Mersey Boys’ Steven G. Farrell: Interview

Interview: Mersey Boys' Steven G. Farrell

Mersey Boys’ Steven G. Farrell: Interview – By Carlos Larriega A.

Mersey Boys is a novel about an american art professor, Al Moran , who met John Lennon in 1959. Gradually Lennon, Moran and a beautiful independent woman called Ginny Browne merge into a friendship that leads to the forming of The Beatles.

Based on this book director Paddy Murphy made a film (‘Mersey Boys: A Letter From Al Moran’). This movie had its premiere at Delray Beach as a part of the Beatles On The Beach Festival. Mundo Beatle could interview Steven Gerard Farrell, author of ‘Mersey Boys’ about his novel, the film, his Beatles experiences in England and how he lived the Beatles Festival in California.     

CLA: Gerard, you have written about many  interesting topics during your career (books, essays, articles). When did you decide to write a novel about John Lennon days at the Liverpool Art College?  And how did you create your characters?

SGF: Carlos, I visited the wonderful city of Liverpool, England in the spring of 1989, and the idea came to me as I explored the many places associated with The Beatles like the Liverpool Art College, the Quarrybank School and the Cavern Club. I even stayed in a hotel that was across the street from the govcernment office where John Lennon and Cynthia Powell were married. I even went inside the pub where the two celebrated their marriage with a reception. I visited the church where Paul McCartney sang in the choir as a boy. The highlight was finding a greasy old fish and chip shop where John, Paul and George hung around when they were teenagers. I visited Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields: names that are featured in their songs.

Professor Al Moran is based upon a younger versión of myself. Ginny Browne is based on a beautiful but diffucult woman I dated briefly many years ago in Rockford, Illinois. Ginny is a the woman every man desires but can never hold for long. This woman becomes the creative muse for the artist.

CLA: The Mersey Boys novel, play and screenplay have all been published by Celtic-Badger Publishers. It must have been a difficult job writing the story in three different formats. Sometimes it takes more time to adapt the story from a novel to a script. What differences can a reader find among each of this three books?

SGF: There are four screenplays adapted from the Mersey Boys novel, including one written by myself. The novel has been published five different times. The play has only been published once. There was a stage reading here at my college (Greenville Technical College in Greenville, South Carolina) in the Winter of 2015. It was direcedt by Dr. Dan Robbins of my college’s theatre department; and it starred students who were studying acting under Dr. Dan. They did  great jobs!

The story is always essentially the same. I made the screenplay and the play sexier to appeal to the audience. In later editions of the novel I have added additional materials such as photographs from the movie. 

CLA: ‘Mersey Boys’ [the novel] has several editions so we can say that the book had a very good reception. Now if we talk about the film: can you tell us how you had your novel filmed as a movie?  The film was  directed and produced by Paddy Murphy.  Wasn’t there an earlier  attempt to film the movie?

SGF: Mersey Boys had been accepted by La Muse Theatre Group in New York City back in 2012. They were filming in the Brooklyn and Queens áreas of New York while using  actors who were trying to make it on Broadway. Joanna Pickering, a British film and stage actor, had been hired to play the leading female role of Ginny Browne. The director made a very good two minute trailer for the film. Sadly, the Project came to a sudden stop due to a shortage of money. Joanna Pickering has moved on to other projects. She recently won an award at a film festival for a screenplay she wrote. Anna Shields, another fine actor, was in the first film.

Paddy Murphy, one of the founders of Celtic Badger Media Films in Limerick and Clare, Ireland, agreed to do a ten minute noncommercial short based upon my novel. I reached out to him because his film company and my publishing company are both called Celtic Badger.  I think he agreed to do the film because his mother is a very big Beatles fan. Noncommercial means we’re not making a profit from the film.

CLA: The filming of ‘Mersey Boys: A letter From Al Moran’ was done in Ireland. John Lennon’s ancestors were from Ireland. So I think it was special to find actors and crew that developt the story in that country. Can you tell us your opinions about this.

