ONE THING KEVIN Lehane, the writer of Grabbers, said to me on the fateful day we met was: “Why do the aliens always land in America? Why couldn’t they land somewhere else?” And it’s a fair point, which has stayed with me to this day. When aliens look down on Planet Earth they can’t see our self-imposed national boundaries, let alone know which language we’re speaking…
And so the Grabbers came to Ireland.
Kevin was born and bred in Cork so he thought of Sherkin Island, initially – and in a roundabout way that’s where Erin Island, our fictional island, is standing in for. Though Erin is really a mythical isle, somewhere unspecified off the Irish coast. A place with an amiable, timeless amber-brown pub, the sort of place city dwellers dream of. A place where being laid back is an art form taken to professional levels.
Ireland, as it turned out, was a fantastic place to shoot a movie. We received a warm, informal welcome wherever we went. I tucked into umpteen bowls of Irish stew, instantly transported back to my childhood and my mother’s home cooking. I travelled the length and breadth of the Emerald Isle and settled on Donegal and its spectacular, deserted beaches. A mischievous man in a Moville pub told me to get my hair cut and start acting my age, but with a grin on his face and a twinkle in his eye, so I didn’t mind so much. Well, I did. But I pretended I didn’t.
A bright spark decided we should shoot in January, and by some miracle we managed to escape the worst of the bad weather. Grabbers looks for the most part like we shot during an Indian summer… which was definitely not the case. One evening the snow came in a heavy blizzard and a focus puller in wellington boots took a touch of frostbite in both his big toes. Still can’t feel a thing, the nerve endings dead forever.
Grabbers doesn’t really have a precedent in Irish cinema, not that Kevin or I can think of, anyway. There have been horror movies, sure, but a monster movie comedy? Featuring thirty-foot-tall tentacled bloodsucking beasties from the other side of the universe? With a side order of romance?
It’s a date movie, really. A date movie with severed heads.
I sincerely hope the Irish take Grabbers to their hearts. It’s a love letter to rural Ireland’s landscapes and people, no question. Naysayers always jump on the fact that we play up to the stereotype of the Irish as a nation of heavy drinkers – but we also take care to show what a miserable, pitiful thing it is to be an alcoholic. That side of things never worried me, if there ever was a country with a sense of humour and the ability to laugh at themselves…
Jon Wright is the director of Grabbers.