Robert Sheehan is an Irish actor best known for his television role as Nathan Young in the dramedy Misfits (2009-2013) and Darren in Love/Hate (2010-2013). He also portrayed Simon Lewis in the film adaption of bestselling series The Mortal Instruments (2013) and currently stars in the Peter Jackson-produced film series, Mortal Engines.
American filmmaker, actor and musician Ari Gold created “Helicopter,” (2001) an experimental short film made in the aftermath of his mother’s death. The film won a student Oscar and garnered other festival awards. The Song of Sway Lake, featuring Rory Culkin and Robert Sheehan, is Gold’s second feature premiering at the 2017 Los Angeles Film Festival. Beyond films, Gold is also a member of the bands The Gold Brothers and The Honey Brothers, in which he sings and plays ukelele.
THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS (2013)
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013) stars Lily Collins as Clary Fray, a young girl who discovers her lineage as a warrior against demons. Following the death of her mother, Clary joins forces with other warriors to fight the powers of Downworld, New York City’s alter ego.
Entourage is an HBO American comedy and drama tv series that aired eight seasons from 2004-11. Vince Chase (played by Adam Grenier) is a movie star who has moved with his childhood friends from Queens, New York. Together with Vince’s agent, they navigate the new territory that is Los Angeles. Mark Wahlberg and Stephen Levinson were the executive producers of Entourage and Doug Ellin its director.
Rory Culkin is an American actor from New York. He began his career in acting by playing the younger versions of his brothers, Macaulay and Kieran Culkin. He has starred in You Can Count on Me (2000) and Signs (2002) as well as a number of independent films.
MARY BETH PEIL
Born in Iowa in 1940, Peil is an American singer and actress. In the 60’s, Peil toured with Boris Goldovsky opera company and the Metropolitan Opera company. She has appeared in major stage roles such as Tennessee Williams’ Summer & Smoke, Kiss Me Kate and The King & I. She has starred in films such as Jersey Girl (1992), The Reagans (2003), and Mirrors (2008) and also in TV roles such as Law & Order and The Good Wife.
ADVENTURES OF POWER
Directed by Ari Gold, Adventures of Power (2008) is an American comedy film featuring Gold, Michael McKean, and Jane Lynch. Gold plays Power, a young man from Lode, New Mexico who dreams of taking his air-drumming to the next level. When he is fired from his mining job, he goes in search of an underground air-drumming club and the competition of his life.
Right before making the blockbuster fantasy movie “The Mortal Instruments,” Irish actor and producer Robert Sheehan spent some weeks hanging out with indie writer-director-actor Ari Gold (no, not that Ari Gold – although his name was inspiration for the Entourage character) in a lakeside mansion in upstate New York. The project, The Song of Sway Lake, a drama also starring Rory Culkin and veteran actress Mary Beth Peil, is a follow-up to Gold’s vastly contrasting cult comedy classic about air drumming, “Adventures of Power.”
Here Ari and Robert catch up in Ari’s Silver Lake backyard.
Ari Gold: Hi Robbie.
Robert Sheehan: Hey Ari.
A: I’m interviewing you, but you’re also interviewing me.
R: Well, I’d just like to say for anyone listening that I’ve been brought here against my will. Anything I say is under duress and therefore it should be discounted.
A: It’s only because I promised you that we could do the interview naked. And you’re really disappointed not to be naked.
R: Yes, yes, because I’m a naturist by nature. Naturist or naturalist?
A: Well, I did provide you with a green environment in which to do that.
R: There’s a fair whack of nature here, yeah.
A: So we met doing a film that is currently called “The Song of Sway Lake.” It might be called “The Sway Lake” at the end of the day, or “Sway.” Or it might be called “RobbiesNakedBody.com.”
R: “Robbie’s Great Big Bogus Adventure.” Or maybe you said to me “On Sway Lake,” which had a certain cadence to it. You know what I mean?
A: That’s an option too.
R: I suppose you always talked about how you wanted a dreamlike quality for the film. “The Song of Sway Lake” sounds almost like the kind of story that you tell your kids. But it sounds a bit twee as well. You know what I mean?
