“It was only when I went out into the world that I learned that nobody’s named that -- nobody! Nobody here would have the balls to name their kid Dermot now. Not in the preschools that I know about anyway.”
Mulroney is also modest about his own less known life as a musician. He began to play cello as a boy and over the years he’s shared the stage with James Fearnley of the Pogues many times.
“Let me be clear I don’t play with the Pogues, I play with James Fearnley of the Pogues. It’s important to point that out,” he says again with that indulgent laugh.
“I don’t play with the entire band but I’ve seen them play on numerous occasions. And in James’s other band Cranky George I play with him.”
He wouldn’t want you to think he was uppity or anything. It’s remarkable to observe modesty of this kind in an actor, but more so when he’s been a star in Hollywood for decades.
As Colonel Scott Boyer in Big Miracle Mulroney radiates the same kind of regular guy charm onscreen that he does off. His talent lies in his ability to completely convince you he is the character he’s playing.
It’s what makes him such a favorite for directors, including Irish American Joe Carnahan, who cast him in the survival epic The Grey alongside Liam Neeson (the film that just burned up the box office on its release at the weekend).
“I couldn’t believe that script when I read it,” Mulroney reveals, referring to The Grey. “It was a very Irish production too in that it had Liam and Carnahan working on it. And some English actors too for what it’s worth, who were playing Americans so it was a pretty mixed bag of people.”
Mulroney is too modest to say it, but his characters in both films do what he is famous now for doing, stealing the show.
In The Grey he plays a doting father in a scene that is the emotional pivot point of the whole film, and in Big Miracle he plays the ramrod Colonel Boyer, who with his grit and decency seems to belong to another age and commands the film from the moment he appears.
“It’s one of the truest parts of this movie, the relationship between my character and the young woman he encounters in the film,” says Mulroney.
“At the end of the movie you see the real couple that they’re based on, the ones who met and fell in love in real life during this mad experience, who otherwise would never have met one another. In fact there’s a strong argument that getting the whales free might not have happened at all had those two not met. They had the combined expertise to get the job done.”
And Mulroney has the skill to make you cheer for them.
Big Miracle opens Friday.
Here's the trailer: