Have you seen Don McKellar?

TIFF 2012: Lenny Abrahamson, Lars Mikkelsen and Jack Reynor talk 'What Richard Did'

The wonder of the Toronto International Film Festival is the tremendous exposure the North American crowd has to foreign cinema, and the ability of overseas filmmakers to have a venue for their work. An Irish cinematic addition to the Toronto International Film Festival is decidedly not Irish, and chillingly universal. What Richard Did, an intimate story about a Dublin teen who impulsively makes a terrible decision, is driven by honest performances and truth to life, making it compelling to any audience, regardless of the setting and accents.

Richard, played by Jack Reynor, is a popular, attractive middle class boy, a rugby star, and recently engaged in a summer romance. Still, he is a teenager—any teen, anywhere.

“The set of people socially is much more like the American social middle class, not like in the U.K.,” explains director Lenny Abrahamson. “It is a film that travels, much more than I thought it would. I don’t think its very representative of Irish cinema.”

As far as look and tone, the film is quiet, steady, and unnerving, following young Richard around Dublin across a summer to remember. “Something I always think about with this film is that it always looks like it’s going to rain,” says Jack Reynor, who plays Richard. “It’s very ominous.”

Reynor points out that the film seems a bit more European, but especially Scandanavian in feel and story. Lars Mikkelsen, Danish actor and brother of actor Mads Mikkelsen, plays Richard’s father in the film, and agrees. “We keep close to the truth,” he says. “Working with small crews, getting to know everyone, this is what we need to do and continue doing.”

Mikkelsen is Peter, and while for a moment it was thought he would be Jack’s Irish father, it was quickly decided Mikkelsen, in his first English-speaking role, would play his Danish heritage, and in that there is surely truth. “It made the family feel more real,” says Abrahamson. “It always feels more real if it’s less typical.” Both Reynor and Mikkelsen agreed that strangely and surprisingly sitting having a pint in Dublin felt none too different from having one in Copenhagen, as Mikkelsen, admittedly a bit nervous, fit seamlessly into the small crew.

Ultimately, Richard is the heart and soul of the film. “I read the source material, and I was instantly fascinated with the boy,” says Abrahamson. “I could sort of smell a very unusual character in Richard.”

“I grew up observing these worlds,” says Reynor of Richard’s social circles. “The character was really strong, with many different parts and dimensions.” As the title suggests, Richard does something noteworthy, and he is forced to deal with the consequences. “There are a lot of raw points in this film, you start to feel vulnerable” continues Reynor. “Lenny and Malcolm [Campbell, writer] invested so much of their own experience; we all really cared, we wanted to create something truthful and it became a passion project.”

The three men are certainly proud of the work they’ve done, and will look to take different challenges on their next endeavors. Reynor has signed with WME Talent Agency, while Mikkelsen will star in a Western with his brother next year. Most notably, Abrahamson will be starting to shoot Frank staring Michael Fassbender and Domhnall Gleeson. “It has a bit of the Scandanavian, a bit of the Iish, even though Michael will be playing American and Domhnall will be British,” tells Abrahamson, chuckling. “It’s a comedy, but it can be quite dark, and quite moving. And hopefully sort of ridiculous and lovely at the same time.”

Anthony Marcusa

A pop-culture consumer, Anthony seeks out what is important in entertainment and mocks what is not. Inspired by history, Anthony writes with the hope that someone, somewhere, might be affected.