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Brendan Gleeson, Kelly Reilly, Chris O'Dowd attend special 'Calvary' lunch

Actor Brendan Gleeson and director John Michael McDonagh attend the 'Calvary' premiere during 64th Berlinale International Film Festival at Zoo Palast on February 9, 2014 in Berlin, Germany
Actor Brendan Gleeson and director John Michael McDonagh attend the 'Calvary' premiere during 64th Berlinale International Film Festival at Zoo Palast on February 9, 2014 in Berlin, Germany
Photo by Andreas Rentz

On Thursday July 24, 2014, Examiner.com was invited to a special lunch honoring Fox Searchlight's latest film "Calvary" at the elegant Explorer’s Club on the Upper East Side. The intimate reception was hosted by Dan Abrams, Jimmy Breslin, Dana Delany, Terry George and Lawrence O’Donnell. From the film: Brendan Gleeson, Kelly Reilly, Chris O'Dowd and director John Michael McDonagh were in attendance.

Father James (Brendan Gleeson) is a good priest who is faced with sinister and troubling circumstances brought about by a mysterious member of his parish. Although he continues to comfort his own fragile daughter (Kelly Reilly) and reach out to help members of his church with their various scurrilous moral - and often comic - problems, he feels sinister and troubling forces closing in, and begins to wonder if he will have the courage to face his own personal Calvary.

Guests were treated to a Q&A with the film's cast. Read exclusive highlights from the conversation.

The character you play in this movie is drastically different from the one you play in “The Guard”, what was the difference between making the two projects?

Brenden Gleeson: Well, I suppose he had the burden of protecting an overall goodness and he was committed to it, which takes a lot of courage. Gerry on the other hand, pretended that he didn’t have that and pretended that he didn’t give a damn. Father James didn’t have that wall, he opened up his heart which in a way that was extraordinarily brave and I think this is kind of what we’ve been talking about. So the idea was that Gerry was hider, but in the end he was a very well reasoned man in the “The Guard”, while Father James was open, and open to all the abuse.

(On Chris O’Dowd) John, did you cast him to kind of subvert the audience’s expectations based on what we already know of his on screen persona?

John Michael McDonagh: Yeah, it was just supposed to rock the audience at the very beginning.

Chris, reflect on playing the role.

Chris O’Dowd: Whenever you do anything I suppose, all you're aiming for is it to be good and so you try to work with people with integrity, whether that’s comedic integrity, which is a really great fart joke or rather than a box standard fart joke, or somebody with the integrity of everybody involved in this film, it doesn’t really matter. I don’t really think of myself as a comedian or an actor that just does comedy, so it’s not necessarily something that I overly concern myself over.

Kelly, in the movie it shows that there are bandages on her wrist and it’s never fully explained about her attempt at suicide. Did you feel the need to flush out the background of the character as an actress?

Kelly Reilly: Because it’s on the written page, I obviously want to indulge myself in what has happened to her because that helps me perform. But it's not that exact. She is obviously traumatized and unable to have healthy relationships with men, hence coming home to her main man (referring to her father), she tries to find peace in order to have healthy relationships in the future. But obviously it’s not her fault, she is someone who is melancholic, she has a tender heart like her father I think and she hasn’t been able to protect herself and therefore she arrives a little bit broken. I think she’s a bit of a broken bird but I never wanted to play her as a victim. I think that’s what says most about the journey she goes on with her father, he does kind of help her by the last scene. I don't think she would have been able to do that without him.

How did you manage to prepare in order to have such a believable father-daughter relationship?

BG: I think the difficulty of that was more or less surpassed when she arrived on the set. She arrived on the set and that was it, I didn't have to think twice, I didn’t have to think anything. I was just thankful that she arrived the way that she did because it was nothing new that was needed. I think her spirit and her generosity - she has just such a beautiful spirit and it just sunk in.

How important was cynicism along with fate faith in your character, the construction of the character?

BG: Essential. Because it’s what is denying people access to be brave and good.

*Spoiler*

Who killed the dog?

JMM: In the film, after the dog is killed there is scene where they’re all in the bar; one of the characters has a bandage on his hand which implies that while killing the dog, the dog bit him so you have to go and see the movie again to see who did it.

Are you planning on making another film to make this a complete trilogy?

JMM: Halfway through “Calvary”, I thought, if I release a new movie I can release a box set on Amazon and call it “The Glorified Suicide Trilogy”. But that means I have to write a new one, so I guess it’s that it’s compelling me to write a new film, what started off a joke might really become a reality.