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WIld Mountain Rhyme Rebel songs are the key to good Irish accents, Love/Hate star says

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Jamie Dornan in Wild Mountain Thyme

Jamie Dornan in Wild Mountain Thyme

Jamie Dornan in Wild Mountain Thyme

LOVE/HATE star Jimmy Smallhorne used rebel songs to teach Hollywood superstar Clare Danes an Irish accent. 

This week the internet went into meltdown over the release of the trailer for the American-made Irish rom-com, Wild Mountain Thyme.

The stars of the film, including Emily Blunt, Jamie Dornan and Christopher Walken, have been somewhat overshadowed by their clumsy, twee accents.

But for actor and writer Jimmy Smallhorne, the key to Americans perfecting Irish accents couldn't be simpler - get them singing traditional ballads.

Jimmy said he used this method to coach Homeland's Claire Danes when he was casting for his first major feature film called The Miracle Club.

And he told the Sunday World that one trip on the Subway in New York, singing an old Irish ballad, had her talking like a salty Dubliner.

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Jimmy Smallhorne played evil Git in Love/Hate

Jimmy Smallhorne played evil Git in Love/Hate

Jimmy Smallhorne played evil Git in Love/Hate

“I had a theatre company in New York and the way that I used to get American actors to learn Irish accents was I used to get them to sing Irish ballads,” he said.

“Claire Danes at one point was going to do the film a few years ago.

“So, I was on the Subway with her in New York and we were going down the west side of Manhattan and she was very worried about the accent.

“I told her not to worry and I gave her the secret to the perfect Irish accent. I got her to sing The Ballad of Roger Casement, it is a beautiful old Irish song, on the train.

“By the time she got off the train she had the strong beginnings of a Dublin accent.

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“The way to do it is through ballad singing and of course a good voice coach.

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Claire Danes in Homeland

Claire Danes in Homeland

Claire Danes in Homeland

“Unfortunately, the budget went to €15 million and she couldn't do it, but we have managed to put a great cast together now.”

The Miracle Club was written by Jimmy and follows working-class, Ballyfermot women, as they pilgrimage to Lourdes.

And Jimmy revealed he has assembled an all-star cast, even without Claire Danes.

Maggie Smith, Kathy Bates, and Laura Linney have all signed up to star in the new film which will begin filming in Dublin once Covid restrictions are lifted.

“The Miracle Club is a working title, I am not sure it is going to be called that but what a cast we have,” he said.

“Kathy Bates and Maggie Smith and Laura Linney have made it happen.

“I am grateful for them. We are waiting for Covid to pass so we can start filming.

“We have to wait until everything is safe for Maggie and Kathy in particular.

“We don’t want anything happening to the legend Maggie Smith while she is filming in Ireland, The Brits would never forgive us for that.

“It is a great story about these five mothers from Ballyfermot in the 60s, who serendipitously end up going to Lourdes, much to the surprise of their husbands who don’t know they are going.

“And they all have these little secrets that are revealed and it is a very heartwarming films towards the end.

“It is an homage to Irish mothers of that generation who had to raise ten kids in a tiny house in a working-class area.”

Brought up in Ballyfermot as one of eight kids, as a teenager Smallhorne became a compulsive gambler and lived rough on the streets before ending up in rehab at 18.

He sold a couple of tickets he had for U2’s New Year’s Eve concert at the Point in 1990 for £400 (irp) and went to New York.

He worked in construction and started acting at the Irish Arts Centre, eventually starting a theatre group in the Bronx and establishing himself as one of Dublin’s leading hardman actors.

His breakthrough role came ten years ago when he appeared as gangster Git in Love/Hate.

However, he admits that there is much more to him than playing Dublin thugs which is why he took the role of Cecil Carruthers in RTÉ’s new black comedy Dead Still.

“It is the best gig I ever worked on in the way that it was great fun,” he said.

“Because it was a comedy.

“It was great not to have to play a bloody tough guy again.

It has been really frustrating because really, I am as gentle as a daisy, I just have this Mount Rushmore face and the accent seems to get me cast in these brutal roles.

“People think I am like that in real life and I am not.

“Because I was always in to comedy. I enjoy that more than anything else.”

In terms of the plot, Dead Still is set in Dublin at the tail-end of the 19th century.

It focuses on the fortunes of Brock Blennerhassett (Luther and Spaced's Michael Smiley) a pioneering photographer who specialises in memorial portraiture - he creates portrait photography of the recently deceased.

Jimmy, who was last seen in the critically acclaimed drama Taken Down, plays a simpering busybody, which allowed him to flex his acting chops.

“This time around I get to play Carruthers, who has no backbone and that was lovely,” he said.

“It is good to get away from the other stuff because it is not easy to do.

“It is always hard and I always found it difficult facing the demons in your head and feeling like a fraud, that voice never stops.

“I know how to do it now though so I really have spent the last 12 months branching out in to different roles.

"The other day I filmed a part for an American TV series where I play an army general. I am trying to do other things.

“I am an actor; I am not actually a hard man from Ballyfermot.”

Dead Still airs on RTÉ One Sundays at 9.30pm.

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