Hollywood Confidential: Coleraine sound engineer Eddy Joseph on what it’s really like to work with prickly stars like Madonna and Tom Cruise
Back home to speak at a special screening of Angela's Ashes in Ballymena tomorrow, the top-rated audio consultant lifts the lid on a successful career in Tinseltown.
He's the Coleraine man who advised Madonna to drink Guinness during her pregnancy, told Brad Pitt where to go – to find subjects for his little known passion of sketching – and introduced Tom Cruise to an acrobat to help him with his work-outs.
Eddy Joseph has seen it all – and more importantly heard it all – in Hollywood. For he's one of the biggest noises on the sound side of the movies.
And during his time as a sound editor and designer Eddy has worked with all the biggest names in the business and won a fistful of awards for his expertise on some of the finest films ever produced.
His first encounter with Madonna, however, didn't bode well for the rest of their time together on the film Evita, which also starred Antonio Banderas.
"He was charming," Eddy says. "But Madonna, who was about eight months pregnant when I was getting her to do some extra lines, was not much fun.
"She tore a strip off me for daring to ask her how long she had to go until the birth.
"She snapped at me 'Why does everyone want to know my business?'
"I told her that my best friend's wife had just given birth that morning and wanted me to pass on some advice to Madge. She had drunk a pint of Guinness and hours later the baby slipped out.
"When Madge heard this she relaxed, saying, 'So all those things you can't do while you're pregnant, you can do just before the birth?' From then on she was fine."
Eddy worked with Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise on Interview With The Vampire.
He says: "Brad had been an architecture student and showed me some sketches he had done of buildings in London. I suggested he should go to Bruges, in Belgium, as the architecture was interesting. Next time I saw him he showed me the new sketches he had made of the city!"
Cruise wasn't quite so easy to get along with, according to Eddy, who says he questioned every line he wanted him to re-do. But again he used a bit of his Irish charm.
"I remembered that he was into acrobatics and mentioned that a friend of mine was an international acrobat who could give him a few tips.” Cruise was plain sailing after that.
Eddy, who admits he’s “still a little in love with Julia Roberts”, was also involved in Neil Jordan’s movie about the Irish Republican leader Michael Collins, a film which starred Ballymena man Liam Neeson, as well as the aforementioned Ms Roberts.
“Liam's one of the most pleasant and professional actors I've worked with,” says Eddy, who was born in Coleraine in 1945 and was to follow his father Teddy into the film industry.
Teddy was a soldier when he met his future wife Betty at a dance in Coleraine Town Hall. But before the war he’d been a production assistant for legendary movie maker Alfred Hitchcock.
And after the end of hostilities he returned to the business, working on classics like The African Queen, which was directed by John Huston and starred Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn.
Eddy recalls that his father was regularly away from home, working on locations around the world, and the family moved to live in Buckinghamshire, though they were frequent visitors to Coleraine.
The young Eddy went to primary school in Coleraine before completing his education in England. However, he still retains a deep affection for the town of his birth and for the north coast.
“Coleraine has always been special for me, along with Portstewart and Portrush,” he says.
“Most summers were spent in the Golden Triangle. My aunts all had kids my age so I was never short of playmates.”
Eddy remembers having his first drink, first smoke and first kiss during those idyllic summers, but the real love which blossomed was for the cinema after regular visits to movie houses in the area. “There were three programmes a week and all of them were double bills,” he says.
“Mind you, they were mostly old westerns from what I remember and the only genre of film I haven't worked on is the western.”
At school in England Eddy was obsessed with music.
“I lost interest in my studies when I was about 16 and played music instead in a band we formed at Abingdon School in Oxfordshire.
“Ours was the first ever band at the school which was where Radiohead got started in later years.”
By the 1960s Eddy’s father had established himself as a highly respected associate producer in the film world but he didn’t want his children to go into the movies because he was wary of the vagaries of the business.
All three of Teddy’s sons ignored his advice, however, and got involved in one way or another.
Eddy’s brother Richard, who died seven years ago, was one of the pioneers of music for computer games, and Pat who is 12 years younger than 68-year-old Eddy, runs a massive visual effects, animation and design studio called The Mill, which has offices in London and America.
Still, Eddy’s route into the film world was circuitous, to say the least.
He trained as an accountant and studied business before working as a postman, a pork pie maker, a wine company driver and then tried his hand as a singer-songwriter.
He failed to make the grade but can console himself with the fact that he appeared on the same bill at a folk club in England with a duo called Tom and Jerry who later changed their names to Simon and Garfunkel.
Eddy’s father was, however, starting to lose patience with his son who couldn’t settle at anything.
“One day he asked me in exasperation what did I want to do and he decided to take action,” he recalls.
“He got me a job as a production runner on Salt and Pepper, a film starring Sammy Davis Jnr and Peter Lawford. It was brilliant but I needed a union ‘ticket’ to continue.
