Eileen Walsh Exclusive Interview EDEN

     November 7, 2008

Written by Ray Carsillo

I had a chance to catch up with Eileen Walsh, who plays Breda in the new independent movie, Eden. The movie follows a married couple in a picturesque Irish town as they prepare for their 10th wedding anniversary. Breda is determined that the milestone will re-ignite the lost passion in their marriage. Billy, on the other hand, has developed an obsession with Imelda Egan, a pretty, but unobtainable, local young thing and has convinced himself that the coming weekend will see them become lovers under the eyes of the entire town. As the date draws closer, Billy’s behavior becomes more and more chaotic, while Breda’s frustrations crystallize and find more mature, high-risk expression.

While the transcript is below, you can listen to the interview by clicking here. And if you’d like to hear director Declan Recks and screenwriter Eugene O’Brien talk about the movie here’s part 1 and here’s part 2.

Collider: The first thing I have to ask you about is that there isn’t a lot of dialogue in this movie. There is a lot of symbolism and facial expression used to carry emotion. How hard is it for you as an actor to convey all that emotion without as much dialogue?

EW: I think it’s a real test. You’re trying to acknowledge the character through the tiniest ways possible, but it kind of frees you at the same time. It is difficult, but it frees you up eventually and I think by paring back on the writing so much, you get to actually see how little the main characters actually talk until the very end, until they finally face their demons and have some form of communication. Until then, their day to day lives are just so quiet and not connected to one another.

Collider: That’s true. For the first half of the movie, I realized as I watched it, they say barely two sentences to each other with the way their schedules are lined up. How hard was it for you to work with Aiden Kelly (Billy) without actually interacting with him?

EW: I think it’s very telling with any relationship after a certain length of time, that you do take it for granted. I’m with my husband now for 11 years and I know that we certainly go through periods of taking the other for granted and that will show itself in moments of quietness and you become that dreaded older couple who are eating in restaurants and they say nothing at all. You have to allow those moments to happen though, and to get through them. Unlike Billy and Breda though, myself and my husband have the ability to converse and work through problems. For myself and Aiden though, we actually just finished working together in a play in Dublin, at the Abby, and it was a very intensive rehearsal period and so we knew each other very well, which was a great starting point for our work then as a couple. We were able to take all the work of trying to get to know each other and trying to be familiar and just start off at the point of ignoring each other, which was great.

Collider: How do you prepare for a role like this? It must be difficult to get into the character of one half of a married older couple so what did you do yourself to prepare?

EW: Well, for me, I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare because of the play. I played a young girl who was desperate to fall in love and ends up falling off a crane in the middle of Dublin and gets taken up in the arms of a demon and ends up falling in love and making love to this demon on her way to her death and it was fantastic. Then the difference of going into someone like Breda was huge, but through Eugene’s writing, I had seen the play when it was in Dublin, and my sister actually played the part originally, so I knew the writing very well and just some of the lines, like when she discusses her fantasy with her friend and it is a huge way to get into a character. All she wants is to be chosen. To be picked out of a lineup and told, whether or not the person believes it, but to be told that she is the most beautiful, she is valued, she is worth it. We all know that, especially as women, we all know and want to be valued and be strong sexual beings and to be honest and let that come out, it’s a real honest way to get into her.

Collider: Being familiar with the play, how different was the play to the on screen adaptation?

EW: The play was just two actors and monologues so it was very wordy, which is incredibly different from the film itself. And I think people who go to see the play tend to have more of an ownership from it because you’re described all the characters and you end up putting yourself into a lot of those places and seeing the girl you fancied or the boy you fell in love with so it’s a very personal experience when you go to a play and the main difference is the movie provides all that for you. The difference is also that the film can be so intimate and I know from the feedback at the Woodstock Film Festival was phenomenal. Normal people coming up to us in the street saying it reminded them so much of, not necessarily marriage, but their partnership or whatever and people tend to empathize so much with the smallness of the story and yet the massive impact on normal everyday life.

Collider: One thing I wanted to bring up was the children and how much of a role they played in the relationship. For a portion, it almost seems like they’re the go between for Billy and Breda and that sometimes people forget about how much children are part of a relationship like that. Can you comment on their role in the movie and their dynamic with the family?

