Colin Broderick is a playwright, filmmaker and author. He grew up in the heart of Northern Ireland and was raised Irish Catholic during The Troubles.
In 1988, at the age of twenty, he moved to the Bronx to drink, work construction, and pursue his dream of becoming a writer. For the next twenty years, as he drank himself into oblivion, there were failed marriages, car wrecks, hospitals and jail cells. Few people who have been slaves to an addiction as vicious, destructive, and unrelenting as Broderick’s have lived to tell their tale.
Broderick has written two memoirs, Orangutan and That’s That, two plays, Father Who and Spudmunchers and published articles in The Irish Echo, The Irish Voice, The New York Times, Poets & Writers, Writer’s Digest, and Rattapalax. His first screenplay is called The Star Farm. He also filmed, directed and starred in his first short movie Smile. His latest film project is Emerald City and he is now working on The Rising – a movie currently under production. After spending the last twenty eight years living in Manhattan, he has moved to Woodstock where he lives with his wife Rachel, a yoga and wellness guide and their two children Erica and Sam.
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You were born and raised in Northern Ireland during a period of extreme tension and violence widely known as The Troubles. How did this affect your personality?
One of the biggest challenges for me as an artist is this idea of identity: who am I? Yes, my childhood has formed me to some degree and I reflect that in my work again and again, but also leaving Northern Ireland at the age of eighteen and living a life of exile, in England and then America might also be considered an even greater influence on who I have become and how I gauge myself in the world. Northern Ireland and the period known as The Troubles is written in my blood. I spent four years writing my memoir “That’s That.” It deals a lot with that period of my life but in some ways it too only scratches the surface. How do you tell the story of a life? We can only ever relate snippets. I’m sure I’ll revisit that terrain again and again in my work as I age.
It might be more accurate to say I fled Northern Ireland to escape the feeling of being trapped like a caged animal. I didn’t feel I was going to survive there. I needed to be somewhere else. My personality demanded more freedom than Northern Ireland could afford me at that time. Becoming an author had little to do with any of it.
You’ve admitted that you’ve struggled with alcoholism and addiction. Do you think that your addictions were a subconscious way to turn your anger towards yourself instead of the English?
I was still an alcoholic long after I was done being mad at the English, so I’m afraid I can’t blame them for this one. My propensity for addiction arose out of the need to escape my body. I was in pain, I needed medication. It was that simple. Alcohol and drugs worked for many years to numb the pain, then one day it didn’t anymore.
Do you think that the stereotype of the Irish alcoholic is a result of hundreds of years of oppression?
I believe all addiction stems from childhood pain or trauma. I’ve never met an addict who wasn’t self medicating; trying to escape the self… the pain of “being”.
It’s a fact that drinking deprived you of many things. Looking back now, has it been worth it?
If you’re asking me do I love my life, the answer is yes, I am living a life beyond my wildest dreams.
What are the differences between writing a book and a screenplay?
For me the only difference really is that a book takes much longer. It’s all just writing for me. I write what I feel inspired to write, or, occasionally, what I get paid to write.
A great director once said that “only obsessions make for good films”. How do you understand this statement and to what extent do you agree?
There’s no sure recipe for making a good film. If there were, the studios would never release a single turd.
Orangutan is very cinematic. Have you ever thought of turning your memoirs into films? If so, who would you like to impersonate you?
I’m waiting for the right director or producer to come along with the best plan for that book. When that happens I’ll let it go. The same goes for “That’s That”. Who would I like to impersonate me? Someone who can act, preferably.
In your short film Smile, which you describe as a visual poem of loneliness and transformation, the final message is to not give up on your dreams. How difficult has this journey and perseverance been for you?
No more difficult that anyone else’s journey I’m sure. Life is difficult. It’s all subjective. My pain is mine, yours is yours. I just tell better stories than most.
Could you speak to us about Emerald City? What inspired you to write this story? What would you like the audience to take from it? You play ‘Colly’. Is this character autobiographical?
“Emerald City” is my first feature movie. It’s the story of a crew of hard living Irish construction workers in New York City who have reached the end of the line. It’s in large part autobiographical, I worked that life for years. It’s a peak into a subculture that I think people are fascinated by but nobody has ever bothered to make a movie about before. I cast a crew of Irish construction guys in the movie, guys I worked with at one time or another, guys who have little or no acting experience at all. So it’s completely authentic. These guys were amazing. They brought so much heart to this project I think people are going to be amazed that most of them had zero experience even on a stage. One of them, John Duddy was a professional boxer for most of his career, right now he’s working for a moving company. “Emerald City” marks his first starring role in a feature movie. Mark my words, he’s a star in the making. And the women are amazing also. I don’t want to single any of them out, but there wasn’t a mediocre performance in the whole bunch.
Watch the trailer for Emerald City here:
You are one of the writers of The Rising, the first motion picture about the 1916 Easter Rising. What can you tell us about that project?
“The Rising” is still in production. We have many great actors attached to the project: Brendan Coyle, Colin Morgan, Fiona Shaw among them. It’s a big movie. An important movie historically and culturally. It’s a movie you want to make sure you get right, so we’ve been taking our time with it, making sure we have the script absolutely right before beginning. We are almost ready to shoot.