Rob Lorenz Interview “In the Land of Saints and Sinners”

For the film “In the Land of Saints and Sinners,” I was invited to speak with the director, Rob Lorenz. We had a Zoom interview, and it was informative. We talked about his Irish heritage, Liam Neeson’s Irish accent, the beautiful Irish coastal cliff location and co-star Kerry Condon.

Rob began, “Hi Sarah, I think we’ve spoken before in Chicago. I said, yes, great memory, it’s so great to speak with you again; we met in person for an interview at the Four Seasons in Chicago on September 4, 2012, for Clint Eastwood’s role in “Trouble with the Curve.” I remember we talked about my radio host Carl Amari, whom you know, and I’m pleased to tell you I’m still on the radio with him every Saturday night. We’re going on 15 years this April. Carl said to tell you hi! Rob said, please tell Carl I said hi back!

Sarah Knight Adamson: You know I really loved your movie “In the Land of Saints and Sinners” for two reasons: I’m Irish, and my great-great grandfather’s surname on my mother’s side is O’Daughtery. It was changed when he came to America in the 1800s. I’m also a huge fan of Liam Neeson. The cinematography really stands out in your film. What was your plan for that?

Rob Lorenz: Well, when I read the script, which described this little town, I went to the internet and started looking. I’d never been there. I began scouting the location, and a scout wanted to take me to all these very convenient places in Dublin, among others. And I said, okay, but I want to see this place. I want to understand why the script’s writer set it here. And he said, well, okay, but it’s very remote.

It’s a three-and-a-half-hour drive from everything. But when I got there, it was just stunning. It is beautiful. It’s where the North Atlantic just slams Ireland, and so it creates these beautiful epic cliffs. And I said, oh, now I get it, and we have to shoot it here. Also, the community is kind of a picture in time. There’s very little modern architecture there. You really do feel like you’re stepping back into the seventies or sixties. I was keen on shooting it there and trying to capture that beauty as sort of a contrast to the dark aspects of this story, because it was, especially the first time I read the original script, it was really dark. I wanted to balance that with the openness and beauty of the small coastal town.

SKA: Well, you did an amazing job. My husband watched the film with me, and he concurs as we’ve been to Ireland several times.

RL: Our great-grandparents may have known yours As my great-grandmother was from there. She’s a Duffy and married the person she married in OC Callahan. So my mom was in OC Callahan, so maybe they crossed paths back there in Ireland.

SKA: Oh my gosh, that’s amazing. Liam Neeson—oh my goodness, he’s one of my favorite actors ever. I’ve been following him, of course, since “Schindler’s List.” What does he bring to this movie? And I know he is Irish, too.

RL: He brings everything. First of all, he’s just a really, really terrific human being. He’s a wonderful person to spend time with. He’s such a pro. He’s so photogenic. He just has that heroic stature, and he towers over people. He’s got that velvet booming voice. It’s almost a trick to try and underplay it a little bit so that he is more relatable. But he is such a relatable guy. That’s what his charm is.

He’s Irish, and it is interesting to watch the movie because he didn’t have to think about his accent in this role, which is unique for him. He’s always having to put a little bit of an American tinted or else just kind of clean it up a little bit for everyone. But this time, he didn’t have to worry about that. And it’s really interesting to, it really started to come out as he was talking to other cast members who were Irish, and they had these accents, and his started to show, and a few times I was like, what did he say? We had to go back and get another take or clean it up a little bit later so that we could understand it.

SKA: Oh, thank you for that. I love that story. Your message in the film, I would assume, is one of redemption. But I’m sure there’s a little more to that. Could you talk about that?

RL: Yes, correct. It is layered, which I appreciate it. The film is definitely layered. Yeah. Well, I liked the fact that each of the characters had their own moral code. They all had a reason to do what they were doing. And that comes down to the last line from Liam. ‘We all have our reasons,’ and so there’s a believability and authenticity to each of them because we understand their point of view.

I mean, it certainly is a story of redemption for Liam’s character. He has created all these friendships with all these folks in town, and he wants to preserve that. But he comes to the point where he realizes the only way he can protect them is to expose himself to them, which is going to mean sacrificing his relationship. He’s not going to be able to stay there. And so that’s the ultimate dilemma. And eventually, he, well, I won’t spoil it, but that’s what he’s up against.

