Jonathan Hensleigh, director and co-screenwriter of Kill the Irishman, discusses bringing 1970s Cleveland to life on screen. as told to Erick Trickey
DANNY GREENE is so eminently American. The history of America is a violent one. Here's a guy who's come off the street, a rugged individualist.
He actually did support orphans in an orphanage. He did give away turkeys at Thanksgiving and Christmas. He had his quirks: He was a health nut. He dressed in green, always drove a green car. Writing a character like that is a dream come true for a screenwriter.
Was he a violent man? Yes, I think we depict that pretty explicitly.
Danny Greene was an intensely masculine man, and so is Ray [Stevenson]: He conveys that man-of-the-street quality. Danny Greene was a tough guy, a boxing champion in the Marine Corps. We need an actor who can convey that. Ray can do that.
We tried to evoke as accurately as we could the '60s and '70s. You'll see a lot of period movies where the vehicles come from showrooms. The '60s and '70s cars we have in Kill the Irishman are for the most part pretty down and dirty: a lot of Pintos and Gremlins.
Unfortunately, we didn't shoot the movie in Cleveland. Michigan offers this spectacular [tax] rebate. We would not have been able to afford the cost of the movie any other way.
We pored over countless photographs of Cleveland, of what downtown looked like in the 1970s, or poor, middle-class and upper-class neighborhoods. The industrial areas of Detroit are remarkably like those of Cleveland. I hope it doesn't offend Cleveland people. I hope they understand.