A: So you want to have something that’s more like “The 9mm Glock on Sway Lake” to give it a more masculine energy.
R: Yes, but just subtlety, you know. That’s all I require. Subtlety. The title sums up the experience of the film perfectly. I wanted to call the film “Loonies” or “Loons,” because there’s this species of birds that lives on the lake named loons.
A: Actually the song in “The Song of Sway Lake” does mention the loon birds. But we were the loons on set.
So yes, the film is about memory, obsession, beauty, youth, and age. Robbie plays a Russian who becomes transfixed by a great American matriarch who represents everything that he wishes he could have and then be.
R: Nicoli, my character, says, “We were born at the wrong time.” He’s got this very romantic idea of this iconic age of America where people wore Brylcreem in their hair and swished around on speedboats and drank scotch. It’s a very romantic idea of the fifties era, really.
A: I think there are a lot of people in this country, but also around the world, who are maybe smelling that America’s greatest hour may have already passed.
R: Yes, it’s like Ancient Rome. You extend yourself too far, and then the edges of the empire start to crumble. That’s exactly the same thing that’s happening with the U.S., I think. They’ve stretched themselves much too far, militarily and all that, with the business. And now they’re crumbling, and the next empire is China. So, you should have Chinese subtitles on this film.
“I don’t think it’s worth telling a story
unless it provides something healing
for people watching it…”
— Ari Gold
A: The nice thing about your take on the character Nicoli is that he is somebody who’s romantic about the past, but also very funny. Within the romance with Charlie, he sees himself as somewhere between a knight and a court jester. He’s coming to serve his queen, he wants to serve his queen. He wants to deliver the dead enemies of the queen to her doorstep. He’s confused ultimately about romantic love in the traditional medieval sense where the great knight would express devotion to the queen, but not necessarily fuck the queen. He’s confused about that difference, I think. Do you think you’re confused about that difference too?
R: Yes, constantly.
A: I think you’re a romantic and you’re a court jester, all at once.
R: Yes, that’s true. I think with Nicoli, he has this libidinous desire, this constant libidinous thing. Almost like the sense of responsibility to fuck.
A: Not something you can relate to at all, then.
R: Never. No, no, no. I’m deeply monogamous as a human being. I think there’s that kind of instinct to Nicoli though. He has to be that kind of alpha male. But then there’s still this kind of love of the romantic age that he’s expressing in his loyalty towards Charlie in the script.
A: You think there’s any kinship between you being Irish and Nicoli being this Russian character who has that sense of honor whilst at the same time a total recklessness?
R: I’d say there are a lot of similarities in the sense that the first few times that you come to America, you realize what people mean when they say “a European sensitivity,” or “a European temperament.” I suppose European-ness is not something I considered until I left Europe. If you’re from Europe your cultural identity goes way, way, way back and it’s drenched in history, and it’s drenched in war, and it’s drenched in religion, and all that shit. So yes, there’s a similar sensibility in that regard. Both nations are ridiculously kind of patriotic and stuff.
I was quite surprised because I got sent the script, and then Ari sent me a nice letter saying, “I’d love you to come and play this part.” At first I did think that you were a lunatic, because you were asking an Irish guy to play a Russian guy in a movie in America. It seemed quite, let’s say, stretched and imaginative casting. Hopefully it worked out!
A: I was looking for somebody who had a sparkle. The character is inspired by somebody that I know who has this mixture of extreme romanticism and destructiveness with humor. That was the most important thing to find, and you have that.
R: The guy you are talking about, he also has an incredible knowledge of Russian military vehicles throughout history. We met in Brooklyn recently and he goes, “Yes! The F496P, which is a fighter jet from 1976, looks like a mosquito. You know this? You know this?” to me. I sat there just kind of going, “Who the fuck do you think I am?” But yeah, he’s one of the most interesting individuals I’ve ever met. And it was a shame, because before we made the film, I’d only talked to him on Skype. We’d talked a fair whack, but I only actually met him recently.
A: I remember sending him some of the rushes and he was really impressed that you had picked up his rhythm and were convincing. Some people who don’t know this kind of over-the-top Russian might think it’s an exaggeration, but it’s not an exaggeration at all.
R: No, no. He is incredible.