Citadel beings its limited theatrical run this Friday and I recently spoke with writer/director Ciarán Foy about the movie. Continue reading to learn about the real life events that inspired this story and the challenges Ciarán Foy had to overcome in order make this movie:
What was your inspiration behind the story of Citadel?
Ciarán Foy: What inspired it was something that happened to me when I was eighteen. I was the victim of a pretty vicious and unprovoked attack by a gang of youths. It has given me my first feature, so I don’t mind talking about it. I was beaten with a hammer and I had a dirty syringe held to my throat. It was a horrendous ordeal and I found the most terrifying thing is that they did it for kicks. It left me with this trauma, which eventually became agoraphobia and was a condition I battled with until my early twenties. My struggles with that condition and recovery, combined with my nightmares and how I saw the world were thrown into a big pot with my lifetime love of genre films.
Did you find the process of writing and filming Citadel to be therapeutic?
Ciarán Foy: Yeah, it certainly was and so was film school. The letter that said I was accepted into film school gave me the first push I needed to get outside. I didn’t have the word for agoraphobia at the time and just thought something was wrong with me. With the help of a counselor at college, in conjunction with writing, it was both therapeutic and cathartic. When I began writing it, I had to return in my head to places and situations I’d rather forget.
It’s the best thing you can do, but it first felt like I was taking steps backwards. I didn’t realize it at the time, but when I got to the end of the writing process, I felt quite empowered. In forcing myself to face my own demons, it was the best thing I could have done. I’d highly suggest screenwriting as a form of therapy. [laughs]
Given the subject matter, did you have difficulty getting the project financed locally?
Ciarán Foy: It took about five years to get it off the ground. The recession was kind of happening everywhere and companies that were interested had to cut their budget. Eventually, we financed it with completely soft money through the Irish Film Board and Creative Scotland. It wasn’t a lot of money, but it got the thing made.
Initially, it was difficult to get them to back it because they don’t traditionally don’t go for genre films. I told them that this was a personal story and the best way to tell a movie about agoraphobia. They wanted to know what sort of movie it would be like, and what really helped me was the release of Let the Right One In. I could finally point to a movie which was doing really well at festivals and was a compelling drama.
Was the casting process difficult? What did it take to find the right Tommy you envisioned when writing the script?
Ciarán Foy: Finding Tommy was difficult, because I wanted to bring to the screen an image of a very young father. We needed a character who was a kid himself, but was tasked with being a father. We auditioned twenty five guys and a lot of people in that age group were good looking, extroverted people. When Aneurin Barnard came into the room, he felt different than the other guys and had an emotional range I hadn’t seen. I found that he suffered a similar experience to what I had, and there was that ability in him to go into those places Tommy needed.
James Cosmo has been very busy lately on a number of projects. Were you happy to have him on board?
Ciarán Foy: During the casting process, I’d always say “someone like James Cosmo”. He really responded to the script and was in the middle of shooting Game of Thrones in the area. I’m sure it really annoyed the producers there, but he’d fly back and forth to shoot Citadel. He was amazingly generous with his time and was a true gentlemen.
Were you surprised by the positive audience reaction to this film and being able to take Citadel to festivals around the world?
Ciarán Foy: The first time I had watched the movie with an audience was at South by Southwest. I made the movie for the eighteen year old inside of me and would have been happy if this film just played well at home. When we took it to South by Southwest, I was not expecting the audience reaction and reviews. To get the audience award was incredible, and we’ve been traveling the world with it. To have a movie that is appealing to people in South Korea and Switzerland, and crosses boundaries has been incredibly humbling and gratifying. It fills me with dread wondering if I’ll be able to do this again… [laughs]
Talking about what’s next, you’ve been working for a while on Citadel. Are you ready to get behind the camera again for a new project?
Ciarán Foy: I’m itching to get to work and I’m coming to the end of the festival trail. I’ve been attached to a movie, which I can’t say the name of, but there will be an announcement very soon. It is a science fiction film, and I’ll be re-writing a draft and shooting next year. It’s nice to take a break from dark intense horror, but still stay within the types of films we love.
Citadel will receive a limited theatrical release, starting this Friday in NY and opening next week in LA. To learn more about the movie, check out the trailer below: