Clare Dunne is the star and one of the co-writers for “Herself,” playing Sandra, a single mother living in Dublin. After fleeing an abusive ex, Sandra is so frustrated with the failings of the local housing system that she decides to build a house herself. Dunne was first inspired to tell the story after one of her best friends told her of her struggles through her own housing ordeal. After researching the process of self-building, “this story flashed before my eyes,” says Dunne in an exclusive new interview for Gold Derby. “I was like, ‘Why don’t I just tell the story of a woman who actually decides to do this?” Watch the exclusive interview above.
Films that involve domestic abuse can sometimes fall into cliche, so it was important to Dunne to “not portray a victim” in writing Sandra. After meeting with people who had gone through similar abusive situations as Sandra, she took note of their innate strength. “There’s a strange, quiet determination, a silent survivor that exists in these people,” observes Dunne. “I realized a huge amount of resilience was in their story and bravery, not just to leave but to stay and endure it for so long because there was no other choice.” Dunne created a complex character out of Sandra, a woman who is striving to take ownership of her little corner of the world. “I just always wanted to get that tone of determination, steeliness and grit.”
“Herself” is directed by Phyllida Lloyd (“The Iron Lady,” “Mamma Mia!”), who Dunne had previously worked with on “The Donmar Warehouse’s All-Female Shakespeare Trilogy” miniseries. “She’s the ultimate collaborator,” raves Dunne. “When I was working with her, I realized I had gotten used to her kindness and her wish for other people to give her opinions.” While Dunne was initially nervous before seeing the final cut of the film, the end result “gave me shivers.” But it wasn’t until more people saw “Herself” at the Sundance Film Festival that it really sank in. “I was watching my own movie completed and I felt like the luckiest person in the world, but then seeing in Sundance with my parents there and the world seeing it for the first time, that was really, really special.”
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