Belfast Telegraph

CYRIL KELLY

Who? The 44-year-old from Dromore, Co Down, has produced a TG4 documentary called An Cowboy Deireanach - The Last Cowboy, which focuses on a Western shot in Northern Ireland nearly 40 years ago

Where did the idea for the original film, called Gunhawks, come from?

Basically, the background is that in 1974, a group of guys from Castlederg with no acting experience got together and decided to make their own Western movie called The Gunhawks. It was the only Western that's ever been made in Northern Ireland and it's actually quite brilliant. Now, some of the original cast members have got together to make a sequel - Return of the Gunhawks.

Have you always been a producer?

I studied production at art college, but I actually worked as a training officer before I got into production. I then set up my own production company which is called Soup Stone Production.

In what way does your documentary cast a light on the film?

The latest film is called Return of the Gunhawks, based on the original film, The Gunhawks. I'm producing a documentary that's based on the unique story of the film called The Last Cowboy, or An Cowboy Deireanach, for the Irish language station TG4.

The whole premise of the movie is quite humorous. We learn all about the people who take part and it's really a view through actor Hugh Devenny's eyes about what the whole process was like. Everyone is trying to be like John Wayne. Hugh got on fine with the other actors as well. The major issue was that some of the amateur actors were very nervous about working with him, but it worked out well in the end.

How did you get involved with the original director, Tommy Maguire?

I met the guy who directed the original film, Tommy Maguire, by chance. I'd heard of the movie previously, so I was fascinated when he told me he'd directed it. He told me about how all the original cast were going to get together to make a sequel, and having made documentaries in the past, I thought it would be fascinating to make a programme on the making of the film.

What was Tommy's background in making films?

He literally had none. When I first met Tommy in Omagh, I asked him who his influences were. He simply answered "the master." Then he went on to explain, given that he'd no actual film-making experience, that he used to work as a projectionist in his local cinema and had gleaned everything he knew about making a film - perspective and the like - by studying Alfred Hitchcock films. He said that one day he knew he would become a director.

How did the original film come about?

What happened was that in 1974, due to the political situation, there were very few cinemas about. Having been a fan of Westerns, Tommy thought the best way to get a good show was to go out and make it himself.

The film obviously never made it into cinemas, but it became a bit of an urban legend. People had heard of it but nobody actually saw it. I only managed to see it myself about five years ago when it appeared at a mid-Ulster film festival. It got quite a reaction at the festival.



When they made the original, did they intend making a sequel?

They have been preparing for this for more than three decades. Everyone has proper costumes and they've even sourced lots of sugar glass bottles to smash over each other's heads in bar fights. The movie has just about every element that you'd expect from a Western. There are gunfights, horse chase scenes - everything.

Does everyone have dodgy American accents in the film?

There is one Irish character in the film who plays a deputy sheriff in the Western town of Tombstone. He has an Irish accent, but everyone else tends to have a mid-Atlantic accent. The programme follows a guy called Hugh Devenny through the filming. Hugh actually has a background in acting, so it's interesting watching him act with people who have no experience whatsoever.

Even though the documentary is due to be shown on TG4, all of the acting in the film is in the English language.

What would you be if you weren't a director?

I don't know the answer to that question. When I'm not producing I'm just not happy. I really enjoy my job. It can be stressful, like everything, but it's good fun. I'm also doing a bit of lecturing at the moment as well on production.

Where was Return of the Gunhawks filmed and why?

It was filmed all around Tyrone and Donegal. If you look at the landscape in the mid-west of America it's actually very similar to the landscape in Northern Ireland. We even did some of the filming in Omagh History Park. With that, we basically had a pre-built set.

What's the main plot of the film?

When a young native American girl is murdered, the hero, masquerading as a priest, vows to track down her killers.

secrets he wants to share

e What's your favourite music?

At the moment I'm listening to a lot of Muse.

e Do you have a preferred film?

The Secret Lives of Others.

e And a favourite book?

The Secret History by Donna Tartt.

e What's your 'never again' moment?

I did a documentary on coal miners in Leitrim and invited lots of dignitaries to the screening. The projector broke and I had to convince the local pub owner to show it in his pub. I also had to buy everyone drinks.

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