The day after its US premiere, on Saturday, February 15, HamptonsFilm will host a special screening of Ordinary Love, starring Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville, at Guild Hall in East Hampton as part of the Now Showing series.
We had the pleasure of catching up with the film’s directors, Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn, about how Bono helped them cast Liam Neeson, working together as a married couple, getting to the heart of a relationship – on the big screen, and more.
What made you connect with Ordinary Love and want to bring it to the big screen?
LBD: Ordinary Love is a story that we came in contact with when it was in the very early stages of development. The writer, Owen McCafferty, is a very acclaimed Irish playwright, and we’d been hoping to work with him on his first screenplay for some time. This is a personal story, that’s based on events in his own life. But, for us, what really excited us about it was that it was a really fresh take on a love story. That’s what we really want to tell. It’s a love story, it’s a story about a marriage, and it’s a really unique story about a marriage, it felt to us. It isn’t about the start of a relationship or the end of a relationship, it’s about what happens at the heart of a relationship, it’s about the center of a love story.
Also, that it’s a story about a couple in a different stage of life than we normally see explored, romantically, on screen. Those things were exciting and what really drew us, I think, was the opportunity to do something that felt really authentic, unsentimental and really use the power of cinema, which is so good at exploring the minutiae of life, looking at the tiny details and amplifying them. These are the things that are worthy of celebration on the big screen.
In terms of casting, why did you feel Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville were right for Tom and Joan?
GL: We had actually been talking to Liam for some time about another project, our last film, Good Vibrations, which is actually very different to Ordinary Love. It was a film that Bono had seen and had really liked. He reached out to us because of that. He was developing an idea and Liam had been working on the idea, so through Bono we got introduced to Liam and met him a couple of times.
The other project that we were all talking about has yet to materialize. When we were developing Ordinary Love, when we read the first draft of it, we could really hear his [Liam Neeson’s] voice in it. Via Bono, he sent the script to Liam. Liam instantly connected with the material, as we hoped he might, got back to us, and said he’s keen to it.
Lesley’s an actress that we’ve admired for many, many years. She’s, in our opinion, one of the greats. We knew that Liam was a fan of Lesley’s as well. That was kind of a good beginning. They had never met before, they had never worked together before on anything, and they had many, many mutual friends, of course, that over the years had worked with people who worked with them, but their paths had never crossed on a project. Liam was very keen to work with Lesley. So, that was really great. When they met, I think they had an instant chemistry, I think they share a sense of humor, and an ease of the way they work.
As a husband and wife duo, had you always planned to work together or did the partnership develop more organically?
LBD: It all happen organically, a little bit by accident. We had always collaborated on creative projects over the years. Glenn had a previous career in graphic design. Before we decided to work on films together, I was just trying to get early scripts produced and Glenn was working on some music promos. As a graphic designer he worked a lot with the record industry. A few years ago, we just decided to pool our talents and resources and start making shorts.
I think we were almost surprised to find that we enjoyed the process of directing so much and also the first shorts won at festivals and we started to get offered other things. It really did happen organically. People do find it strange that as a married couple we would want to work together, but we just found that it was really enjoyable. We get to have a lot of adventures together, which is great. I have a little daughter who we bring on the road with us very often. It’s worked well for us. Because Glenn comes from a graphic design, visual background, and I was in writing originally, we both sort of have areas that we contribute to the voice of the film and those roles aren’t clear cut, we both prepare everything and work on everything together so that before we even get to the set that we understand the voice of the film.
What do you look for in a project?
LBD: Great writing is one thing – whether it’s something we’re developing ourselves or talent that we’re looking to work with for our own production company. We love stories that have true humanity and heart. Also, with a certain edge and insight, a new way of talking about things, subject that allows us to have our own directorial voice in them. For example, this film, and our previous film, Good Vibrations, seem very different in terms of their subject matter, but they were both stories that share a certain warmth and humanity that they don’t shirk from the darker things of life, that they’re happy to explore those. It’s authentic to the human experience. As well as the warmth, the humor, the lightness that people bring to dealing with those aspects of life and those things that life throws at us.
As the film is premiering in the US on Valentine’s Day and screening in the Hamptons the day after, what do you have planned for Valentine’s Day?
GL: I think, actually, we might be traveling. We might be on a flight.
LBD: But I’m fully expecting that he has some wonderful surprise planned for me.
GL: We’ll be sharing a pretty decent dinner on the plastic tray… But there could be a certain romance in that as well… To be honest, as Lisa said, the fact that we work together, we get to go on all these adventures together, that’s wonderful. The fact that the film’s opening in New York and the Hamptons, it’s an exciting time, and it’s great to be able to share these things.
What are you working on next?
GL: We have a bunch of stuff. We learned quite early on in our careers that you can’t just put one egg in your basket in the movie business because these things could take four or five years, sometimes ten, to get to screen.
We have a production company with another person, David Holmes, who is musician. He’s done the soundtracks for Ocean’s Eleven, and also Steve McQueen and various people. So, we always have a slate of things that we’re developing with that, and we also have projects that people bring to it. There is a project that has been brought to us that should be filming this year, if we can get the casting right. But, unfortunately, we can’t talk about it yet until we get the casting locked down.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
LBD: We hope the screening goes great and the audience really enjoys it – and Happy Valentine’s Day to everybody.
Tickets are $15 for general admission and $13 for HamptonsFilm and Guild Hall members. The screening begins at 6 p.m.
Guild Hall is located at 158 Main Street in East Hampton. For more information, visit hamptonsfilmfest.org.