42 CinÉireann / Issue 9
On set for Rosie, CinEireann caught up with writer Roddy Doyle to discuss his first script for film in 18 years.
Doyle is best known for his black humour and command of the Dublin vernacular and he has brought both to Rosie in a way that gives the film a real heart and a real authenticity.
CinÉ: What led you to write a story about the homelessness crisis?
Roddy Doyle: I suppose it is an outrageous fact that so many people are homeless. And the attempts to make it seem normal, like that spin a few months ago that we do quite well in terms of other European countries, and then only actually presenting the extreme cases of homelessness. I was listening to the news in October or November of 2016 and there was a women on the radio... I was half-listening to it while making the breakfast and chatting to one of my kids...and this women was on talking about trying to find somewhere to live the day before. She was in her car with her kids. I think she had 5 of them. She was trying to explain waking up in a different hotel every morning and driving to school from a different direction. Sometimes not even in Dublin, a hotel in Meath. And trying to figure out how to get to the school. I became more interested.
What in particular struck a chord with you about this woman's tale?
She was brilliant. It was when she said that her partner couldn't help her because he was a work that I thought "Oh Christ, here's the story. Here's a couple being in that old traditional sense a model family. Daddy goes to work and mammy looks after the kids. And yet they don't have a home". Ironically back in the days of the priest-ridden impoverished state they were building vast estates throughout the country to house people. I thought that there's the story. I immediately within half an hour went up to my office and I think that I had just started a novel and I parked it and I wrote a treatment. Relatively easy, a women in a car, kids, getting through the day and finding somewhere to stay. Gradually made her a personality. Gradually began to think of how she spoke, the rhythm of her language. Gave the kids names and ages. Gave her a partner and a name. Got him a job. It changed in later drafts but he had a job. How they contacted each other. The increasing stress and other things that might be a part of any normal parent's day. Something happening in school. A teenager behaving like a teenager. Which in normal circumstance is almost welcome, but in these circumstances can send the day in a direction that's chaotic. I wrote the treatment very quickly and I sent it to Emma Norton in Element, and asked if they'd be interested. And they got back really quickly. That was a year and half ago. When you are living it then it's a long time, but obviously from my experience for a film it's quite a quick turnaround.
And in that year and it half the situation has gotten worse.
Yes. The citizen in me says that I'd quite happily throw the script in the bin because it's redundant. The writer in me is a little bit more malicious in thinking that the story would still be there when the film comes out.I I'm not naive enough to think that the film is going to change the ideology or the current enslavement to the idea of private property.
We've witnessed in our two recent economic booms that private property has been a major driving force and local authority or social housing has been diminished from what it was. Sure there can be issues with social housing but there's an onus on the state to provide some.
This has become a recent thing, the notion of social housing and that you can't have people from the same class convening in the same area. I mean it's not a problem in Foxrock. That's a ghetto of a different kind. It's totally class bias. The notion that working class people aren't capable of behaving themselves... I know from 14 years as a teacher in Kilbarrack and growing up in Kilbarrack and staying in touch with people that I taught, that the idea that you can have working class, 1000's of them living in the same small area, and the notion that this is automatically a problem is so insulting. I live in a ghetto, Clontarf, you know. It's a middle-class ghetto. Nobody has ever suggested that getting all of the middle-class