real madrid polo Five Minutes With ‘Saving The Titanic’ Actor Conor MacNeill
The 90 minute drama documentary focuses on the engineers in the boiler room of the doomed ship. MacNeill stars in the supporting role of Frank Bell, son to Joseph Bell, who is played by David Wilmot.
Belfast born actor MacNeill began acting on the stage at the age of 14 and first appeared on the big screen alongside Jim Sturgess and Ben Kingsley in director Kari Skogland Dead Men Walking That was followed by an appearance in Oliver Hirschbeigel Minutes of Heaven opposite James Nesbitt and Liam Neeson.
After The Titanic he will next be seen in Oscar winner Terry George Whole Lotta Sole alongside Brendan Frazer, David O and Martin McCann. Before The Titanic airs on RT One this Bank Holiday Monday (April 9) at 9pm, IFTN caught up with Conor
Tell us about your role in Saving The Titanic?
I play Frank Bell, son to chief engineer of the ship Joseph Bell. He is a complete Titanic obsessive and is desperate for a job on the ship; luckily his father had other ideas for him.
You know, it was one of the most pleasant and enjoyable shoots I have ever been on. Maurice created a completely stress free environment and a lot of us had worked together before, so there was a great sense of camaraderie among all the lads. The sets were incredible too, especially the steam engines that we shot in London.
Louise Kiely had cast me a few times before so she got me in to read for Maurice and that was that really. I also think both David (Wilmot) and I being part of the ginger army helped things along (laughs).
How did you first become interested in becoming an actor?
It was a complete fluke; I had never really planned on it. I played the trad flute when I was younger and it just so happened that a family member was working for a theatre company who needed a young lad who could play the flute for a show they were doing. I auditioned, landed the part and that was that. I got the bug I suppose.
Working alongside experienced actors like David Wilmot, what kind of things do you pick up about your craft?
It funny; I have worked with a lot of hugely successful people before. But I was by far the most intimidated about meeting David. He is such a solid actor. He someone I grew up watching and has a career I massively admire. He is a very generous actor to work with. The most valuable thing I picked up from him was not to panic about a scene, simply to calm and just let it happen.
In your opinion, what makes for a good actor?
I wish I knew the answer to this one! I think the best actors are always very brave and bold in their choices even if sometimes it isn right for the role. I find actors who work on instinct and gut feeling are always the most exciting to watch.
Can you remember what or whom it was that first inspired you to become an actor
Zeal Theatre Company had this amazing two hander for young people called Stones I saw it at Feile An Phobail in Belfast when I was about 16. The two actors chopped and changed characters like they were changing pieces of clothing. I was spellbound. Also seeing Cillian Murphy in the film version of Pigs I remember thinking want to do that It completely solidified for me that acting was the way forward.
The hardest thing about my profession is. waiting on the phone to ring. It the most excruciating thing when you know you have nailed a meeting or really want the part and then you have to wait for the call to tell you if you got it or not.
Have you completed any training courses in Ireland?
No. Drama school is something that passed me by. I have been incredibly lucky, and have worked fairly solidly since leaving school, so I had to learn on the job. I did the Corn Exchange improv workshops at The Abbey last year, led by Annie Ryan. They were excellent, one of the most terrifying but completely enjoyable experiences I have had.
How much work in Ireland is there for an actor?
I think the work is there, albeit it likes to hide from us from time to time. There are some huge English and American productions filming in Dublin and Belfast at the minute. And our own filmmakers are producing some really brave and exciting work. Also, the Irish theatre community is so supportive and strong. We are very lucky that we have that. When I not working I write. I believe that if the work isn there don sit about moaning, go out and make it for your self.
In your career, you done a lot of theatre work. What is the biggest difference between acting on stage and for the screen?
Generally they are the same so far as approaching character and finding the truth of a scene. The only real difference is technical things regarding your voice and blocking. Theatre is like a bit of a marathon, you have to see it right through to the end, there is something magical about that.
Do you prefer one over the other?
Honestly I love both. Good script and character are all that really matter to me. If the work is good you will enjoy the job regardless of what medium it is in.
What was your first paid job having left school?
As soon as I left school, I went straight into rehearsals for From The Big Picture with Primecut theatre company. It was directed by Conall Morrison and I was simultaneously filming directed by Macdara Vallely. Gerard Jordan was in both shows with me. I remember we started filming at 5am, left set at 5pm, drove straight to the theatre, did the show, then got up the next morning and did it all again. (laughs). I have never enjoyed being exhausted so much.
What the most thing that ever happened to you?
Getting nominated for the Nymph d at Monte Carlo was surreal. Jeremy Piven, Peter Capaldi and Steve Carell were all in my category. Pretty Hollywood (laughs).