SGF: John Lennon’s ancestors were indeed from Ireland, and he was proud of his Irish ancestry. Paul McCartney and George Harrison were also mostly of Irish DNA. Ringo Starr even had a little Irish blood inside of his viens. George had Irish aunts, uncles and cousins he had visited in Ireland before he joined The Beatles.  My last name Farrell is an Irish name, and I have always been very proud of my Irish roots. I had been to my ancestral homeland of Ireland three times before I had gone over there to work on the film in Galway and Wicklow, Ireland. I travelled over to Ireland with my colleague Rachel Cobb, a profesor at my college. Rachel played the part of Moira Moran.

Courtney McKeon, casting director for Celtic Badger Media Films, had many fine Irish actors audition for the film. Fiach Kunz, an actor who had been on Game of Thrones, was selected top play Professor Al Moran because he was hansome, scholarly looking. He can also do  an American accent.  Robert Bourke (John), Mikey Casey (Paul) and Ben Collopy (George) were all selected because they were all handsome and because they could do the Scouse accent that the Beatles spoke in. They all acted like punks and they looked tough wearing black leather jackets and smoking cigarettes. Mikey Casey almost lost the part because he still had braces on his teeth. Luckily, the braces were removed from his mouth only days before the shooting schedule began.

Celtic Badger Media Films also employed two British film actors: Jessica Messenger as the female lead (Ginny Browne) and Graham Gill as the bartender (Squire Clancy). Graham had been on the televisión series Vikings.  Jessica, who is a beautiful and talented actor with a long list of screen credits, was my favorite in the movie. I almost cried when she brought my Ginny Browne to life up on the screen.

I played the part Gerard Moran, the nephew of Al Moran, who discovers the old letter that Al wrote about meeting John Lennon in a Liverpool pub around 1959. Gerard doesn’t believe the letter until his niece Moira, played by Rachel Cobb, discovers a faded photographs of John and Al together inside of the pub. Gerard will find more letters that will be used to make a feature film.

CLA: I Heard that the film was submitted to the 71st Cannes Film Festival in 2018. Do you have comments about that?

SGF: Sadly, the film wasn’t selected by the Cannes Film Committee.

CLA: Please tell us about the film’s world premiere in Delray, Florida.

SGF: The film was part of Daniel Hartwell’s first International Beatles On The Beach Festival. It was a thrill. We had a crowd of about seventy people. My friend Lynn Wisenbaker took photographs and my friend Chris Wisenbaker sold books. Tony Bramwell, the former CEO of Apple Corp and a good mate of all four Beatles, sat in the front row. Afterwards, he gave me a big bear hug and we took our photograph together. It will always be a great memory for me.

CLA: You wrote an interesting article about the Magical Beatles Museum in Liverpool for the British Beatles Fan Club Magazine. In a few months The Museum has become in one of the main attractions in Liverpool. Any special memories of your interview or experience with Roag and Pete Best.

SGF: I didn’t have the opportunity to have any direct contact with Pete Best, the original drummer for the Beatles. Roag Best is a true British gentleman. Last summer, Roag and I worked on a 15 second radio comercial that aired several times on Brooke Halpin’s wonderful program dedicated to the songs of the Beatles (Come Together with the Beatles) that is broadcasted from Malibu, California. Roag is Pete’s younger brother and the two still play in bands together.

Carlos, please encourage Beatles fan from Latin America to visit Roag Best at the Magical Beatles Museum in Liverpool. The place is something wonderful and special. Roag Best has put on display many Beatles ítems that he has collected over the years. Roag’s mother Mona gave The Beatles their first paying gig inside of a coffee shop she ran in the basement of their family home. Roag’s father also worked with the Beatles for many years.

