Belfast Telegraph

Q&A: We catch up with actor and director Paul Kennedy

By Simon Fallaha

The actor, writer and director (35) speaks about making the drama, Shooting For Socrates, which is to be screened at the Belfast Film Festival next week.

Q: Was acting just something you fell into?

A: Yes. I wanted to go to university, just like my friends, and did theatre studies at the University Of Ulster. From that moment on, my passion for acting developed.

Q: What attracted you to the James Erskine and Marie Jones script for Shooting For Socrates?

A: I was in New York with a friend of mine, the actor Ciaran McMenamin. He'd just been cast as Sammy McIlroy in the film, and he told me, "You should take a look at the script." I did, and found the writing had a strong backbone. It's very funny and heartfelt. I've always admired Marie Jones, who has a great grasp of the Belfast humour, and James Erskine, who also directed the film, is a fantastic filmmaker with a specific vision.

Q: In the film, set against the backdrop of the 1986 World Cup, you play goalkeeping legend Pat Jennings. How did it feel to portray such a high-profile figure?

A: It was one of the biggest honours of my career. I hadn't originally auditioned to be a footballer, but then the producer called me back in and I got cast as Pat Jennings. It meant that I had to undergo a great deal of physical and even vocal training, for Jennings had, and still has, a much deeper voice than me. But it paid off, because I finally got to run out on the Windsor Park pitch. Also, when I was trying to grasp the character, I received a phone call from a withheld number, and it turned out to be the real Pat Jennings.

Q: Do you have a favourite moment in football?

A: Manchester United winning the Champions League - twice.

Q: How would you rank Shooting For Socrates alongside your other projects, like The Fall, '71, and Made In Belfast?

A: It's very difficult to rank things, because you never know how big something will be before you star in it, so you have to approach it the same way every time.

Ultimately, Made In Belfast is what I'm most proud of, as it's a very personal, micro budget film. It got me 100 festival circuits for a year and kick started my career.

Q: What's better, being behind the camera or in front of it?

A: I love acting because I like being told what to do in that situation.

What's in front of the camera will stay there forever, and you're treated well.

It's not like being a member of the crew; they, the real heroes of the movie, are on set 14 hours a day. And as a director, you're not just part of the shooting, but you're there through everything: development, pre-production, post-production, polishing it off. It's a more intense and lengthy process.

Q: You've worked with Richard Dormer and Jamie Dornan. Do you see yourself going on to bigger things like them?

A: They're both actors I really admire. I've been watching Richard since he started out in theatre. Now I'm okay, but he's what you'd call "proper". And Jamie's a nice guy, but I couldn't handle his stratospheric level of fame, I want to make more low budget films that say what I want to say about where I live.

Shooting for Socrates will have it's UK premiere at the Waterfront on April 24, 8pm. For ticket information call 028 90246 609 or email

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