*cking Bruce Forsyth performing at Glastonbury back then. The idea of bus-pass age Rolling Stones shuffling around. When the camera pans out into the crowd is a bunch of white middle-class kids. It’s like springbreak for Oxford and Cambridge. I love The Rolling Stones. I just don’t need to see them now. My grandmother was a wonderful woman who gave birth to 15 kids. I don’t need to see her on a stage with her legs slightly splayed to prove it.”
yyy A Field in England is showing at the Light House Cinema in Smithfield, Dublin