Al and the lads
Al and the lads

CLA: You had some special moments at Beatles On The Beach Festival in Delray Bay, you met Tony Bramwell and he was with you in front of the audience in the premiere of ‘Mersey Boys: A Letter From Al Moran.’  What Beatles secrets he shared with you? 

SGF: I asked Tony who was his favorite Beatle and his response was “the one I was with last.” Tony met George when they were small boys. Tony still has a scar on his neck where he was wounded when the lads were playing at a game of cowboys and Indians. Tony met Paul a few years afterwards because they lived near one another in Liverpool. He said all four Beatles were good guys, but he had some fights with al lof them. Tony is a very cool and classy man. I wish he would be the executive producer of the Mersey Boys feature film.

Did you know that Tony used to carry George’s guitar so he could get into nightclubs free? Later on, John asked Tony to if he would carry all of their equipment for them and to become their roadie. He was amazed when Brian Epstein, the Beatles manager, said he would pay him to be in charge of the equipment for all of the Beatles’ performances. Tony later went on to produce the songs Strawberry Fields Forever and Lady Madonna.

CLA: Tell us something about your experience in Florida with The Beatles On The Beach Festival.

SGF: Daniel Hartwell, the promoter of the event, did a great job by inviting cover bands of the Beatles from all over the world.  There were great musicians such as The Norwegian Beatles, The Falling Doves and True McCartney.  Christopher Leyva, lead Singer of The Falling Doves, is now a good friend  of mine.  I want him to work with me on the feature. Estefy Lennon and her band of female musicians from Argentina  were superlative. The main act was The Edgar Winter Group, who had hit songs like Free Ride and Frankenstein in the Seventies. Edgar is a friend of Ringo Starr Carlos, encourage all of the Beatles fans in Latin America to attend the second International Beatles on the Beach Festival.  Daniel Hartwell puts on a great show.

CLA: Do you have any plans for a Spanish edition of ‘Mersey Boys’ ?

SGF: I would love to have my novel translated into Spanish because it is such a beautiful language. It would be very  difficult because in the book The Beatles and the other characters speak in their Liverpudlian accent. This dialect may not translate well from one language to another. Carlos, if you have an amigo down in South America who would like the job, it would be okay by me.

Interview: Mersey Boys' Steven G. Farrell
Mersey Boys’ Steven G. Farrell

CLA: It would be great to see you with your novel and film in Mexico or Sudamerica. Could that be possible in the future? Do you have plans to go the Beatles Week in England?

SGF: Carlos, it would be a thrill to visit Mexico and the rest of South America with my film and my novel. I’m always eager to travel to other countries. I won’t be able to attend the Liverpool Beatles Week Festival Convention this year because I am teaching four classes at my college during the summer, so I am too busy.

CLA: Is there any plans for the film in the next months?

SGF: I want to have it aired on television in my home town  of Kenosha, Wisconsin, so my Friends and family can see it, especially my older sisters  (Joan, Pat and Barb). Brett McNeil and The Junto Club are doing a podcast with me about the film and movie on June 9th, at 1pm. Paddy Murphy intends to screen the film in Limerick, Ireland sometime this summer. I will fly over to see it. Would you like to come with me, Carlos?

Ronnie Almani, an actor and producer from New York, and I are trying to attain funding for a feature-length film. I am trying to get permission from Apple Corp before I move forward with Project. I hope Paddy Murphy and Celtic Badger Media will also be a major part of the project.  I’ll have to convince Tony Bramwell to be our leader. Carlos, if you know anybody who wants to invest in the film please let me know.

CLA:Thank you very much Gerard for this interview. I’m sure our readers from Latinoamerica will visit The Magical Beatles Museum in Liverpool so they can enjoy that wonderful and special place with a vast collection of Beatles items. Besides they can attend the second International Beatles On The Beach Festival next year. It’s sure Daniel Hartwell will put again an interesting show with many attractions. Good luck with your future projects. I know some good fans will support them. 

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