Interview: Ronan Keating (Goddess)

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By Simon Miraudo
March 13, 2013

Ronan Keating is one of the highest selling recording artists of all time, thanks to his stint in the beloved troupe Boyzone, as well as his own ultra-successful solo career. Yet, over the past 12 years, he’s simultaneously lived the life of the struggling actor, losing out roles in Moulin Rouge, King Arthur, and The Hobbit, as well as seeing promising productions collapse around his feet when the funding fell through. He finally makes his big screen debut in Mark Lamprell‘s Aussie musical Goddess, starring as James, a whale-tracker who leaves his wife, Elspeth (Laura Michelle Kelly), at home to look after their raucous rugrats. Gifting her with a webcam so they can stay in touch, she instead becomes an online sensation with a series of songs based on her experiences as a stay-at-home mum.

Check out Jess Lomas’ review of Goddess here.

Ronan talked with us about not being “good enough” at auditions, that nerve-wracking first table read, whether he’d ever stop touring, the potential of a Chris Gaines-esque concept album, and the excruciatingly awkward details of his nude scene (in which Keating’s derriere is given its premiere).

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SM:  Goddess marks your first major acting role. Is acting something you always wanted to get into?

RK: Twelve years I’ve been trying. I read for Moulin Rouge, for Baz Luhrmann, in 2000. I read for Jerry Bruckheimer for King Arthur. Even something as recent as The Hobbit, for Peter Jackson. I’ve been trying for a long time, but I just wasn’t ready. I wasn’t good enough. So, I just kept training, kept learning wherever I could, and auditioning constantly. Eventually someone believed in me: Mark Lamprell, the director. That’s really what it took; someone to take the chance. And thank God he did.

SM: Over those twelve years, what kind of feedback did you get?

RK: People always said you were good, but you don’t know if they’re just saying that to let you down easy, you know? When people say that to me, I don’t really pay any heed to it. I just keep going and trying. Luckily I had a career. Everytime I got those setbacks, it wasn’t like I was sitting at home in my bedsit, crying into my coffee. I had a career, so I’m very lucky. I know how many hardworking actors are out there that don’t get jobs, and that’s all they have. I would be going off on tour the next day, or I had an album out. It didn’t really matter to me that I wasn’t getting it, but I was passionate about it, so, personally it was important I could do this and succeed.

SM: Was Goddess something you auditioned for or was an offer put out to you?

RK: I was doing a show in Vietnam, and the director Mark Lamprell had sent me the script. I read it and I liked it. He literally flew to Vietnam, sat in the hotel room – not unlike this – for three hours, and we just workshopped the script. After three hours he said, “It’s yours. I’ve had 10 people read for this and none of them can act it. I believe in you.” I was like, “Oh my God.” I couldn’t believe it. And the movie was green lit. To be honest, I’d been offered other roles before, but the movie wasn’t green lit. I got the role, and I’d think, “This is amazing. Now we just have to wait and get the money.” And the money didn’t happen. Goddess was green lit and ready to go; a set date for shooting. It was an incredibly exciting buzz for me.

SM: Just before you headed into production, was there that tinge of apprehension? “Am I ready for this? How am I going to be received?”

RK: Oh, totally. Absolutely. I flew into Sydney the day before the first read. What we did was, all of the actors sat around one big table. I didn’t know this happened. Every single actor in the movie – even though I don’t play with them – sits around a big long table, and we read the script through. That was the most nerve-wracking thing I have ever had to do. I just sit there. No acting or anything. They just wanted us to read it through. I’d never known anything like this in my life. Everyone was waiting for me at the table, and here I walk in. After getting off a flight, I’m jet-lagged, and, oh my God, it was nerve-wracking. Then, the next day, it was me and the two boys on set, and it was brilliant. Rolled straight through.

SM: Get all the yips out early.

RK: I didn’t know they did a read through before a film. There was a lot I didn’t know.

SM: Going back to that original workshop in Vietnam, what were you able to bring to the character?

RK: It was funny, because I really related to James being on the road all the time, and then trying to get home and re-immerse myself in family life. I was very used to it. That’s exactly what James was doing, and what caused the conflict between James and Elspeth. Like she says in the film, “Everything’s alright when you’re here, but then you leave and disrupt the whole family life and I have to deal with it.” I understood that. I could relate to it. I built a whole back story about James; where he came from, his family, where he went to school. I just became that character, and it was quite an interesting role for me.

SM: Do you still get a pleasure out of touring? Do you see a date where you might stop that and settle down?

RK: Oh, no. This is the last show of my leg tonight, and then we fly back to Europe. I don’t want it to end. I love touring. Since I was 16 years old, it’s all I’ve done. I’m 36 years old. That’s 20 years. It’s in my blood. It’s in my bones. I’d be lost without it. I love it.

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SM: Fair enough. In the film, there is something of a nude scene. It’s all very tasteful, of course.

RK: I don’t know about the fart in it being tasteful, but the rest. [Laughs]

SM: Was that ADR, or was it live on set?

RK: That was put in afterwards. I can’t fart on request.

SM: That would have been impressive.

RK: Maybe belch, but not fart. I can’t squeeze them out.

SM: Fart aside, how do you psych yourself up for that day of shooting, where you’ve got to bare yourself?

RK: I don’t remember reading that scene in the first draft. I’m sure they hid it from me. That morning, director Mark Lamprell said to me, “Okay, we’ll do the apron scene now.” And I said, “Apron scene?” “Yeah, so I’ll close the set off.” It dawned on me what I had to do. Wardrobe came up to me and said, “Do you want to wear one of these?” It was this long string with a tube at the end, and I said, “What’s that for?” And then I realised. [Laughs] “I’m not wearing one of those!” So I am proper commando in there. It was James’ bum that people saw, not mine. That’s the way I describe it.

SM: The character’s bum. It has a different life and different motivations to yours.

RK: I did do all my own stunts. [Laughs]

SM: Is acting something you want to continue doing?

RK: I have another role kicking off after X-Factor auditions in June. An Irish film, which is exciting.

SM: Can you tell us anything about that?

RK: It’s an Irish play being adapted for the screen. It’s exciting. Very famous play. I’m one of the leads in that. Not a romantic comedy, or anything like that. Very different.

SM: Musically, what have you got coming up in 2013?

RK: Boyzone are reforming; that’s the band I was in. We’re reforming at the end of the year for our 20th anniversary, and doing a tour. I’m working on an album now, but I don’t know how far off I am with it. It could be a year. I just started. A new studio album. I’m writing, but I don’t know if I’ve got an album ready yet.

SM: Creatively, what do you get out of acting that you haven’t been able to get out of music?

RK: I love building these characters. This is the one thing I’ve learnt from Goddess is you can create this character and be this character. I build this massive back story about who he was – where he came from, his schooling, his brothers and sisters – stuff you’ll never see on camera, and just became that guy. That’s who I was when I was on set. I’m not by any means trying to be a method actor, but I just constantly was in that frame of mind. I’d come home every night after shooting, and I was James. It was easy to stay in James’ shoes really; it’s not like I had to play someone dramatically different visually or change my accent. I really enjoyed that, more than anything really.

SM: Would you ever do a Chris Gaines concept album with a different character?

RK: Absolutely. I love that record. It was a bizarre concept when it happened.

SM: 2014, we’ll be waiting.

RK: Who knows who it’s going to be? Billy Nomates, or something.

Goddess arrives in Australian cinemas March 14, 2013.

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