Lance Daly's film 'Kisses' to open in the U.S.
Director has made a name for himself on the strength of Kisses his most successful feature film to date
As often happen in show business, Daly’s success looks like it came overnight, but in fact it has been years in the making. In 1999 he wrote and directed his first feature film, Last Days in Dublin, on a shoestring budget with additional scenes filmed in Paris, New York and Cairo.
The film, a rollicking adventure yarn featuring unlikely appearances by Irish Senator David Norris as a grumpy landlord and Irish writer Nell McCafferty as a gang boss, recalled genre busters like Trainspotting and Snatch when it went on a limited but successful release in Ireland in 2002.
With its skilled direction and its sense of place, Last Days in Dublin was a terrific curtain raiser for Daly’s work to come. It also indicated his faith in his own talent; Daly ended the film ****30,000 in debt but he still launched into his next film project straight away.
Following Last Days, Daly shot his second film The Halo Effect in 2002 starring Stephen Rea (who also stars in Kisses) and Simon Delaney. The film was likeable but a creative misfire, failing to capitalize on its own premise.
Set in a late night fast food joint, it was based on an idea Daly had while actually working in the industry to finance his first film. Ultimately, though, it failed to create the buzz he was looking for to advance his career.
It took Kisses to do that. The film represents a deepening of Daly’s talent, with its darker themes and thoughtful treatment. It also packs an emotional wallop that steals up on you, the result of a tightly written script and meticulous direction.
One of the toughest hurdles the film faced turned out to be casting. The lead actors were found through auditions of thousands of young hopefuls.
“We went to schools all over Dublin and saw thousands of kids,” says Daly. “We picked the worst behaved of them and made a shortlist, then brought them in for one very long and painful Saturday where we got them to read script and chat to us and generally strut their stuff.”
Daly still shivers when he recalls the grueling shoot, working through the nights during a freezing cold Dublin winter with the two very young and often very cold and fed up leads, Curry and O’Neill, grousing about the hours and the conditions.
“The film was a nightmare to make but it turned out nicely in the end. Kelly always stood out as very beautiful and very smart, but when I realized how quick a learner she was that clinched it. She had an immediate intuitive understanding of what acting is,” says Daly.
“Shane was much more enigmatic and, like any good leading man, it took a little while for him to reveal how quick witted and charming he really was. I remember we thought he was like a Dublin River Phoenix. And he was the only one who wouldn't allow Kelly to tell him what to do, because he's a streetwise character, so they were a good match.”
Getting international distribution is one of the most difficult elements of movie making, and it’s a major vote of confidence in a film whenever it occurs. Kisses was picked up by Focus Features, one of the most important independent studios in the world, after the Toronto Film Festival, where it wowed critics and audiences alike, and so the emerging Irish director felt like he’d crossed a crucial career milestone.
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