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Discussing Wild Mountain Thyme, with John Patrick Shanley, Jon Hamm, and Dearbhla Molloy

The new movie is an adaptation of Shanley's 2014 play, Outside Mullingar.

Wild Mountain Thyme, the screen adaptation of John Patrick Shanley's 2014 Tony-nominated play Outside Mullingar, has been released, and the work, according to its author, is a love letter to Ireland. Here, Shanley discusses the new film with stars Jon Hamm and Dearbhla Molloy, who reprises a performance she originated on Broadway.

John Patrick Shanley on the set of Wild Mountain Thyme
(© Kerry Brown/Bleecker Street)

What was the impetus for creating Outside Mullingar, which became Wild Mountain Thyme?

John Patrick Shanley: My father was born on a farm in Ireland that he lived on until he was 24. I grew up surrounded by people with Irish brogues and Irish sensibility, but I was Irish-American. I went back there with him and the film is that. It's me going back there with my father and celebrating that farm and that culture and that land.

Dearbhla Molloy: I actually prefer Wild Mountain Thyme to Outside Mullingar. The play, by it's very nature, is confined to one space, and it can't expand in any way. It is set outside Mullingar, which is in the middle of the flat midlands of Ireland. But we filmed it in Mayo, which is rocky and mountainous and wild. On film, he can get his elbows at it; he can move the story out. The film is much more rich.

Peter Maloney, Dearbhla Molloy, and Debra Messing in the 2014 stage production of Outside Mullingar
(© Joan Marcus)

Tell me about creating your respective roles. John, why were you interested in this character, and Dearbhla, how did you adapt your stage performance for the screen?

Dearbhla Molly: I'd love to give you a big, long technical answer, but the fact is, I didn't. I just did it the same! [Laughs]

Jon Hamm: I had seen the play on Broadway and I was absolutely enthralled by it, and I have been a fan of Mr. Shanley's for decades at this point. When I was offered the opportunity to play a part in this, I said "yes" before the phone hit my ear. It was a true honor to get to work with not only John, but the rest of the production team on this, and to get to go to Ireland. It's as breathtaking as it looks, and magical, and beautiful, and exciting. I was also happy to originate this role. I like to think that John made it for me, and I don't care if he says he didn't. I'm gonna stick to that.

Jon Hamm as Adam in Wild Mountain Thyme
(© Kerry Brown/Bleecker Street)

What do you want audiences to take away from watching this movie?

John Patrick Shanley: The first thing I hear from everybody who sees the film is, "I want to go to Ireland." That's a good enough result for me. We all have terrible cabin fever right now, and the movie is a way out of that. You get to go to this beautiful, expansive place and forget the nightmare that is 2020.

Dearbhla Molloy: I think different audiences will get different things. Already from the feedback I've had from American friends, and critical friends, I think America will be much more likely to accept it than, say, Ireland will, which will be a bit beady about the fact that the accents are not perfect. But really, it doesn't matter. It's filtered though John Patrick Shanley's love for Ireland.

The whole thing is a fantasy. It's a fantasy notion of Irishness by somebody who has such a fondness for Ireland and the Irish, and who wrote it. Because of his Oscar win, everybody knows Moonstruck, and that was a love-poem to Italian-American-ness. This is a love-poem to Irish-ness. That's the whole point. Open the chocolates, pour the wine, and enjoy.