Shockya Interview: Ciaran Foy Talks 'Citadel,' Written by: Karen Benardello
People can become so distressed after surviving a traumatizing experience that they lose all faith in humanity and the will to live. But their need to protect their loved ones from experiencing the same fate can become so overpowering that they’re driven to do whatever it takes to save their lives. This is certainly the case with the main character, Tommy Cowley, in the new Irish horror thriller ‘Citadel,’ which will be released in select theaters on Friday. Tommy suffers from such extreme, continued agoraphobia after witnessing an unprovoked attack on his wife that he’s emotionally forced to consider how he’ll protect their newborn daughter.
‘Citadel’ follows Tommy (played by Aneurin Barnard), who lives a quiet life in a decaying apartment complex with his pregnant wife, Joanne (portrayed by Amy Shiels). On the day they’re set to move out, Joanne is fatally attacked by a group of feral children. Tommy becomes so traumatized by the events that he locks himself and their newborn daughter in his new flat in the dilapidated suburb of Edenstown.
Tommy soon finds himself terrorized by the same group of children, who are determined to take his daughter. He seeks the help of an understanding nurse, Marie (played by Wunmi Mosaku), and a vigilante priest (portrayed by James Cosmo), to free himself of his fears, and once again enter the place he fears the most-the abandoned tower block known as the Citadel that used to be his home.
Filmmaker Ciaran Foy, who made his feature film writing and directing debut with the horror thriller, generously took the time to sit down with us recently in New York City to discuss the movie. Among other things, the filmmaker spoke about where he came up with the inspiration for ‘Citadel,’ how having a limited budget and short shooting schedule place restrictions on what he could shoot for the film and how he reacted when he heard he won the Midnighter Audience Award at the 2012 SXSW Film Festival.
ShockYa (SY): You directed and wrote the screenplay for ‘Citadel.’ Where did you come up with the idea for the story?
Ciaran Foy (CF): The film is something I describe as a half psychological horror, half autobiography. When I was 18, I was the victim of a vicious and unprovoked attack by a gang of youths. It left me with a condition known as agoraphobia, which the main character suffers from in the movie. So it was kind of my struggles with that, and my battles with agoraphobia, and my eventual recovery from that trauma. My struggles, mixed with my nightmares and how I saw the world as a frightened 18-year-old, was really where it began.
SY: Did you mainly draw on your own experiences when you were writing the script, or did you do any kind of research as well?
CF: Well, it was mainly drawing on my own experiences, and when I was getting help for my agoraphobia. When I was at film school, there was a free counselor that I would see once a week. A lot of the stuff that she would say ended up being the catalyst for the movie.
Like we were talking about body language one day. She was saying when you’re afraid, you’re body says you’re afraid. It’s as if these street predators can see your fear. So you can walk down the worst area that you can image, but if you look like you known where you’re going, they don’t see you. I just thought that was a really creepy concept.
I was like, what if that was literally the case? What if there’s a creature that was blind, but who could see fear? So a lot of it came from that.
I did a little bit of research in that I met with people who suffer from chronic agoraphobia. Those kind of people have not left their house in 30 years. That was a real eye-opener, in that it’s a debilitating and completely irrational fear. So there was a bit of that.
The area where the movie takes place is pretty much a nightmarish collage of where I grew up. So I would say a vast majority of it is spearheaded by stuff I’ve seen or gone through.
Written by: Karen Benardello