Alan Doyle will celebrate the release of his first movie when Robin Hood premieres at Cannes May 12, but the Great Big Sea frontman is planning his own opening bash for friends in his native St. John’s, N.L.
“I’ve asked a bunch of my buddies in St. John’s: ’Look, don’t go see the movie till I get back, and then we’ll all go, 40 or 50 of us,”’ Doyle told The Canadian Press in a telephone interview Monday.
“I actually get back around my birthday, so I said, for my birthday, we’ll go out to the movie and then we’ll go out to the pub downtown or something.
“Maybe I’ll cut out a piece of red carpet about 12 inches by 12 inches and we’ll have our own St. John’s opening.”
Indeed, Doyle seems determined to soak up this experience, unlikely as it was.
The newbie actor — who says his acting prior to the film was confined to “some theatre stuff a long time ago” — found himself thrust onto the set of a massive production with a reported nine-figure production budget, cast opposite Oscar winners Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett and with veteran director Ridley Scott calling the shots.
It calmed his nerves that his role — that of lute-plucking Merry Man Alan-a-Dale — was such a comfortable fit.
“You know, jeez, I’ve been singing songs my whole life like a roving minstrel,” Doyle said. “When you get the chance to play the most famous troubadour of all time — I couldn’t help it, man!
“I was born for it, for god’s sake. My name is Alan Doyle and his name is Alan-a-Dale. C’mon!”
It also helped that Doyle and Crowe are friends.
Doyle said Crowe became a fan of Great Big Sea while in Canada shooting the 1999 hockey drama Mystery, Alaska. They didn’t meet until years later, when they ran into each other backstage at the 2004 NHL Awards, where they were both presenters.
“We just struck up a friendship and we’ve been writing songs together ever since,” Doyle said. “We’ve had some fun times doing different things. It’s been a good ride.”
Two years ago, Crowe called Doyle and asked if he knew how to play the lute and, after he said yes, if Doyle was interested in going to L.A. to read for a movie role. On he went, and after a big table read, Doyle “got the gig.”
He spent four and a half months shooting the film, which opens May 14, and speaks glowingly of the “incredible” atmosphere on set.
“It was like being in an artists’ haven,” said Doyle, whose band will drop their “varied” next record, Safe Upon the Shore, in July.
“Every day, you could look to your left, look to your right, and see somebody doing something artistic and someone who was really, really good at their job.
“It might have been a painter one day or it might have been a seamstress, or it might have been a costume designer or a medieval armourer or a horse trainer or an actor. Every day, you were surrounded by this massive movement of people doing cool artistic stuff that they’re really good at.”
Doyle, meanwhile, had to do pick up some new skills of his own. To get up to speed with some of the physical requirements of his role, Doyle was shuttled to Australia and England to take part in what he calls “Merry Man boot camps.”
“It was great fun, it was like a little boy’s fantasy,” he said.
“It was like, 8 a.m. horse training, 9 a.m. sword fights, 11 a.m. archery, then lunch.
“It was hard, because most of the actor guys have done physical movies before, and it’s just par for the course if you do that for a living. But I play in a folk band for a living.
“There’s no 8 a.m. run up the hill scheduled on the Great Big Sea calendar.”
But for all Doyle’s newly acquired experience as an actor, there’s one time-honoured Hollywood tradition he says he skipped: beefing up his resume to land the part.
“Did I lie, is that what you mean? My god no, I wouldn’t dare do that,” he said, affecting a tone of mock outrage.
“No one does that to get a job — certainly not in entertainment!”