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Tuesday, 27 March, 2001, 11:02 GMT 12:02 UK
Roddy Doyle escapes reality
When Brendan Met Trudy
The film is Doyle's first original screenplay
By BBC News Online's Rebecca Thomas

Acclaimed Irish writer Roddy Doyle has made a name by writing gritty, witty working class novels that translate perfectly to the screen.

But, after film successes from his Barrytown triology - The Commitments, The Snapper and The Van - Doyle's latest movie sees him going out on a limb.

When Brendan Met Trudy marks Doyle's first original screenplay. Though described as a romantic comedy, much of its tone and content is subversive and surreal.

Roddy Doyle
Roddy Doyle: Wanted a rest from heavy research

The story centres around Brendan - movie buff, teacher, baritone and loner - played by Peter McDonald.

One night, over a quiet Guinness, Brendan is accosted by madcap stranger Trudy, played by Flora Montgomery.

Despite their personality clash, Trudy takes Brendan on a break-neck, often criminal, romance that turns his hum-drum life around.

Playful

Like Doyle's novels, the action unfolds in his native Dublin, only here it is a modern, middle class environment.

This is, Doyle says, a fair reflection of the way Dublin has prospered over the last decade.

But he also stresses that he deliberately wanted a contrast to the grim realism of his previous work - especially his Irish history novel A Star Called Henry.

"While I was writing A Star Called Henry I was a happy slave to realism, every word had to be real and heavily researched," explains Doyle.

The Commitments
The Commitments was Doyle's most popular film

"I was reacting against that. That's why there is a lot of messing around in the film," he adds with a smirk.

Relaxed and jokey appears to be Doyle's natural demeanour as he chats fluently about his film. He guffaws as he recalls one of the film's most hilarious moments.

The scene involves a troupe of gay Orangemen, complete with pink sashes and bowler hats, proclaiming their right to march.

"It's great to see a half line's idea come to life like that," Doyle enthuses.

He explains how direct-talking, volatile, sexually liberated Trudy was designed to be mysterious and almost out of this world. But Brendan, he professes, is not meant to be anything like him.

Movies

The suggestion is raised because Doyle too was a teacher for 14 years and is still a big movie fan.

Cinema is the other main current of the film, as Brendan's obsession permeates many scenes.

The Van
The Van: the third of Doyle's Barrytown triology

The film's opening echoes that of Sunset Boulevard. Numerous other classics feature, either by reference or in the use of a clip.

The idea for When Brendan Met Trudy was inspired accidentally by a piece of music when Doyle was researching A Star Called Henry.

"One part of my research involved listening to a 1917 recording of a song by John McCormack called Three O'Clock In The Morning. There was a crackle on it which sounded like heavy rain.

"Suddenly, it made me visualise a man face down in the rain, seemingly dead in the middle of the night. I immediately thought the idea could only be the start of a film."

Novels

Random inspiration is, says Doyle, also very much a part of the way he works as a novelist.

When Brendan Met Trudy
Trudy leads Brendan into a mad, fantasy world

"I go off looking for information for project A and come away with the genesis of project B, writing something that has nothing to do with my original idea," Doyle explains.

But he says he found writing a screenplay much easier than writing a book.

"A page of prose is often a day's work for me. Every syllable matters. Every sentence has to be grammatically exactly as I want it.

"Whereas, if you are writing for the screen, the words are more like instructions. The only time you have to hesitate about each syllable is in the dialogue."

Still, fans of Doyle's novels need not worry that he is going to concentrate solely on film from now on.

He is in the process of writing his next book.

In the best of Doyle traditions, a film of A Star Called Henry is also in the pipeline.

When Brendan met Trudy opens in the UK in May.

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