Interview: Aisling Walsh Talks “Maudie, Sally Hawkins and Ability to Create Art Out of Anything and Lead a Simple Life and be Content

Maudie written by Sherry White and directed by Aisling Walsh and based on true events explores an inspiring story of a woman, Maud (Sally Hawkins), who despite her disability hones the skill of painting and becomes a respectful figure in the community of a little town of Nova Scotia. Her story might be far from being a fairy tale, but it is something that should be seen as an urgent matter because what it delivers is outstanding, thoughtful and damn good.

The film directed by Aisling Walsh has a great cast, strong script and excellent performance to make this film memorable.

During my phone interview with director Aisling Walsh, it was interesting to learn new aspects of the Maudie, the filmmaking process and, of course, the reason why Sally Hawkins was a reasonable choice to portray Maudie.

MOVIEMOVESME: How did you come up with the idea of making “Maudie”?

Aisling Walsh: The script was sent to me and I read it and I loved it. I then googled about Maud and thought this could really be a lovely film to do. I eventually connected with the producer. So that’s how I started on it. The first name I wrote down was Sally’s as we’d worked together before and I thought it might be something she would like to do.

MOVIEMOVESME: Can you talk about the fact that preparing the script took thirteen years but filming it took just six weeks?

Aisling Walsh: Why this film took so long, I don’t know honestly, I wasn’t there right from the beginning. There was another director a couple years before me but he went on to do another project. Films like these take their time to get their finances as money comes from different sources. Then I joined in and then we got Sally and in a month to six weeks’ things started moving quickly then. We then thought about making it an Irish co-production because I’m Irish and I thought it might be a good idea. The pieces sometimes just slip into place. Sometimes it takes ages to get through the first part and then suddenly things start picking up speed and suddenly you’re making a film. We got lucky because we got the right people like Sally and Ethan.

MOVIEMOVESME: How much help were you able to get from Telefilm Canada?

Aisling Walsh: I got a lot of support; they believed in the project all along. Sometimes it takes a little longer to get the other pieces in place. We ended up going to Newfoundland and we performed there and then we got some money in Ireland. You’ve just got to try and stick with something and then all the pieces just start to fit into place. Telefilm had developed the project from the very beginning and they really believed in us. After all those years things just somehow started to take a shape. Sometimes it’s just the right combination of people in the end to get the film away.

MOVIEMOVESME: How challenging was it to build an entire replica of Lewis’ house for the film?

Aisling Walsh: It was one of the biggest challenges. Very early on when I joined the project we discussed how we’d do it; it just made sense to find a location that was quite close to the real one. We photographed the house and the museum and quite frantically measured things. We worried that maybe the weather would be quite tough but actually we had pretty good weather all the time. The house stood there for a few months. It went away when we came back after a few days when the winter finished. But the challenges really were to build and develop it over the course of thirty to forty years, like when she goes in the beginning the house is quite shabby and dark and not very clear interior; in the end, it’s white and colorful. It’s a fine work of art actually. We had to work out from the beginning how to get there. We did what we did because we built the house and the walls could come out; those walls were replicated three times. So it was quite complex and took a lot of working out. But we had a great reference, the original house.

MOVIEMOVESME: How sure were you when you offered this role to Sally Hawkins?

Aisling Walsh: We’re quite good friends and over the years we’ve talked about doing other things together. Maybe because I know her so well I just knew that she could pull off this part. I know her love of art and painting and I knew she would love all of that. For anybody taking on that role it would’ve been a huge challenge and I sort of knew she’d love to immerse herself in the character and disappear into their world. I knew we trust each other enough. I had no doubts and once I thought of her there was nobody else. With Ethan, it was a tough role for him to play because he isn’t very likable in the beginning; he’s a very different man at the end of the film than what he was before. I think that’s a real challenge to play as well. But you can do this if you trust one another and listen and work it out.

MOVIEMOVESME: This movie proves that no matter what shape you’re in or even with disability, you can shine through creativity. Was it one of the aims of the movie to inspire people?

Aisling Walsh: I think it’s interesting. When I was in Ireland as a kid growing up there were characters like that who lived a simple life. For people, nowadays it is difficult to understand that she never travelled more than twenty miles outside her house. But she had all that amazing creativity and you don’t need a lot to create art. She painted on the walls of her house, on any surface that she could find. She used what was available and initially earn a little bit of money to keep them going and then it became this business. Often with young, naive folk artists is that they don’t see fine art, they see it as a means to an end. So for younger people it is quite inspirational that you can create art out of anything and lead quite a simple life and be content, happy. The fact that they found this life together and changed each other, so it’s quite an interesting story to see.

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