Paula Campbell talks to film cameraman, producer and director John Conroy
From Charlie's Chocolate Factory to the secrets of the Da Vinci Code: WHAT do the highly acclaimed Da Vinci Code and the fantastical Charlie and the Chocolate Factory have in common with Naas?
Cameraman, producer and director, John Conroy, who hails from Naas, shot both films in a career that spans 20 years, with each film more interesting than the last.
"The Da Vinci Code took about eight months to make," recalled John.
"We started in London with screen testings for actors and shooting styles. A film like this cost about €200,000 a day to make so you have to be really prepared. We spent seven weeks in Paris where we shot at the Louvre at night time when all the visitors had left. We also shot the car chase scene at night and that took a couple of weeks to do. We then rebuilt some of Louvre in Pinewood Studios in London and shot there. We used the 007 stage which is massive and the bulk of the film was shot there and in Sheparton Studios. We filmed a lot of the interior shots of Chateaux Villette there for the film. Most of the film is set at night time so you have create a false night in the studio."
Contrary to the rumours John says he never saw any demonstrators protesting against the theme of the film, which questions the whole history of the Roman Catholic Church.
"Apparently a nun was protesting when we were shooting at Lincoln Cathedral," he added.
"But I never saw any demonstrators. There were a lot of people hanging around but they were only interested in Tom Hanks. He is such a sweet heart and a really genuine person who has a real flair for putting people at ease."
John enjoys working with great directors such as Ron Howard for the Da Vinci Code and Tim Burton for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
"Ron Howard is very much like his Richie character in Happy Days, he is really polite with a clear vision," said John who is also a father of six.
"But for sheer originality I would have to say Tim Burton who is a real eccentric. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was great fun to make. I brought the kids over and Johnny Depp was great with them. The 007 stage was also were we shot it and the chocolate river was a mixture of food dye, water and additives to give it a chocolate like appearance."
John followed his father Jack into the business who also has worked on many high profile films including the Oscar wining My Left Foot. He introduced John to the magic of film at the age of four when he first met Sean Connery who was filming in Wicklow.
"My father, Jack Conroy, worked as a camera man on My Left Foot, and The Field was the first film I ever worked on," recalled John, whose mother is Mona Conroy, organiser of the annual Showstoppers cabarets in Naas.
"I went to London for three years after I left school and worked as an apprentice with Panavision."
This was where John got his training in Camera work before moving into film. However he recalls lean times when in between films he had to support himself by working in Abrakebabra. Fortunately for John things picked up in the film industry in Ireland during the early 1990's.
"In 1993 it all took off here," he said. "Since then I've been doing between two and three movies a year.
"I haven't worked in Ireland since King Arthur as a lot of my work is abroad in either Europe, Asia or Africa.
"My favourite piece of work is the film 'Welcome to Sarajevo' with Woodie Harrelson which was shot on location and in the middle of a war zone. This was the most challenging."
His next project is closer to his heart and is a short film produced by himself in which three of his children appear.
"It is called Speed Dating and will be shown at this year's Galway Film Fleadh," he added. "Tony Herbet from Naas directed it and I produced and filmed it in a four week shoot. The last thing I filmed in Naas was Veronica Guerrin in the Court House here. This work is enjoyable and challenging and I love the travelling. My wife Suzanne has been brilliant. If you go away for five months you need someone who can stay at home. You are drawn into this business as are all the interesting people who work in it. You have to love it because are no guarantees."
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Friday 24 May 2013
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