Snapshot of Tyneside born Film Director John Irvin

Recently watched TV mini-series Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and was gripped by its suspense, sharp script and deadly silences, the show had a gritty, claustrophobic look and used shadows to ramp up the pressure.

Shot on old (1979) TV sized 4:3 format, the tight camera angles had no flabby interior widescreen shots, rather than just watching a scene happen you were brought into the film, making a closer connection to the characters who weaved in and out of the programme.

Office meetings were held where another piece of the jigsaw was revealed, and this old boys network was tearing itself apart looking for the mole, as the credits rolled I noticed the director was John Irvin.

Around 2000 I went to the basement theatre in Central Library, South Shields, for a talk by film director John Irvin, who was born in 1940. A search on Ancestry doesn’t reveal the exact town, but in interview on You Tube, Irvin refers to himself as a Geordie.

South Shields residents may recognise the name as his brother had an estate agents shop near the Town Hall – Finn & Irvin. That’s where I bought my ticket for only a couple of quid – we all like a bargain.

Before he went on stage John was greeting people in the foyer, a striking six foot figure in a smart black overcoat, pink shirt and grey wavy slicked back hair. In front of the audience John talked about his career starting in TV in ‘60s London, then Hollywood came calling where he directed over 30 films.

He finished off by telling a story about a film he directed with actor Harvey Keitel. They were about to film a difficult scene so to relax the actors John told Harvey to do something he doesn’t usually do. ‘Yes, but only if you do something’, replied Harvey as he danced awkwardly in front of all the film crew. Next was John’s turn and he started to sing. The song ? Blaydon Races.  

Gary Alikivi   June 2021