“That was difficult but I finally got into a commercial company in Soho where by training as an assistant editor I eventually got into the union. I never thought of going back to production. Editing was fascinating and it still is.”
Eddy’s passion for sound is boundless. He says: “Sound is what gives a film emotion. Obviously, I include music in sound. Imagine the shower scene in Psycho without Bernard Herrman's score or the arrival of the dinosaur in Jurassic Park without the footsteps off screen.
“I've always loved The Archers radio programme and have never considered that it isn't real. Without sound it would be nothing.”
Eddy’s CV is impressive, having worked on everything from the Bond and Harry Potter movies to films about 9/11.
One of his most successful films was based in Ireland — The Commitments, an award-winning Alan Parker movie about a group of youngsters who set up a soul band in Dublin.
“That was a challenge,” says Eddy. “But it was the most fun and the kids were great to work with and were in awe of what was happening to them.”
Of the 007 epic Casino Royale, Eddy says: “It was one of the biggest scale movies I supervised and gave us an opportunity to play around with Aston Martins, speedboats and even a hydrogen car.”
United 93, which told the story of one of the hijacked planes which crashed in America before it could be used to attack its target on 9/11, was a different experience altogether.
“It needed to have great sensitivity because of the subject matter yet filled with an incredible amount of detail,” says Eddy.
Enemy At The Gates, a wartime thriller, was a massive sound editing job which was mainly carried out in Munich. “I took a truckload of equipment and a lot of British sound editors with me. We got to record tanks, guns and even crashed a few cars and dropped one from a forklift at a breaker’s yard.”
The changes down the years in sound have been remarkable. And Eddy has been in the forefront of the digital revolution.
“There have been massive leaps from optical mono to Dolby stereo, from 5.1 to Dolby Atmos. I’ve been lucky to have witnessed them all.”
He says that among his favourite directors are Alan Parker, Anthony Minghella and Neil Jordan, with whom he worked on five films including The Crying Game, starring Belfast’s Stephen Rea.
His favourite movies of all time are more difficult to choose. But Total Recall, Blade Runner and Clint Eastwood’s westerns top his list.
Eddy believes that movie-goers have become quite sophisticated in their approach to all aspects of the films they watch.
And he rejects any notion that the only time anyone really notices the sound is when something goes wrong.
He says: “People are very perceptive and appreciate good quality sound. Sound is half of the movie and, for enjoyment, has to play its part.”
But he says the silences are every bit as crucial to the end product on the screen.
Eddy has frequently been recognised by the industry for his editing and design.
He’s received eight BAFTA nominations and he’s won two gongs, one of them for Pink Floyd’s The Wall.
He says: “It's great to receive awards but it's not why we're in the business. I can't deny, however, that it’s fun rubbing shoulders with the big stars but the passion is all important.”
Eddy, who says he would have loved to have won an Oscar, has now retired from full-time work but he is acting as a consultant for the industry as well as teaching and lecturing. He is also trying to write a book about his eventful career.
Eddy is also liaising with the Nerve Centre, the dynamic arts hub for young people in Londonderry, on an occasional basis.
“The people who run it are amazing and the British Film Institute are helping with some funding there. I've been helping some of the kids with their short films,” he says.
He’s never worked with Jimmy Nesbitt though they are both from the same neck of the woods.
They did meet during a Royal visit from the Queen, though the movies weren’t high on the agenda.
Eddy says: “Jimmy and I chatted about Barry’s amusements in Portrush where he used to work!”
Eddy returns to Northern Ireland tomorrow to speak at the Braid Arts Centre in Ballymena after a special screening of Angela’s Ashes which he helped to make.
The event has been organised by the Braid Film Festival as part of Ballymena Borough Council’s creative citizens programme.
“I can’t wait,” says Eddy, who’s also looking forward to meeting up with his cousins back home for a party — and a pint.
Eddy Joseph will be taking part in a Q&A session following a screening of Angela’s Ashes at The Braid, Ballymena, tomorrow night, at 7pm. For details, visit www.thebraid.com.
Roll the credits
Eddy Joseph’s credits include: Green Zone – 2010, Nowhere Boy – 2009, Last Chance Harvey – 2008, Quantum of Solace – 2008, Casino Royale – 2006, United 93 – 2006, Corpse Bride – 2005, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory – 2005, King Arthur – 2004, Cold Mountain – 2003, The Life of David Gale – 2003, Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone – 2001, Enemy at the Gates – 2001, Angela’s Ashes – 1999, Lost in Space – 1997, Evita – 1996, Michael Collins – 1996, Interview with the Vampire – 1994, Little Buddha – 1993, The Commitments – 1991, We’re No Angels – 1989, Batman – 1989, Angel Heart – 1987, Birdy – 1984, The Killing Fields – 1984, Fame – 1980, Midnight Express – 1978, Sunday Bloody Sunday – 1971, Salt & Pepper – 1968