Interview: Rory Fleck Byrne

From the interview archive.


You may already know him as the charming Daniel Marney on Harlots, and soon he’ll be appearing alongside Pierce Brosnan and Jackie Chan in The Foreigners. VULKAN caught up with Rory Fleck Byrne to talk about his recent roles and his other creative love, music.

When did you write your first score?

Haha, unexpected question…Firstly, cheers for acknowledging that I even write music! I’ve always thought of that more as a Hobbie… I have only written two scores for short films and only because we didn’t have the budget for an actual composer. Sort of happened by accident. But yeah, the first one was for a film called BODIES which we made in 2014 and I think I did the music early 2015…so yeah…2 years ago! 

A lot of composers have little quirks or routines to get them “in the zone” when they begin writing and arranging, whether it’s lighting some candles, making a heaping pot of coffee or doing some jumping jacks to get their blood flowing. Do you have any particular routines you follow when you’re writing?

Like with any art form it sort of changes depending on the piece. Jumping jacks sound like a good shout though – think I’ll try them! When I was working on BODIES I was living in a house with lots of greenery out the back window so I would sit either in my room or the lounge with the trees in sight to keep kind of connected to nature, so when I got stuck I could look outside for something new. It’s funny, but sometimes even a gust of wind is all you need to trigger a new thought. That combined with running (listening to dubstep) was my routine! 

What is your favourite piece of software or hardware to use these days when you’re composing?

LOGIC PRO is what I go for. 

What’s one score that when you heard it you thought, “Man, I really wish I wrote that!” 

Most recently it’s probably the King Arthur score composed by Daniel Pemberton. All time favs/memorables – James Horner’s Titanic and Thomas Newman’s American Beauty. Oh, also AVATAR; I was on a flight recently and watched it again and that bit when Sam Worthington flies for the first time  that piece of music gives me Goosebumps! Wish I could have written THAT! 

For every song that you write, how many do you toss out, or do you hang onto everything in case you want to use an idea from them later?  

You’ve caught me – my laptop is FULL of ideas. Like, it’s a disaster….

Switching gears, you have a new film coming out called The Foreigner. Can you tell us a bit about your character?

Sure, in The Foreigner I play Sean Morrison who is sort of a surrogate son to Pierce Brosnan. He is an ex special forces soldier who fought in Iraq and now is part of Pierce’s business dealings in New York. He gets flown into the story as the “Ace Card” to bring Jackie Chan down. Yes, yes that’s right. I bring down The Chan. Haha.

Pierce Brosnan and Jackie Chan, both legendary in their own right, how was that experience?

Well…what can I say? Pretty much a pinch yourself moment…it was awesome – like Pierce is such a gent and I learnt lots working with him and then fighting Jackie is something I never ever thought I would be doing. Like, I got schooled in martial arts by Jackie Chan! Awesome, surreal and I want to go straight back and do more.

I feel like if I ever got a chance to meet Jackie Chan, I’d want to learn some cool martial arts moves. Did you try to learn any from him?

Yes, yes, and more yes… One thing he taught me was how to get choked convincingly. Not sure I quite nailed it but, he gave a great lesson – haha. And yeah he was always teaching me how to be better. The best thing I learn from him was to always stay relaxed. I think we have a way of fighting over here where we waste a lot of energy putting force behind things whereas martial arts is rooted in being relaxed and available to the moment, taking the energy your partner is giving you and moulding it into something new. When you give into it, it’s incredibly relaxing and almost like a moving meditation. You have to be very “with each other”. 

Did you have to do any stunts in the film? What was your biggest challenge in this role?

Yeah. I got pulled up and smashed against a tree and also did jumps on a wire. I mean, I was no Tom Cruise, but I got a taste for it! Biggest challenge was probably my penultimate day of shooting when we did the main body of the fight. We were in China and I was jet lagged and fought for about 10 hours. At the end of the day I was walking to the car and I couldn’t see out of my right eye; I was so knackered. But at the same time I couldn’t wait to come back and do more the next day.

Tell us a little bit about working with the cast of Harlots. How did you prepare for your role as Daniel Marney?

Harlots was a great time. Brilliant ensemble cast. We all got on so well and there was a real energy about the set! For Daniel, I pretty much found a backstory for him and then let him come to life. That plus listening to certain tracks of music would get me in the mood. I also had to practice my stripper moves as I had a strip tease to perform in one scene. In front of Samantha Morton, might I add. Another pinch myself moment when in she came at the end of a take applauding me. Haha. I don’t need an oscar now…not after that. 

The costumes are absolutely fantastic, have you enjoyed playing around with the 1780’s era fashions?

Yeah big time! We had an amazing costume designer, Edward K. Gibbon, who created an incredible array of looks for us all. There is a real modern/punk vibe running through the look of the show as well. So that combined with the 18th century style was cool to play with. I wanted to steal a few of my pieces. But I didn’t. Obviously. 

The series features predominately female characters, a bit of a rarity in this industry, was the vibe at all different on set from what you’re accustomed to? Do you think the series would be different if the creative team behind it was exclusively male?

Hm. I’ve been asked this question a lot and it’s an interesting one. First of all, yes it’s fantastic that the show is pretty much all female driven both from behind and in front of the camera – there is a real need in the industry for this kind of revolution. However, I wouldn’t want to say it was different from working with “men”. That keeps us limited still doesn’t it? Reducing things to gender. I think, at the end of the day, it comes down to the credibility and talent of the human being despite gender. This is a fantastic, dynamic and diverse group of creatives who happen to all be women. When you bring that level of talented people together then yes, you’re in for something special. So the vibe on set was great because of that. And we also knew that this was something special and unique. To create the industry we all want to see, yes we need to fight that battle where women as a whole get more opportunities, that’s essential, (the idea of an “exclusively male” set is not appealing to me) but I hope we get to a place where the question asked is focused on talent and not on the sex of the person. To me it’s about the work and gender is redundant. 

I visited Ireland for the first time last year, fell in love. Do you miss living there, or do you feel more at home in London now?

Did you do an Ed Sheeran and fall in love with a “Galway Girl”? I go back to Ireland all the time – I love getting back. I also love living in London. But I’m kinda wandering the world and always looking for the next adventure. I think I could make a home anywhere.

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