SKA: As far as I guess for others watching that aren’t sinners, people of good character watching, I felt it sent a wonderful message to everyone. You have no idea how you can change somebody’s life by just going that extra step.

RL: Yes, and you see that in his relationship with Kevin, who Jack Gleason plays, that young guy is such a terrific actor. I was so thrilled to get him for this part. And because that’s a tricky part. There were a lot of people that wanted to play it, but he had got to be a little bit crazy, and you could believe that he was a killer, and yet he’s got to be likable, and he’s got to be because you want this relationship to be believable. And Liam’s character, Finbar, is trying to counsel him and guide him away from the misery that he experienced. And so you can really appreciate that aspect of his character.

SKA: I was so into the film, and I’m like, oh, these poor people are living there during this time. It was just so awful. And then I loved it when you prefaced California, and, yeah, California at the time was really cool. Really groovy.

RL: I did like that character a lot, and so I was trying to build up that relationship a little bit more because I liked that relationship, and I thought it sort of captured, or  showcased the good side of Finbar. And so I wanted to spend as much time with them as possible without slowing the story down. But yeah, and certainly at that time in the early seventies, this idea of California was this kind of dreamland before it got corrupted. And so it made sense that that was something out there that he might be reaching towards.

SKA: Sure, no, I really appreciated that. Were there any scenes that Liam collaborated with you? I read that you do at times. You are a collaborative director, which is terrific.

RL: Well, maybe I mentioned he’s the one who read the script first, and he was. He read it, and he liked it. And so, he suggested me to direct. So, he thought I might like it, which I wonder why anybody would’ve thought of me otherwise because this all takes place in Ireland. And I don’t think anybody knew I had any connection to that country. But yeah, I loved the story. But I also mentioned it had a Western flavor to it. He’s in this small town, and these outlaws come into town, and the sheriff isn’t entirely up to the job. And so this guy has to pull down his gun, take the gun off the wall, and figure out how to save everybody. So that I love.

But in terms of collaboration, I mean, I learned a lot from Clint [Eastwood] in terms of letting people show you what they can bring to the table instead of trying to micromanage everything. And it’s a really powerful quality to let the production designer, the DP, and the actors come in and say, Hey, how about this? Before you say, this is what I want. Because you never know what they’re going to do and what they will offer. And there are many times when it’s much better than what I had in mind. So, in that sense, I love to let people know I always have a plan because I’ve got a schedule and a budget, and I’ve got to get it done so I know what I’m going to do. If nobody has any ideas, this is what we’re doing. But if people come in with other thoughts, I’m all ears.

SKA: Sure. Was Liam’s  son, Michael, on set? I interviewed him about five years ago for a film in which he and his father were in “Made in Italy.”

RL: Yeah, right. No, he didn’t come by. He had read for a part, but it didn’t work out schedule-wise. So no, he didn’t come by. But Liam had a lot of people around him who are like his family, and he has a lot of loyalty from the people he works with.

SKA: My last question, Kerry Condon. Oh my gosh. What does she bring to your film?

RL: Yeah, she was terrific. She was one of the first people I wanted for that part. And the people handling the money were more interested in finding somebody well-known at the time. ‘Banshees’ hadn’t come out, but I’ve always enjoyed her. And I had made a point; I wanted to cast all Irish actors if I could because I felt like the accents were so important. I wanted everything to feel as authentic as possible, and I couldn’t decipher the differences in these accents. So I needed Irish people to do that. And so she was on my list, and it just so happened that some of the more prominent names the financiers wanted weren’t available. So I got my wish, and she was just terrific. She’s such a good actress and has the same qualities as Liam in that she can be soft and believable yet tough as nails. And that’s what I really wanted. I wanted to believe that this villain was a threat to somebody as powerful as Liam. And she’s leading these two other guys, too. And she’s the boss, and so she had to be able to take command. And Carrie is just such a wonderful, wonderful actress. She just got it. She barely needed any direction at all.

SKA: That’s fantastic. I want to thank you so much for speaking with me today, and I wish you the best of luck with the film.

RL: Oh, thank you very much. It was a pleasure.

Sarah Knight Adamson© March 28, 2024

Check out the Zoom interview with Rob Lorenz: