- The Washington Times - Friday, December 29, 2000

Barry McEvoy's emergence as a movie screenwriter and leading man in "An Everlasting Piece," a comedy about two young barbers in Belfast in the early 1980s, has a distinctive local angle.

Soon after meeting in the barbershop of a mental asylum, the pair attempt to acquire a wig-selling franchise that has been languishing. Hoping to be known as lighthearted entrepreneurs, they call their fledging business the Piece People.

Mr. McEvoy's father is a barber in downtown Washington. His familiarity with the trade led to the writing of "Piece," the first dramatic creation the younger Mr. McEvoy had been able to complete after a decade or so of professional endeavor as an actor and aspiring writer.

The McEvoys became permanent transplants to the Greater Washington area in the middle 1980s, and people who like the movie can introduce themselves to the father at his barbershop, the Executive, at Connecticut Avenue and K Street NW.

"He might be sick of talking about the movie by now," says the younger Mr. McEvoy, who is fighting off a cold.

In fact, Barry McEvoy's DreamWorks publicist described him as "missing in action" after three or four calls to his number in New York City failed to make a connection. Mr. McEvoy then called from his apartment in the Little Italy neighborhood to do a phone interview on behalf of the movie. The ensuing conversation is punctuated by nose-blowing and throat-clearing, but Mr. McEvoy insists, "I'm almost better. I feel a little run down."

He says his father was the subject of a story in Regardie's Power. "My dad is funnier than I could ever be. He kept coming out with these great one-liners. He was a real Nazi about the script. He read pretty much every draft. At a certain point, he really got on my case about the sticky tape. He claimed that I couldn't properly discuss hairpieces without showing how you anchored them to a customer's head. So I made a big running gag about sticky tape. He also showed me how to fit a hairpiece. I got close enough for the purposes of the movie, but I'd make a mess of the job if it mattered. At times, writing this movie seemed like an elaborate ruse to attract business for my dad."

The senior Mr. McEvoy got his first barbering job at Montgomery Mall after the family decided to leave Ireland. "It's kind of part of being Irish like the Australians go on walkabout. A percentage of us emigrate as part of our makeup," Barry McEvoy says.

"Belfast didn't seem like such a great place to raise kids when my parents decided to move. I was 15 and had a younger brother and sister. You can start getting into trouble at that age. Not that I had. But I wouldn't have wanted a 15-year-old boy growing up in the inner city of Belfast at that time. I wouldn't let him out of the house. Quite apart from the threats of political violence, there were gangs who had begun making a habit of robbing people and stealing cars, feeding off the general breakdown of law and order."

Eventually, the McEvoy family took up residence in Gaithersburg. "Sort of right on the border with Damascus," Mr. McEvoy clarifies. "I graduated from Seneca Valley High School. We were a big football power, of course, but had a really terrible soccer team. The team was so bad that I looked like one of the better players."

The family also shopped around a bit before settling in Gaithersburg. "My dad was the pioneer. Then one of his brothers moved in with us and got a job and a place of his own. We thought we wanted to try Tampa, Fla., because we saw some TV show that made it look really cool. It didn't pan out. We discovered you need to live there for three months to get a work permit. There's a lot of seasonal, winter migrant labor, so the economy is geared towards that. We couldn't afford to sit around, so we went back to Maryland and lived with my uncle for a while."

Mr. McEvoy wanted to enroll in a film school but found the costs prohibitive. He did take courses in television and video production while attending Montgomery College in Rockville, Md. He also thought that taking an acting course would be useful, "since I wanted to be a director and thought you needed to have some background in acting to be a proper one."

"To my surprise, it seemed like I wasn't bad at it. I got a very honest and encouraging response from my acting teacher. So I stuck with it, for fun mostly."

