Actor Ray Stevenson notes that he has never experienced anything as intense than starring in Anchor Bay Entertainment’s low-budget indie crime drama “Kill the Irishman” – a job that kept him busy 15 hours per day for 7 straight weeks.
“At the end of it, you could have spread me like butter on the freeway,” Stevenson explains. “It was not just like running a marathon; it was like running in the Olympics. The only thing that really was able steal me and get me through it was my belief and passion in the project and that of the people around me.”
In “Kill the Irishman,” which is now available on DVD at retail stores and rental outlets throughout the Valley, Stevenson portrays Danny Greene, a tough Irish thug who, while working for mobsters in 1970s Cleveland, ignites a turf war that leads to the collapse of the Mafia in several major U.S. cities.
Seeing as the movie was based on the real-life story of Greene, Stevenson admits that he was concerned about doing it right. The actor worried that the camera might pick up his exhaustion from “Kill the Irishman’s” tight production schedule and therefore negatively impact the final product.
“But it is amazing when you are on the set,” says Stevenson, noting that the energy of the rest of the cast and crew was infectious, encouraging him to bring his A-game to each and every scene. “Boom – everything starts firing. You feed off of that then die at the end of the day and get yourself ready for the next day.”
Stevenson recalls receiving a call about “Kill the Irishman” from writer/director Jonathan Hensleigh while in Mexico shooting the Hughes Brothers’ post-apocalyptic actioner “The Book of Eli.” After reading the script, the actor was struck with the realization that he had heard of Greene five years earlier on an episode of a program titled “American Mobsters.”
However, while he admits to conducting some research of the tough Irish thug, Stevenson preferred to rely on Hensleigh’s incredibly strong screenplay. After all, as the actor explains, any historical account – regardless of its authenticity – is only one point-of-view. And points-of-view have a tendency to differ from one another.
“Kill the Irishman” may have been the first time Stevenson has approached a real-life character who inhabited a period so close to the one in which we currently exist – having portrayed Titus Pullo in the television drama “Rome,” he is far more familiar with the 1st century BC – but it is not the first time he has taken on a character who epitomizes violence.
In 2008, Stevenson starred at Frank Castle in “Punisher: War Zone,” director Lexi Alexander’s cinematic interpretation of Marvel’s popular antihero. The property was previously adapted by Hensleigh in 2004 with Thomas Jane in the role Stevenson would eventually take over. The actor admits that he would jump at the chance to portray the character again in spite of the project’s poor performance.
“‘Punisher’ could have done better; it should have done better,” explains Stevenson, citing misguided marketing as a potential reason for its lackluster box office. “And I think there is room for more. [Frank Castle] is more brutal and terrorizing than the bad guys. This is a violent man doing violent things to violent people – yet there is an honest resonance and complete believability about him.”
Stevenson was especially compelled to take the role because Nick Santora, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway’s screenplay discouraged audiences from leaving the theater with a desire to be Frank Castle. In other words, he did not want “Punisher: War Zone” giving any social outcasts an excuse to “tool up and take out the bad guys like another Columbine.”
“There is no redemption for this man” says Stevenson, joking that he was also influenced by the fact that his involvement on the film would result in his very own action figure. “He’s in such a dark place. You’re glad he’s there – and you can’t wait to see what he does next – but there are elements of humanity to the guy with all his torture and pain. You don’t want to be him.”
“Kill the Irishman” (R – 106 minutes) will be available on DVD beginning June 14 at retail stores and rental outlets throughout the Valley.
Listen to Joseph J. Airdo’s “Movie Maverick” radio segment, every Friday morning at 8:30 a.m. during “The Daily Blender with Jeffry O’Brien” on KBSZ – NBC 1260 AM and 96.1 FM.