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Guarded secret Normal People producer says Brendan Gleeson comedy saved his firm from bankruptcy

Runaway success comedy, The Guard, took €6.5m in Ireland and the UK and €17m internationally


Brendan Gleeson in The Guard

Brendan Gleeson in The Guard

Brendan Gleeson in The Guard

Normal People producer Ed Guiney has revealed that a Brendan Gleeson comedy saved his Element film company from possible bankruptcy.

The Guard was a huge hit ten years ago taking nearly €6.5 million in Ireland and the UK and nearly €17m internationally, making it the biggest independent Irish film at the time, despite the country being in economic crisis.

Gleeson played an unorthodox and lazy Irish cop forced to work with an uptight FBI agent, played by Don Cheadle, to take on an international drugs gang.

The Irish buddy comedy, written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, earned Gleeson a Golden Globe nomination and McDonagh a BAFTA nomination.

“The Guard was a really important movie for us because we were very close to going bust had that not been a success,” Guiney told Deadline.

“Not only did we have our first proper commercial success both as producers and distributors – primarily distributors in that case – but it helped us make the argument to buy the Light House Cinema in Dublin.

“And gave us an injection of cash and capital that allowed us to push forward and that was incredibly important.”

The Guard was a turning point for Guiney who set up Element with his friend Andrew Lowe nearly 20 years ago.

It started a steady stream of critical and commercial film and television successes ranging from Oscar-winning titles such as Room and The Favourite to last year’s lockdown phenomenon, Normal People.

They also now work with some of the world’s top directors like Yorgos Lanthimos, Lenny Abrahamson and Joanna Hogg.

Element has also forged strong ties with companies such as Fox Searchlight, BBC Films and Film4.

The firm now has offices in Dublin, London and Belfast, runs an Irish distribution strand as well as the Light House Cinema in Dublin and Pálás Cinema in Galway.

“We’re ultimately not driven by commercial success,” says Guiney.

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“We are driven by the relationships that we have and the relationships that we’d like to have, and this definitely gives us the latitude to explore things that are exciting to us.”

Guiney and Lowe first met as kids in Dublin before they both attended Trinity College where Guiney set up a filmmaking society with Lenny Abrahamson.

“Even when he was very young, it was clear Lenny was incredibly talented,” Guiney says.

The company produced the director’s first feature Adam and Paul as well as his 2015 title Room, which earned four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, and saw actress Brie Larson go on to win Best Actress.

Abrahamson also directed half of the episodes for Normal People and is set to do the same in another series from Irish author Sally Rooney, Conversations With Friends.

Element also produced The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer, both directed by Lanthimos.

The Favourite went on to win Olivia Colman the Best Actress Oscar in addition to earning nine more nominations.

Element will produce the Greek director’s next movie, Poor Things, starring Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo and Willem Dafoe.

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