‘I was never a fan of de Valera’: Neil Jordan on the legacy of his Michael Collins biopic – Yesterday 15:27
22nd August 2022
NEIL JORDAN, THE writer and director of the 1996 film Michael Collins, has said he followed the structure of a “gangster film” to portray the Irish revolutionary’s journey from violence to politics.
Collins’ role in Ireland’s independence struggle came to prominence following Jordan’s biopic of the leader and Tim Pat Coogan’s book, Michael Collins: A Biography.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio, the Irish filmmaker said he was inspired in part by the peace process in Northern Ireland.
That whole idea of a violent movement, disengaging from violence – apparently – and engaging in politics in a real way – that’s the story that Collins was emblematic of, really
“I took the template of a gangster movie, you know the Warner Brothers movies of the 30s and 40s that’s how I wanted to structure the film.”
© Alamy Stock PhotoStill of Liam Neeson as Michael Collins
He recalled the fierce controversy surrounding the film upon its release: “I was being accused of making some kind of apologia for political violence.
“It was the [structure] of a crime movie and people misinterpreted that in certain ways … nobody seems to mention the amount of which we did get right.”
The film was well received in Ireland and abroad, but it was criticised for certain historical inaccuracies, including what some viewers interpreted as the suggestion that de Valera was involved in Collins’s death.
“If you believe Tim Pat Coogan’s book, which I did, because it was the was the biggest, most extensive biography to have been published by that time, de Valera was in a farmhouse near a Béal na Bláth on that night, and he left the next morning.
“That’s what I show in the movie, and I’m sorry if people some people take the implication from it that de Valera era had a hand in his assassination. I didn’t intend that at all.”
When asked if he thought the portrayal of de Valera in the film was fair, Jordan said: “No, of course not.”
He added, laughing: ” I was never a fan. I grew up in de Valera’s Ireland.
“It was a fair portrayal of the broad, a broader political set of decisions de Valera made at the time,” he said, adding that Rickman played the anti-Treaty leader “brilliantly”.