Interview of Interest: Darren Thornton

Mary Kate Hickey speaks to Darren Thornton, director of A Date for Mad Mary about winning at The Galway Film Fleadh, his inspirations, future projects and more. 

A Date for Mad Mary is Darren’s first feature film, which he co-wrote with his brother Colin.  The film starred Seána Kerslake, of Can’t Cope Won’t Cope fame, as Mary.

“It was really cool winning Best Feature at the Galway Film Fleadh. Honestly, it was one of the best screenings we’ve had and the audience responded really well to it, it was really special because it was our first feature film,” Darren said.

Darren Thornton (headshot).jpg
(Source: Darren Thornton)

A Date for Mad Mary was based on Yasmine Akram’s theatrical monologue of the same name, which Thornton also directed.

“It all went very organically,” he said about the adaptation from play to feature film. “The characters stayed very similar, but we tried to put more emphasis on the relationship of Mary and her best friend when we were writing the script.  While the play was out and out comedy about dating, the film is more of a drama about real life with comedy in it.

“Myself and Colin are always very interested in exploring deep into relationships and looking at characters and how they’re feeling.  When we’re writing a script we tend to come up with a broad idea, and then use that to tell something that’s quite intimate and personal.”

They changed up the dynamics of some of the relationships when adapting the play for the big screen.  “In the play Mary falls in love with a boy, but we changed that for the film.  In the film she falls in love with Jess, we thought it would be more interesting to explore how the other people in her life would feel about this relationship, would they be okay with it, and would Mary herself be okay with it.”

Mary’s grandmother also played a larger role in the play, being the person who helped to raise Mary, but Darren and Colin felt it would be more interesting to explore Mary’s relationship with her best friend Charlene and her mother more deeply.

A coming of age story of a girl who should have come of age long before, but never got the chance because of her behavioural problems was the story they wanted to tell.

“I’d say some of my inspiration comes from the likes of John Hughes, those coming of age stories are movies we grew up with, and I think they give us a lot of inspiration for the types of movies we like to do,” said Darren. “We’re also big fans of Alexander Payne, Steven Soderbergh and Mike Nichols, and of course some Irish and UK directors too.”

A Date for Mad Mary was filmed mainly in the brothers’ hometown of Drogheda.  “It was great filming at home in Drogheda because I could just roll out of bed and be on set in ten minutes!” Darren laughs.  “The really great thing about filming there is the great support we got from the local community, the nightclubs and pubs literally opened their doors to us, and if we were in need of extras, some of the locals made themselves available to help.  It was brilliant, and it’s not something you’d regularly get anywhere else,” he added.

Darren, who has been making his own films with his friends since he was in secondary school, always knew he wanted to end up in film. “I’ve been leading up to making a feature film for a while now.  I’ve directed plays, shorts, and TV shows before this,” he said.

“My biggest ambition is to continue making films that I love, and to get paid for them would be great too,” Darren said.

The brothers have plans to make more feature films in the future. “We’re currently writing two more feature films, and a TV show, so hopefully we’ll have something new coming out soon,” Darren said.  “The plan is to hopefully do two more films in Ireland and then we would like to go further. We were in LA for the last few weeks, and we would really like to make a film over there at some point,” he added.

A Date for Mad Mary was released in Irish cinemas in September, and will be released in the UK an the US in the New Year, along with a DVD release afterwards.

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