The Art of the Interview: Gabriel Byrne Puts the Ire Back in Ireland (Guest Blog)

The Art of the Interview: Gabriel Byrne Puts the Ire Back in Ireland (Guest Blog)

Byrne opened up in a tirade against the bastions of everything that Hollywood holds holy

I remember watching an interview that Barbara Walters did with Warren Beatty. At the time, Beatty was promoting “Heaven Can Wait,” and he was hot. Here was a superstar, a leading man A-lister that would not only garner interest but gain ratings for Walter's broadcast. What a prize.

You wouldn't know it by the interview. Responding to Walter's “if you were a tree, what type would you be” questions, Beatty grunted mono-syllabic responses that were characteristic of Koko the Gorilla communicating with Jane Goodall. Beatty was infamous for being reclusive and seclusive. An actor who was so confined in his own ego that he would withdraw with every softball that Walters lobbed over to him.

Not so with the equally cloistered Gabriel Byrne, at the hands of a master interviewer known as Michael Des Barres. Yes, that Michael Des Barres.

On December 6, the fiercely private Byrne opened up, and in a stream-of-consciousness yet genial tirade against the bastions of everything that Hollywood holds holy, Byrne let loose with both barrels. His iconoclastic pontifications were heard, loud and clear.

The Internet buzz that followed the interview landed on the pages of The Hollywood Reporter, ABC News and in online news sources from Los Angeles to Limerick, Ireland. Byrne's explosive remarks and pontifications were not limited to the entertainment industry.

In a typically Irish and affable way, Byrne focused his gaze on his questioner, and calmly laid waste to the fortress that every Irishman that I know (and I know quite a few) defend: The Catholic Church.

However, this article is not solely about Gabriel Byrne. His remarks have been covered in publications around the planet. The real story lies in the man who danced with Byrne in that small studio.

I couldn't see Byrne pouring his soul out to the aforementioned Walters, or even to the master interviewer Howard Stern. Byrne settled into a chair close to Des Barres, looked at the enormous British Flag that adorned the studio, and turning away from it, inched closer to the host. Acknowledging the flag of Ireland's oppressor, Des Barres apologized for its placement and humorously chastised his producer for not substituting it for the banner of Ireland. That flag whose presence was the backdrop for the interview, only served to bond the host and his guest.

“Feckin’ brilliant so” as they say on The Ennis Road.

It was obvious that Des Barres and Byrne had a history together. So did Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield. In the case of Des Barres and Byrne, an ear was not bitten off, however singed the feeling was. Instead, the ears of the viewers were “lended” as they were in Mark Antony's oratory from Shakespeare's “Julius Caesar.” Byrne had not come to bury Hollywood, he came to praise the virtues of humanity that were being rendered from us at the hands of institutional corporatocracy.

As Des Barres gesticulated and waved his hands to emphasize points drawn from his own long experience in the industry, Byrne seemed to draw even closer. Des Barres was weaving a cocoon that surrounded him and his subject, and provided a safe place that not only invited, but encouraged openness and complete candor.

It was a pas de deux, a conversation not unlike My Dinner With Andrè where the viewer can take a seat within earshot, and actually listen to the musings of a great mind. Spurred by Des Barres’ reflections, and prodded by Des Barres’ reactions to what Byrne was saying, the conversation became as intimate as it was provoking.

As Byrne explained, he is a fiercely private man who despises self-aggrandizement.

He reflected on his youth when his parents would march him downstairs to perform like a trained simian on the buttonhole accordion to the delight of uncles and aunties. Des Barres prodded further, as Byrne then turned his attention to how similar that feeling is on the red carpet, where celebrities are “poked, prodded and objectified. That's what makes me cringe more than anything. They have the talent to look at you with one eye while the other eye scans down the line for whoever is coming next.”

Des Barres steered Byrne into a more seething observation on how the industry today has become a video game where “violent action and no development of personality” becomes the trademark of what is considered epic cinema.

It was no wonder that Byrne's imprimatur is that of an artist who on the surface is hesitant to express himself, yet underneath agitates with a passion to take on oppressors of humanity and culture far and wide.

Des Barres did not provoke or rankle Byrne into his uncharacteristic expressiveness.

Instead he seduced the truth out of Gabriel Byrne, like he has done with other subjects. However brilliant past Des Barres interviews have been, Gabriel Byrne catapulted the art of the interview to a new, lofty level.

Michael Des Barres’ own philosophy on the art of the interview will serve him, and the art of the interview well: “We are all longing to hear and tell the truth. It soothes the soul and gives life purpose. I am as inspired as you are by the revelations that come from my guests.