Coincidentally, Mr. McEvoy had known Eduardo Sanchez, one of the co-directors of "The Blair Witch Project," when they were classmates at Montgomery College. "He was going to cast me in one of his first short films," Mr. McEvoy says. "I ran into him at the Sundance Festival when they were selling 'Blair Witch.' I had no idea what that was all about, but at least he had a legitimate reason for being there. I didn't have a movie. I was just loitering."

Mr. McEvoy appeared in his first play at the Source Theatre on 14th Street NW during a theater festival. "You can blame them," he jokes. "I was also in a punk band for a while. We put out an album and played in a lot of bars and community centers around Washington. We called ourselves Phlegm. Spelled it with the 'ph' and everything. It was great fun while it lasted."

Mr. McEvoy moved to New York in 1991 to pursue an acting career more or less systematically. "I went to auditions, did some off-Broadway," he says. "Maybe the most reputable thing I did was a Harold Pinter play, 'Moonlight,' at the Roundabout Theatre, with Jason Robards and Blythe Danner. I got to lose all this weight and grow a beard and do an accent."

He also tried his hand at writing plays, which always stalled short of completion. "They were mostly these terrible homages to absurdist theater," he says. "I had one called 'God Satan Santa.' Unfinished, of course. So many friends were in the same fix. We kept trying to write stuff that didn't seem worth finishing. 'Everlasting Piece' is the first really presentable thing. I seemed to vault over this huge psychological block when I found a way to end it."

Mr. McEvoy always envisioned "An Everlasting Piece" as a movie. He now believes that the screenplay format is much better suited to him. He has completed two comedy scripts with a partner, David Sussman.

"Locked and Upright" is "a comedy about two alcoholic stewardesses," aimed at actresses who want to play "just totally crazy women."

The second, "Two Down," may need some work. "It could be too weird kind of like a Peter Greenaway movie," Mr. McEvoy says.

Mr. McEvoy rounded up several actor friends for readings of "An Everlasting Piece." One performance caught the attention of Louis DiGiaimo, who had cast Mr. McEvoy in the Sharon Stone film "Gloria." The actor-writer didn't realize Mr. DiGiaimo also was a movie producer from time to time.

"He's this terrific, jolly guy," Mr. McEvoy says. "He liked it and got the script to Mark Johnson. Mark liked it and got it to everybody, including Barry Levinson. They had made a lot of movies together, and Barry was the one who did it. Mark also steered it to Steven Spielberg, I'm told, which is how DreamWorks got involved.

"But it was such a weird movie for a big Hollywood company to do. It was so cheap that their lawyers didn't know how to draw up the contracts at first. They were used to these large denominations. We were such a small operation it kind of confused them."

Mr. McEvoy portrays Colm, the extroverted and hotheaded Catholic member of the team. Brian F. O'Byrne embodies the temperamental opposite: introverted, poetry-writing George, a Protestant. Both men would be hopeless without the resourcefulness of Colm's girlfriend Bronagh, a nurse embodied with exceptional zest and charm by Anna Friel.

Mr. Levinson directed interiors for the movie at a studio in Dublin. Two weeks of location shooting in Belfast brought Mr. McEvoy back to his hometown.

"It was like an alternate-universe Belfast," he says. "The same streets and houses, but clean. Far less graffiti on the walls. No smell of smoke. No searches or army presence. It was nice but very weird. One of my cousins still lives in our same neighborhood. He was this little kid running around when I left. Now he has a wife and family."

While awaiting the fates of his two screenplays and edging up on a project to direct, Mr. McEvoy would be receptive to acting offers in "take-the-money-and-run" action thrillers such as "Vertical Limit," which impressed him as an optimum way of having fun without being held to serious standards of acting credibility.

He has another mercenary thought. "How old is Pierce Brosnan, do you think?" Mr. McEvoy asks. Late 40s. "So he's over the hill," Mr. McEvoy retorts. "Time to move on. I want to play James Bond. Or a Bond baddie. Has anyone ever been promoted from a Bond baddie to the big role? That could be a coup."

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