Hardy Bucks are making the move onto the big screen and into the big time, but head Mayo honcho Martin Maloney admits he never thought it would go this far. "I could end up being hounded by the press like Princess Diana," he tells TARA BRADY
‘I’M WAKING UP at night in a cold sweat,” says Martin Maloney, the co-creator and star of one-time YouTube sensation Hardy Bucks. “I never thought it would go this far to be honest. I could end up being hounded by the press like Princess Diana.”
Hardy Bucks is an unlikely Cinderella story for the internet age. Created in drunkenness and shot on location in Swinford, Co Mayo, the Bucks, explains Maloney, began life as “some messing” with fellow instigator Chris Tordoff back in 2007. A rough-hewn web series followed. A new cult was born.
It is, as Maloney notes, “an unbelievable case of humble beginnings”.
Later this month, The Hardy Bucks Movie will premiere at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival and go on release across the UK and Ireland. The film will be distributed by Universal Pictures and its images of the Bucks at last year’s Euro 2012 are already familiar on the back of a high-profile advertising campaign. This is a big deal for something that came out of “too many ales”.
“Me and Chris Tordoff used to send each other surreal text messages about country life,” says Maloney. “We’d name people after cars and that sort of stuff. Like ‘Look out! Lexus Higgins is after you!’ or ‘Watch out for Mahogany Suit’. It all went back to the kind of talk you’d hear from teenagers around the town. Or that you’d hear from us around the town. We didn’t need to make it funny. It was pretty surreal as it was.”
Surreal seems to be hardwired into Maloney. A madcap raconteur and relentless ideas man, I have to check the recording time is correct when I listen back to the interview. Can any one human being cover so many topics and take that many conversational tangents – Amy Winehouse, rates of marital fidelity among the Dutch, sunshine in Mexico, the price of wine and dinner for two in Poznan, Alan Partridge, the time he saw Irish Times writer Eoin Butler outside the Ireland-Italy game, a scheme for Bavaria can disposal and Last of the Summer Wine – in only an hour?
“Sorry,” he says at least once, “I’ve gone a bit stream of consciousness there.”
Unbridled banter is at the heart of the Hardy Bucks project. The Mayo-based comedy charts the idle chatter (“He’s mad as a bag of shpiders”) and misadventures of Eddie Durkin (Maloney) and assorted midlands ne’er-do-wells, united by a penchant for fighting, drinking, roaming around and ‘schmoking’ hash.
The gang – notably Owen Colgan’s Buzz O’Donnell, Peter Cassidy’s Frenchtoast O’Toole and Tom Kilgallon’s The Boo, and Chris Tordoff’s The Viper – first assembled in September 2007 to shoot on equipment borrowed from Ballyfermot College where Tordoff was studying mixed media.
Three escapades were uploaded to You Tube within the year.
The Bucks viral success proved instrumental in its elevation to TV show proper. By the time Maloney and Tordoff’s creation was shortlisted as part of RTE’s Storyland competition in 2009, the webisodes had established a sizable following as a kind of Irish version of the hit Canadian mockumentary Trailer Park Boys.
“A lot of people thought we’d just ripped off the Trailer Park Boys when they first saw it,” recalls Maloney. “But we really liked the Trailer Park Boys. We loved the way they’d use small running gags. When we started in our minds we were making a kind of a tribute.”
The Hardy Bucks soon made the concept (“cruisin’ round te town doing laps”) their own, working distinctly local colour and phrasing – “He’s only a small fucker: he’s about two hands higher than a duck” – into comic set pieces.
Perhaps it helped that Maloney and Tordoff, who originally came from Leeds, brought an outsider’s view. Well, not outsider exactly. Maloney, a cheeky, red-haired chap with a soft Merseyside brogue, moved to Mayo – “17 years ago almost to the day” – but always felt Irish; at school a gym teacher made “potato” remarks on account of his Celtic pigmentation; once, in the wake of an IRA bombing, his Midlands-born mother was accosted with the words: “Proud to be Irish, are you?”
