Having a strong desire to protect your family and find your place in the world are strong motivating factors for people to reach outside of their comfort zones, and embark on journeys they never would have otherwise considered taking. This is certainly true for the two main characters in Irish writer-director Terry George’s new independent comedy-drama, ‘Stand Off.’ As Maguire flees to Ireland after hurriedly escaping a fight with his wife in Boston, and tries to figure out what he should do next in his life, his purported son Jimbo tries to keep his family together, after getting into a scuffle of his own.
‘Stand Off’ follows Maguire (Brendan Fraser) as he goes on the run from his wife and her father, the head of the Irish Mob in Boston, after an argument. Landing in Belfast, Maguire begins running his cousin’s antique store after he goes on vacation. He becomes entangled in a robbery attempt by one of the local men, Jimbo, who has to pay back a gambling debt to the local Mobster, Mad Dog Flynn (David O'Hara).
When Flynn demands Jimbo hands over his infant son as a form of repayment, Jimbo embarks on a misguided attempt to protect his family. He decides to rob a fish market, which is coincidentally owned by Flynn and his mother (Marie Jones). However, she immediately tips off the police, leading Detective Weller (Colm Meaney) to investigate. Jimbo takes refuge in Maguire’s antique store, and immediately starts to believe that Maguire is the illegitimate father he never knew.
To try to rectify his situation, Jimbo takes several people hostage, including his son, Maguire, Maguire’s girlfriend Sophie (Yaya Alafia) and two neighborhood children, who were hiding in one of the store’s couches. Surrounded by the Police, the SAS and the Mobster’s crew, Jimbo must find a way out of his precarious predicament with the help of his oddball captives.
Fraser generously took the time recently to talk about the filming of ‘Stand Off’ over the phone from New York. Among other things, the actor discussed why he wanted to take on the role of Maguire; what his working relationship with George was like; and how worldwide audiences have reacted to the comedy-drama during the film’s festival screenings.
Question (Q): You play Maguire in ‘Stand Off.’ What was it about the character, and the story overall, that convinced you to take on the role?
Brendan Fraser (BF): I wanted to work with Terry George, the director and writer of the movie. I wanted to work with him after he contributed to last year’s Oscar Nominated Short Films. Also, this film is a love letter to Belfast as a city, which is reinventing itself.
I also wanted to join this ensemble cast of actors that I admire. The other actors that I met on set, I grew to admire. It was a sincere pleasure to work with them.
Q: Speaking of Terry George, what was your working relationship with him like overall?
BF: Well, when a director, who is in complete control of his material, is at the same time open to collaborating with all those he entrusted to do their jobs well, that makes a world-class director. He hires the right people, and leads them to their tasks.
Without Terry’s desire and passion to make this, this film would not have been possible. It’s a glimpse into a subgenre of film about Northern Ireland. There’s a great deal of desire that goes into creating it, because of what resourcefulness that must go into independent filmmaking. It’s also a very personal story for him and Belfast’s residents.
While dangerous things may occur, in your heart, you know everything’s going to be alright. Hence, the hostage crisis with a baby and a machine gun left over from who knows when. There’s also the heist with very scary gangsters and a pair of local gypsy kids hiding in a couch, who are using it as a Trojan horse, to infiltrate the antiques store. (laughs) It sure was a lot of fun to make.
That comes across to audiences. I saw the movie at the premiere in Belfast, and that was heart-warming. It’s something I’ll always remember.
Q: The movie had its European premiere on at the Belfast Film Festival and its world premiere during the Spotlight Series at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Where you able to attend any of the screenings during the festivals, and what were the audiences’ reactions to the film?
BF: The audiences were positive and supportive when I was at Tribeca and Belfast. It’s something that makes me get a bit misty-eyed, as they get the jokes, and they feel like they traveled back to the old country. They can access it through the character Maguire, who’s from Boston. He’s the token Yankee in the film.
At some of the locations, I would ask whoever we were with, whether the driver or a friend or a local, ‘I’m sorry, but what did that man say?’ They’d say, (in Irish accent) ‘I don’t know, I can’t tell you.’ (laughs) The dialects were extreme from one another. It was a wonderfully remarkable place.
It seems to have a way of coping after being an affected area of the world. While some of the tensions still do exist, there’s an understanding that progress is made by working together, instead of opposing one another. A movie like this, I’d like and hope to think that it bridges that gap a little bit.
Q: Like you mentioned earlier, ‘Stand Off’ is an independent movie that had a limited budget of $5.5 million. Does working on an independent film influence your acting at all?
BF: Well, you work with what you’ve got and make the best of it. An independent movie requires you to work on the source material, and not rely so much on production values. Audiences today can sometimes take for granted spectacular imagery. So I just look at the material to tell the story.
Q: Since Terry both wrote and directed the film, did you work with him to develop your character? Do you prefer working with directors who also wrote the screenplay?
BF: Since Terry is from Belfast, we were able to get access to areas of Northern Ireland that would have been difficult for a director from anywhere else. That was part of the appeal. Also, as a writer-director, I could always refer to his expertise. Besides the accolades that have been given to him, he’s a good guy. It shows, and that’s the kind of director I want to work with.