Honesty connects to an audience. Party line responses to the latest piece of hawked product are tolerated or berated by an ever sophisticated viewer. Do not underestimate the power and intelligence of the public. Authenticity is as rare as diamonds and shines as bright. Turn on, tune in and lean forward.”

  • Diana

    Great post! Is there a link to the actual interview?

  • Ludovicah

    I love listening to Michael Des Barres, he is so passionate about life, and so open, it really draws the people he talks to out, not as an ambush of any sort, but more like a meeting of minds. His interview with former wife, Pamela was one of the most moving things I have ever seen, and so warm and helpful that some of the things they said helped deal with a personal situation of my own

  • Malcolm

    I heard the interview. Can I disagree with the author on one thing? As controversial as many think his views are, I for one was extremely ENTERTAINED by the repartee between the two. It was like being a fly on the wall. I thought intelligent discourse was dead. Obviously not. I'm a huge fan of Gabriel Byrne. Now I'm also a huge fan of Mr. Des Barres.

  • Brian Murphy

    I heard this interview and to my mind, it sounded like two Irishmen taking the piss. Good stuff!

  • Dex

    I have to say that I thought Des Barres did an excellent job of both allowing his subject the leeway to discuss what was on his mind, and also led Byrne to some lovely and unexpected places. And did it with a kindness and consideration that really stands out in a world of snark and self important interviewers. I think he's a rock and roll Charlie Rose!

  • Thelma

    I was absolutely captivated, and even charmed. My faith in conversation has been restored.

  • Byrneperfection(LokidofAsgard/

    I loved how this was more a conversation between friends really than interviewer and subject. Gabriel allowed to speak his mind, and not forced to answer some seemingly premeditated question delving deeper and deeper into his personal life. It was great not to hear the same old questions they put forth the the BS filled red carpets or award shows. It was unfortunate to find afterwards the appalling media hounds of abc, gma on Yahoo etc. The amounts of people that slaughtered Gabriel's words. The people who so harshly accused him of being everything that he is not. And so many to criticize who never even watched the show but who felt wounded by him calling the Pope a figurehead-a CEO. I know….I know and I realize that Gabriel probably does not give a hoot what anyone thinks of him. However I tried defending him-I got so pissed….especially at one who said something to the extent who cares what these actors these creatures think. That got to me. I mean to think that people could or would go that low to call him some creature….that person who said actors are creatures because they don't have emotions because they fake when they act. Ohh I ripped into them. I ripped into a few others-one who wound up calling me a “Pontificating Idiot.” That just got me all riled up all the more. I just still can't believe people will go to that much “hate” when in fact Gabriel never said anything bad specifically about the Pope.

  • Alexandra

    I agree with everything Mr. Byrne said. It was very entertaining and enlightening to witness the conversation between him and Mr. Des Barres, and, to be honest, I can't see what was ‘controversial’ about it. The Catholic Church *is* a corporation, fronted right now by Pope Francis, who seems to be a tad more open-minded than his predecessors, a bit more grounded and connected to the real world. Considering Mr. Byrne's own experiences at the hands of Catholic churchmen, I found his comments tame. I find it extremely valuable to hear someone tell the truth and not gloss over the many negative aspects of the church.

  • Salome Asherah-Sophia

    I have been watching Michael Des Barres’ interview show for a while now, and have been more pleasantly surprised, entertained, and informed, than with any other type of interview show I've ever watched (and I have watched many). His last interview with Gabriel Byrne however was the most emotional, honest, and intelligent interview I've ever heard–with ANYONE. He certainly does put the “Ire” back in Ireland!

  • Sharmila Tredger

    Great read! As a society, we haul things out of context to prove a point, this certainly IS NOT the case here, its evident that the martyr here is the truth and to be more clear-cut, we cannot conquer this long haul if
    we don't tell the truth. I have the utmost respect for both Gabriel and
    Michael and for any individual who believes in and stands tall to a
    position that most shrug. This deserves to be respected and heard. Which leaves me with this query. Why was the link to this conversation not encompassed in this piece? Gabriel and Michael..you both RAWK!!!

  • Kim Serrahn

    I finally got to watch the interview on the 13th, a lucky day for me, I will watching it over and over again to get the small pieces that I missed the first time. Thank you Michael for having Mr Byrne on as you guest. I already knew his views on the Church and I agree on all points. And I agree with Mr Byrnes point about the “objectification” of women. HUZZAHS TO YOU BOTH.