He already knew the accent and had practice impersonating his father’s Mayo brogue when, aged 12, he returned to his ancestral home with the rest of the family. He was soon glad he had put in the hours: “When I moved over here, I quickly realised that I was such a messer, I was going to have to use a Mayo accent. It was too easy to get caught when I was shouting expletives from the back of the class in my own accent.”
The dialect may have been familiar but the sudden culture shift gave Maloney a unique perspective on his Mayo roots: “It was a hell of a shock,” he admits. “In Liverpool, we had advanced labs at school. Came here and the computers were all kept in a wing of the school we called Siberia and the only thing we were allowed to do was to play Solitaire or Minesweeper on them. You’d hear stuff like: ‘Get your ass down the study hall, man.’ I’m thinking ‘What the hell is study hall?’ It felt like going back to 1950s America.”
Americanised Ireland is a recurrent theme with Tordoff’s inept bullyboy, The Viper, who spends much of his time “keeping it real” to the strains of DJ Jean’s The Launch, and various known associates including Stateside (Tommy Miller).
“Ireland is really American,” says Maloney. “I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s that there are so many Irish people over there and Americans coming over here. But it always stuck out for me.”
Most of the show’s comic influences are, however, distinctly British, with Maloney citing Steve Coogan, Chris Morris, Charlie Brooker and Armando Iannucci in particular.
“I remember my dad watching Last of the Summer Wine and I think that kind of capering shows up in our stuff,” says Maloney. “But it’s a lot of things. It’s the mid-life crisis of Top Gear – except these guys are in their 20s.”
In common with a great many classic British sitcoms, Hardy Bucks plays up the confinement of its setting. The characters may be idiots but there’s something tragic about the way they think of Galway as “the big schmoke”, a place that lies beyond their collective reach: “Galway? Sure how would ye even get up there, man?”
“I feel sorry for the poor bastard,” Maloney says of his character Eddie. “He just wants to better himself but he’s too afraid to do anything about it. And he doesn’t have a lot of options. And when you have that kind of time on your hands, of course you start recreationally drinking and smoking hash and driving around town all day.”
In this spirit, Maloney insists that Hardy Bucks functions as legitimate social critique: “It was always in my mind that we were talking for those who don’t have a voice, because living in the countryside, you really don’t have a voice. There are no cultural centres around Swinford. There’s no skate park or place to learn an instrument. I played football with guys in Mayo who could easily have played in the Premier League. But no one was ever going to see them. When I was a kid I always had grandiose dreams like being a race-car driver or footballer. And the response was always the same: ‘Where you going to do that around here?’”
Happily, Hardy Bucks The Movie finally sees the titular vagabonds make it past the Swinford roundabout. Shot on location in Holland and Poland, the new major motion picture sees the Bucks hit the road on the Euro 2012 trail. It does not take long for the group to get waylaid in Amsterdam’s Red Light District and embroiled in a drug-smuggling caper.
It was tricky shooting there and even trickier filming outside the Ireland-Italy match: “We had 20 minutes to do an entire scene from two different angles with everybody shouting behind us,” says Maloney. “I could see the stress etched into the producer’s face. I don’t know how he stayed positive.”
Shot “almost guerrilla style” for €300,000, the production required the cast to travel together in a van across Europe. That went as well as could be expected.
“It was five lads in a caravan,” says Maloney. “It was cosy and we got on, but no beds were made and nothing was put away properly. And then when everything started piling up, you ended up with someone else’s feet in your face at night. By the time we made it back to Holyhead – where it was lashing obviously – it was like something from Jeremy Kyle. I felt like I had come back from combat. I did. You weren’t there, man. You weren’t there.”
Hardy Bucks The Movie premieres at JDIFF 2013 on February 18th, and is on general release from February 22nd