Interview: Director Jason Connery on ‘Tommy’s Honour’
“Golf is a good walk spoiled.” The statement has been attributed to Mark Twain and there are obviously many who disagree with it. Tommy’s Honour, based on the book of the same name by Kevin Cook, chronicles the sometimes tempestuous relationship between “Old” Tom Morris and “Young” Tommy Morris, a legendary father and son duo who are often credited with establishing the basic outlines of modern golf in the 19th century. Although outwardly dealing with the modern origins of the game, on a deeper level the atmospheric film also examines the nature of parental relationships.
I recently had a conversation with director Jason Connery, son of Sean Connery, about Tommy’s Honour.
How did you become involved as the director of Tommy’s Honour?
Jason Connery: It was one of those situations that came out of the blue. In essence I got a phone call from [producer] Jim Kreutzer who asked me to read the book. I was sitting in my cottage in Scotland which is about a two and one-half hour drive from St. Andrews where the film is set. I read it and I loved it.
The book is wonderfully written. The story seemed to encompass so many different aspects of a family’s life. The family drama between Tom and Tommy, and also the beautiful love story between young Tommy and Meg, who was very much below his class, or at least was seen so in society. The religious element is present too with how influential the church was in the culture. I felt that the themes in the film were timeless. And of course the backdrop is golf – the passion that these men had for the game, and is very much the beginning of the game.
I did get very excited about making the movie. I had to have a conversation with Jim that I felt that the film, although seated in the place of the beginning of golf, was very much about the family and their trials and tribulations. And he was very much on board with that. So that was a lovely place to start.
And then there was the raising of money, getting the cast together, and where to shoot and all of those elements to follow…and then here we are!
The film has a very naturalistic look to it. Was it difficult to make a period film?
Connery: I watched a lot of golf movies and I watched a lot of period movies in preparation…And the thing that kept coming up for me was that in quite a few of the period movies I felt that the period in a way became a character in the film in a negative way. I felt that I was standing slightly outside the film and that I was looking as opposed to being “in” it. When I am “in” the film, I feel like I am actually in the story and everything around me ceases to exist. And I suddenly realize that at the end of the film that I haven’t been conscious of anything other than being in it…
There is nothing worse that seeing an actor who looks like he is being out-acted by his costumes. It’s almost like the costume is wearing the actor. These men lived in their clothes. The caddies, rain or shine, were outside in their same jackets and their same tweeds and coats. It was very important that the texture and the layers of those costumes felt like they had been lived in.
Are you an avid golfer?
Connery: I grew up in Scotland and played golf with my dad. When he wasn’t working as an actor he was very often out on the golf course. So I felt that it was a good way to catch up with him.
The thing about golf is that it is very polarizing. People either love it or hate it…I’ve always loved people and hearing their stories. Very often on a golf course you’ll hear some wonderful stories, and often some very bad jokes. But also wonderful stories of people, and what they have been doing with their lives and what has happened to them…There aren’t that many sports where you have that kind of time to have conversations.
Can you describe what it was like to grow up as the son of a movie star?
Connery: I think that I had a very normal childhood. My father is a very private man, and he’s not a particularly showbizzy person. If I met famous or very recognizable people in the context of coming to dinner or meeting them at a restaurant, because of my dad’s demeanor, they behaved in a very normal way. I don’t think that I was particularly different [from other children].
The time that I was most aware [of having a celebrity parent] was when I was at boarding school and films with my father were shown on TV. People would ask, “Is that your dad?” And I would say, “Well, not really.” Because to me when he was acting he was obviously playing a part. He’s very different when he is not acting. In that sense, I think [my childhood was] quite normal and I think that’s how my dad would have liked it to have been…
How has your father influenced you as an actor and director?
Connery: As an actor you make choices. When I was acting, asking my father for advice about choices I am going to make in a performance as an actor is not really going to be helpful, although I may well have talked to him. I played Macbeth and I did a lot of theater and I knew my dad had done some of those parts. And so as an all around idea of having a conversation with someone who has worked so long and very successfully in the business – that is always a good idea.
As a director, my dad read the script. His perspective is always from a character’s position. He was always playing a character. Whereas I am the director so I am looking at all of the characters and the world that they live in. It’s always interesting to have insight from a different perspective and his was from an actor’s perspective. He’s very good at stories – dramatically he knows where the beats are. It’s always fun to talk to him about those and where they are.
Sometimes one can get so far into the woods that you can’t see the tree from the woods because of the fact that you are in so deep. So to have another perspective is always good, particularly one with his knowledge. Choices-wise, in any artistic endeavor you have to make your own choices.
Is there anything in general that you would like to tell audiences of Tommy’s Honour?
Connery: I think that it would be doing a little bit of a disservice to say that it is a golf movie, and I am hoping that it has more to offer…not there is anything wrong with a golf movie. But I feel that the bandwidth for an audience is much less if you view it in that way. I would ask for viewers to give it a chance because I think that it has much more to offer. If you are not a golfer you will be able to have a good evening out watching it.
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