Kieran O’Brien is not your average movie star. Short, dark and broodingly sexy, he sports several days’ worth of stubble, swears like it’s going out of fashion and gulps down a beer and whisky chaser.
It’s the kind of don’t-give-a-fuck attitude that most actors (and their PRs) are at pains never to let show.
Mind you, his most famous appearance to date is no average movie. 9 Songs, by acclaimed British director Michael Winterbottom, tells the story of a love affair between Kieran’s character Matt and a young woman called Lisa, and is the first film with real life sex scenes that’s been given a certificate to be shown in cinemas.
And when we say sex, we’re talking close-ups of penetration, ejaculation, and full-on oral activity. Not surprisingly, it’s met with a fair amount of controversy, causing shock waves when it debuted at the Cannes Film Festival, and was originally given an X classification by Australian censors before they relented and decided we could all see the fun.
Kieran seems unfazed by all that, and shows no hint of embarrassment that the world has seen his cock in action (and a pretty impressive one it is too).
He has nothing but praise for Winterbottom, enthusing about the director’s attempt to set new standards in the way love and sex are portrayed in films, and is clearly proud to be a part of it.
In fact, he’s such a fan of Winterbottom that he’s also set to star in his new film Tristram Shandy.
So, is everyone just asking about your cock the whole time?
KO Err -¦ not everyone! [laughs] Um, I think we’ve covered a broad spectrum of things.
What happened when you first heard of this project? Was it like, Oh, you must be joking!?
KO No, not at all! Michael [Winterbottom] mentioned it to me -¦ I mean I’ve known Michael for 12 years, something like that, and he left a message saying, What are you doing for the next three months? I want to make a film, I want you to be the lead, and it’s a love affair, and I want to tell it predominantly through real sex.
And was that a freak-out for you?
KO No. I said, I’ll call you back, and I rang my brother and he said, Yeah, of course you should do it. I pretty much knew that I was going to do it. One of the reasons primarily was that I wanted to work with Michael again.
I’ve done four or five jobs with him now. I’ve done 24-Hour Party People, Cracker -“ he directed the first Cracker episode -“ and we’ve just finished Tristram Shandy. I did it to work with Michael.
If he said, We’re making a film where you have to wade through horse shit -¦?
KO I would have probably done that, yeah! He knows there’s no bullshit about me and I get on with whatever job I’m assigned to do.
Were you nervous about who the girl would be?
KO No, I wasn’t worried about it. Once I’d agreed to do it, that was it, there was no emotional trauma to overcome.
But it’s quite weird to agree to have full-on penetrative sex with a woman you’ve never seen. That’s not usual acting.
KO No, of course it’s different, but the mentality of it isn’t different in the sense that if you’re an actor and that’s your job and you agree to do it, you’re already reconciled that that’s what you’re going to do.
In love scenes in previous films, the only thing you’re faking is the penetration. We’re only going a step further.
If you’ve got to kiss some girl’s breasts, well, you still do that.
What we’re doing is taking it a step further. I’m delighted we’re doing this: people might get turned on by it, and if they do, that’s all well and good.
Is that what it’s for? To turn people on?
KO No, that’s not what it’s for at all. It wasn’t designed to create sexual excitement.
I suppose by the very nature of it there would be something wrong if there weren’t certain aspects of it that people didn’t find erotic or sexy or horny or turned them on, but we made a love story.
It’s not a porno. I think it’s better shot! [laughs] I mean, there’s no comparison.
Would you have done it if it had been a porno?
KO Would I fuck! I’m an actor!
But they’re porn actors.
KO Bollocks! I’ve been acting for 20 years, why on earth would I do a porno? What the fuck’s porn got to do with my career?
Were you not worried that doing this would hurt your career?
KO Well -¦ no, because, acclaim by association. You work with Winterbottom, everyone loves you, and rightly so. You obviously discuss it with your agent, because that’s who you work with.
What did your agent say?
KO Do it! Immediately! And my agent’s one of the top five agents in the country.
The reaction that I’ve had in the industry from directors, writers, casting directors, and other people’s agents and actors and actresses has all been, That’s incredible that you’ve done that, fair play.
Do you have a girlfriend?
KO Anything to do with family, friends or my inner circle, I simply don’t talk about.
I’m just wondering how a partner would feel about you going off to work to fuck someone else.
KO Well, I’m sure you could speculate on that but you’re certainly not going to discuss it with me.
Partner, friend, brother, sisters or parents, it’s my job so however any of the above would feel potentially about it didn’t even cross my mind, it wasn’t relevant to me.
If my parents wanted to go and see the film, I’d say, Go and see it -¦ there’s nothing that I’m ashamed of. I’m proud.
But a lot of actors say, When such and such a scene came on I was really embarrassed because my dad was there.
KO A lot of actors talk a lot of bollocks.
That’s a good answer. Would you have done this film if your cock had not been so great?
KO Hahaha! [laughing loudly] Who can say?
Does it say anything about your confidence in your cock, the fact that you’re doing this film?
KO No, it says that I believe in the stuff that I’m doing. What, so I take my clothes off? Big deal.
But a lot of actors just wouldn’t go there.
KO Well, I refer you to my previous answer.
Did you have to use Viagra for this?
That’s quite impressive then.
KO Well, it’s not because you’re seeing something that, on screen, is three minutes of footage. Or rather a better way to describe it is, you’re seeing 69 minutes, which is what it runs to, from 250 hours of footage.
So there’s a lot of sitting around going, Hang on, I’m nearly there -¦
KO Like, Oh my god, isn’t it cold in here! [laughs] Yeah!
It even looked impressive in the scene where you came out of the sea!
KO Right, well, that was early in the morning that, you’ve still got that big beer lob on haven’t you? It was up and down. That’s a good way to describe it.
So you say you’d do anything for Michael Winterbottom. If he said, I’m making this film called Ten Songs, this is when he goes gay -¦?
KO Oh no, I knew you were going to say it! No, I wouldn’t.
But as you say, it’s only acting, it’s only a job.
KO Because that would have been -¦ because I’m not that good an actor!
You could be the bottom and then you wouldn’t have to get a hard-on or anything.
KO Nah, really -¦
You see, so it’s not just acting then.
KO Yeah, well -¦ I suppose it also depends what role you want to play. Playing a heterosexual love story, yeah, I think I can stretch to that. But that said, I’m being totally unfair here, totally, totally unfair.
Because presumably you’d play a gay man?
KO Oh, of course I would. So your questions are very interesting. So let me leave it at -¦ my initial reaction is no, I wouldn’t. However -¦
He might talk you round with a couple of shandies.
KO He might, he might! With a Campari and soda! So no, now we’ve discussed it, if Michael has asked me to do that, would I have done it? You know, I might have done [laughs]. I dunno, I might have done. It depends what the billing would have been.