circa 1999
"Getting Closer to Ciarán": A Conversation with Closer's Ciarán Hinds"

by Jerry Tallmer
At 6 feet and 12 1/2 stone Ciarán Hinds is not really an overly large man; it's just that he seems so large and, well, dangerous on stage and screen. Here in a shoe-box dressing room at the Music Box Theatre, where the steam pipes were banging away a couple of hours before curtain time, he appeared very large indeed.

"Unbeknownst to me" he ws saying, Patrick Marber had seen my work. I only knew of him as a good satirical writer for television. Then in the spring of '97 they sent me this script"--an early version of "Closer"..."and I read it and thought how brutally truthful it was."

Hinds went to the National Theatre to meet Marber, who was going to direct his own play in its debut there, and was offered the part of Larry, a big, angry, intolerant, frustrated, sensitive dermatologist--"and I had the nerve to turn him down, only because my wife was working, and it was my turn to stay home and take care of the wee one."

Two days later he got a call. "It was Sam Mendes, a friend of Patrick's. Mendes had been going to direct Closer at the National, but couldn't and now he said to me what did I think I was doing, turning it down."

The long and the short of that story is that Ciarán Hinds is the only member of the original National Theatre cast to convey the play to Broadway...

Hinds has never before worked with a playwright who's directing his own play. "Patrick always told us his text is not carved in stone, and in fact some of the scenes have been changed beyond recognition." A case in point is the extremely funny Internet session between Dan (Rupert Graves) and Larry (Hinds) sitting at computers conducting a graphic sex fantasy (between a man and a purported woman) that's spelled out, literally, word by word, on a giant screen facing the audience. "Its always been in the play, but the dialogue within it has varied widely. Also, Patrick wasn't sure if technically it could be staged. We had to do a lot of work on that, almost had to learn to type."

Ciarán Hinds, the second of five children, was born Feb. 9, 1953 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. His theatrical training included seven terms at the RADA under the tutelage of RADA director Hugh Cruttwell, "who kept an eye out for each one of all 60 to 70 students, to follow our development." Next came two years at the Glasgow Citizens Theatre under the equally important influence of the troika that still runs it: Giles Havergal, Robert David McDonald and Phikip Prowse. "In five or six seasons of the classics, we got through 35 or 40 plys: Beaumarchais and Goethe and Schiller and O'Casey--and Shaw and Wilde, of course." He's also worked at the Abbey in Dublin; at Garry Hynes's Druid Theatre in Galway...

The wife for whom Hinds--to take care of the wee one--first turned down the role in Closer is actress Helene Patarot, "my life partner," a French Vietnamese beauty who was a fellow performer 12 years ago in Paris in Peter Brook's Mahabharata. The wee one is their daughter Aoife, pronounced Eeefa--a "very unfair name," he says, "from a Yeats play about a warrior queen from Scotland."

The steam pipes were banging again as Hinds confronted a final, natural question: The relationship, if any, of the empty, endless couplings and uncouplings of this play to a player's own personal experience. "No." came the answer, with an exhalation of relief, "I've not been down the road with that, thank God."