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Among the various world premieres scheduled at the Galway Film Fleadh on the west coast of Ireland, Stephen Wallis’s The Martini shot boasts some of the most curious plots. The drama, shot in Ireland before the pandemic, stars Matthew Modine as an ailing filmmaker who embarks on what he thinks will be his last film.
But what plays like a somber film about cinema, which took its first bow in Galway on Thursday night, turns into an existential exploration of mortality and its own profound effect on the world. He’s also, as co-star Fiona Glascott — who plays Modine’s more even-tempered producer — explains, hugely funny.
Talking with The Hollywood Reporter ahead of the premiere, the Irish actress, whose credit list includes Brooklyn, Fantastic animals (playing a young Minerva McGonagall) and the upcoming second season of the HBO series Max Julia, describes the last minute phone call that led her to sit down with Modine in Ireland less than 48 hours later, the joy of spending time with Derek Jacobi and why word ‘Martini!’ is called to the set.
Martin’s shotThe texture of looks interesting. Can you describe the film and your role in it?
The Martini shot is about a director who has a terminal illness and is making his last great work of art. And he’s also God, or he certainly has the powers of God. So he’s in Ireland. He wants to make this film. And I’m its producer. And because he’s God, he’s able to bring back great people from the past. He can do what he wants and, at the same time, he’s battling with his own demons of doctors and psychiatrists. And I’m tasked with putting all this craziness together and dealing with his capriciousness, but also trying to get him to face the reality of his life. And I think that’s one of the gifts of this film. It’s an interesting look at how we behave as people: if we’re not happy with our situation, or who we are, we’ll often try to change that person, or where we live, or go buy something, or go do something, instead of doing really what is incredibly difficult and taking the time to really look within and accept those parts of ourselves that you don’t like.
How did you get involved?
It was all last minute. Someone fell and I got a call. I believe it was a Tuesday. And they said, “Could you play this part? We need to know, because we’ll need you to film on Thursday. And it was exciting and very unusual for me in the way I work, because I really enjoy the preparation. So I kind of got jerked out of my comfort zone like that, went to Ireland and ended up sitting with the wonderful Matthew Modine, less than 48 hours later. He was kind of crazy, but it also suited the movie itself. Because it’s about trying to get people out of their comfort zone to take a look at yourself and shake things up. And what happens when you do? You start to crumble and is that a bad thing?
So if this godlike character played by Modine is making his latest movie, what kind of movie is it?
Here’s the interesting thing: What kind of movie would God make? But the movie that this God in this movie is making, it seems to me, he’s trying to right the wrongs, or the wrongs that we feel we’ve done, things that we haven’t said that we wish we’d said. And that’s why I think he’s bringing people back from the dead. Is it also giving these actors an opportunity to get a glimpse into their own lives and the things they would have done, like, if they’d only told their son they loved him before they died? But it does all of this in a very fun way.
As the producer of a director who may or may not be God and who is bringing actors back to life, does your character spend her time trying to control the madness?
I mean, can you imagine how complicated and difficult it would be to be that producer? He keeps changing his mind. And she gets so frustrated as she goes on as she says, not only is that actor dead, but I think there’s going to be a problem with the union. So you’ve got this really genuine woman, who’s very good at her job, trying to fix it and the director just doesn’t listen. She’s also dying and keeps coming back and having these conversations with her doctor, played by John Cleese. So he seems to be holding on to the straws and she’s trying to be the voice of reason.
In addition to Cleese and Modine, the film also stars Derek Jacobi. Did you spend a lot of time with them on set?
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet John Cleese, but I did get to spend some time with Sir Derek Jakobi, who is an absolutely delightful person. So hot. So sweet. So funny. I really enjoyed being with him. I love the kind of natural camaraderie and conversations that emerge. Also, what was great was the wonderful respect Matthew and Jacobi had for each other and Matthew revered Derek very much. It was really good to be around.
I didn’t know this until I started reading about this movie, but the term “Martini Shot” actually refers to the last shot of the day during filming. Were you aware of this? Is it common knowledge about throws?
I’m so glad you brought this up with me because that’s obviously a great point. Yes, you hear people say “Martini! Martini!” around the set. It’s really adorable.
I understand it was called the “Martini Shot” after a director who after his last shot would later drink a martini. They were drunk on martinis The Martini shot?
I hope that! But I think there was some Champagne. But I love that story.