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Peter Mullan - director


Interview with the actor, writer and filmmaker for his film The Magdalene Sisters

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by Federico Greco

Interview by Robin Gatto & Carol Shyman –

The film is based or is inspired by a documentary called Sex in a Cold Climate. How did you come across this documentary and how did it inspire you?
"I was channel-hopping in my kitchen one night, and I heard a woman's voice say, ‘They put me away because I was too pretty’. And that kind of caught my attention. My first thought obviously was, ‘Who would put you away for being pretty?’ So I watched it and I was absolutely blown away. I was aghast and crying.
And I remember that which instantly came back to me was a nun I worked for when I was 17. And she was the cruellest woman I had ever met. Really cruel people are quite content with it. They're actually almost unaware that they're being so cruel".

You've had quite a brutal family life yourself. Do you think that if you had been a girl, you would have ended up in a Magdalene asylum?
"Most definitely. I couldn't have in Scotland, because there weren't Magdalene asylums in Scotland. My brother and I went over to Ireland to do some research for the casting. And we both agreed that had we been Irish and done the things that we did in Scotland, we would have been locked up by the Christian Brothers, that's the boy equivalent of the Magdalene asylums.
And I remember as a kid, my father was a very cruel man. He was alcoholic and particularly vicious. The real oppressors don't need a gun. They just need a look. You're so terrified and enamoured by your abuser, it can be a partner, a father, a mother, a boss, a school teacher. And cruel people know that they just have to instigate, press the button and you do all the rest. You do the oppression".

You're an accomplished actor, writer and filmmaker. Do you feel that it's a complete package that you have to have your hands in, or do you feel a bent for a particular aspect?
"I want to keep doing all three. I don't care if I'm behind or in front of the camera. Every part has its own good and bad points".