EW: Well, I think that, first of all, divorce is very hard to come by. It’s very difficult to get out of a marriage. It’s possible, but it’s very lengthy and problematic so a large amount of people will stay together, especially with children involved. I think Billy and Breda know that divorce isn’t an option and it’s about eventually trying to work through it. The kids though, especially at the end, Billy starts to think that they are the only thing he’s ever done right is have a relationship and even then he lets them down along the way and when casting the two kids, it was very important that we were involved in that and they were great kids. Obviously inexperienced and everything, but they were able to carry a certain amount of emotion as well which is quite tricky for kids with such long hours and low pay. It’s not the film work they probably imagined getting into, but they were great and were able to provide these characters who are dealing with their own issues as well. The little boy is being bullied and still trying to deal with his parents.

Collider: You mention a low divorce rate in Ireland whereas America has a very high divorce rate, somewhere between 50%-60% right now. How do you think an American audience will react and respond to these character since divorce is so prevalent here?

EW: At the screenings at Tribeca and the screenings up in Woodstock and feedback from L.A. screenings, just because divorce isn’t an easy option, doesn’t mean separation isn’t. Loads of couples separate, some get back together, some don’t. I think that the fantastic thing about the film is that it talks to people who understand any sort of loneliness in a relationship and you can tell people who have been through divorce and separation because they immediately feel that Billy is a…really bad man… and she was good person, but it takes two to tango and both of them feared talking about it, opening up that can of worms, so she is just as much to blame. It just comes off sometimes as him being more guilty since he is the one always going out, but she isn’t saying “Why aren’t we having sex? Let’s talk,” either, so she is just as frightened.

Collider: In the end, of course, by circumstance, she goes a little farther than he does. You mention though how the character of Breda changes a lot over the course of the movie. Billy tends to stay relatively the same, your character becomes very different. How does that process go where your character has to start off one way, and then end up as something completely different?

EW: For me, Breda’s journey is about an awakening and it’s about building her confidence and it’s a personal confidence and a sexual confidence that she gains back. And because the marriage has been lacking in the bedroom for such a long time, it’s knocked her for sex. So she makes her dress for this big night out, lost some weight, gained a little confidence back, and then she’s in this sexy purple dress and then things go wrong and it’s hard to blend into the background in this loud, purple dress. What I think does happen, when it happens with someone else, is that it’s about her animal instinct being served and someone thinking that is worth it and without a feeling of pressure. She probably feels that if Billy were to have sex with her, it would be because he feels he has to just to get it over with and a form of apology. Whereas, this is someone who finds her attractive and it has nothing to do with history or kids or how beautiful her breasts were before she gave birth. It has to do with who she is now and for a woman to feel that is a huge thing. Then during the act itself, she sort of realizes that even when she gets her desire, it’s not what she wants. She wants the man who she fell in love with to want her that way.

Collider: In the end, when she goes with Owen, she just realizes what she has done and she soaks in the tub and there is a lot of remorse and it comes to the head of the movie where Billy and Breda finally confront each other. How emotional was that scene? I know personally I felt the power of the scene so when doing that scene, how do you feel it as an actor?

EW: I think because the movie has such little dialogue that as soon as it came to a scene with dialogue, you really grasp onto it because you realize this is Last Chance Saloon kind of stuff. And I think we had three takes of it to get that scene, one on Billy, one on me, and one master shot. That was it. Because we were running out of time and that was great in a way, that pressure. Just got the heart racing and brought everything to the forefront. And we did a lot of improv around that. Discussed it a fair bit because we knew how important it was and the boys were able to film it a bit later on so by then we were more comfortable with knowing who our characters were so I think it’s a point where both characters are to blame and Billy tended to put her up on a pedestal and see her as the housewife and he needs to realize that the chances were there for the both of them and that they need to move on from that.

Eden is a drama that speaks to basic human emotion. Fear, wanting, denial, and the movie will play with your heart strings till the very end. You’ll go from hating Billy one instant, to rooting for him the next, and you’ll have your roller coaster of emotions with Breda as well as both actors did fantastic jobs . Eden comes out today in New York and L.A.

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