Last Week we got to interview Lorcan Finnegan for his new film ‘Nocebo’ and working with Eva Green and Mark Strong, who give terrific lead performances. We also talk about mythologies and folk lore from around the globe and what inspired this film.
Nocebo will be available On Digital and On Demand on November 22, 2022.
So, Lorcan, how did Nocebo all come about? Because it seems to have a lot of mythology in there, like some urban legend feel to it. And you got some great performances out in the lead cast, including Mark Strong. So how did this all come together?
It started with Garret Shanley and I, he’s the writer. I just had an interest in placebos and nocebos and how they’re related to shamanism and pagan cultures.
And Ireland was a pagan country, we were animists and we had shamans and these powerful women who were able to cure people. But that got erased with the introduction of Christianity and later, being colonized by the British. And now we live in a very consumerist society here.
So we were interested in how all those things were connected and how, in the Philippines, there’s still a strong tradition of folk healing, especially on the island of Cebu, and then a neighboring island called Siquijor, where it’s famous for healing and there’s like a festival every year. It’s called the Island of the Witches, locally.
So we got a little bit of development funding, and Garrett and I went to Cebu and to Siquijor and we met shamans, and witch doctors, and faith healers, and practitioners of kulam. It was black magic, like sorcerers, basically. And we also met with the tribal leaders of the Ati and Bajau tribes there in Cebu who were telling us various stories related to their folklore. And there was a lot of similarities, crossovers between Irish folklore and the shaman folklore.
So we thought there was some interesting connections happening between placebos and nocebos, Christianity, shamanism, and the eventual arrival of capitalism and the consumer culture and how some of these countries in Southeast Asia particularly are still exploited in a neo-colonial way by the West.
Got it. You say that and it’s interesting that you get all these borrowed techniques from other cultures because Christianity also came a little bit from Paganism. They just took out a lot from Paganism, but that’s where it originated from too.
So when you guys were doing your research on this, did you find anything unique or, “You know what? I never really knew” that while you guys were doing the research for Nocebo as well?
Yeah, lots of strange, unique things. Even so Ireland and Cebu are about 7,000 miles apart, but we both had this same story of if you’re trapped in a fairy circle, the way to escape is to turn your jacket inside out, which is pretty strange that the two cultures would have that. I mean, so there’s all these interesting things.
And also we have this thing of if a fork falls before somebody calls to the house, it means it’s going to be a female visitor. And in the Philippines, they have a spoon falls on the ground, and we included that in the film and various things like that. So we developed it further into a place where there was a story to pitch.
And I wanted to do it as a co-production, a proper co-production between Ireland and the Philippines. So we pitched it at Macau Film Festival in China and got co-producers from Epic Media in Manila to come on board and then we started casting it from there. So it was a bit of an unusual trajectory from just an interest in placebos and nocebos to actually doing a co-production in the Philippines.
And that had to be really interesting too, doing that and getting the cast locked down as well for a story like this. I mean, how did you end up pitching it to the stars of the cast to try to get them interested in it?
Yeah, I mean, it’s always hard to cast a film, especially if you’re looking for big names. And we sent the script to Eva Green’s… She was the first person who went to for the role of Christine and I think her agent had been tracking the project and liked it and then sent it to her. She read it pretty quickly, she really liked it. She just connected with the material, she was interested in the themes we were trying to explore. And then she came on board. And then we started casting for Chai’s role, Diana. So we were looking in Cebu because we wanted someone from that island to speak the local dialect and everything. So then we found her after doing auditions and everything and she just totally nailed it and then she came on board. And then it was during the pandemic as well, so it was a bit of a tricky casting process for finding Bobs. So we got Billie Gadsdon via Zoom auditions and all that kind of thing. And then Mark had seen Vivarium and we’d actually met. My previous film, he had watched it and he really liked it and he just wanted to have a general chat. So I’d had a call with him about nine months before maybe. And then when we were ready to go with this and the cast were shaping up, we thought Mark would be great alongside Eva and she thought so, too. So we went to Mark and offered it to him and he was into it. And we all collaborated on it then a little bit with the story and making changes to the script based on their characters and how they saw themselves.
Right. And I’m not blowing smoke up you or anything but I really thought this was one of Eva’s finest performances she has given in her career thus far. So how was it like watching her just embody and relish in this character? Because watching her on screen, she just came off so committed to this character.
Totally. It was amazing, really, because we only had a few days rehearsal on the weekends in the location that we were shooting in. But people were wearing masks and we took all the windows open and all this kind of stuff because of COVID, it was freezing.
So we basically did all of our prep by just having tons of conversations and emails and back and forth. So by the time we started we just hit the ground running. We had a pretty tight schedule to get the film done.
Yeah, no, it was great. It was great to watch these amazing actors, they’re such a high-caliber.
Once they’re going, it’s a pleasure to work with them and then just nudge the performance in whatever way to make it, the whole thing, more balanced. But I mean, we didn’t do a whole lot of take… A lot of the time, we’d only do maybe two, three takes max, and move on.
Well, Lorcan, thank you so much from the interview and your time, man. It’s been really fun. And congratulations on Nocebo and we look forward to what you have next.
Lorcan Finnegan :
Thanks, man. Pleasure talking to you.