There are quite a few Irish actors who make a name for themselves on the international stage with standout performances. Unique to one another in their own way, a young and talented name which should be discussed is Mr. Moe Dunford. Known for his expectational portrayal of Aethelwulf in the popular series Vikings from 2014 through 2018, Dunford has popped up in many other films and series through the years.
Recently starring in 2022’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dunford also is lighting up screens with his role in the new flick Nightride. Nightride, released in select theaters and On Demand on March 4th, is the story of a small time dealer looking to get out, but the question is, will he make it out alive? Relishing in the opportunity to take on the role, Dunford recently sat down to talk Nightride, his time on Vikings, his career as an actor, plus more.
Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in acting professionally for 15 years having done quite a few films, as well as worked in television. Before we go any further, how would you describe your career as an actor thus far?
Moe Dunford – It has been slow and steady. I’ve learned from great people, collaborating, and had periods without works. There have also been periods where things would flow and run into one another. I’ve had moments where I work with directors on social issues and then genre projects… so it’s been varied. I’m quite grateful to the people I’ve worked with.
There have been instances where you might meet someone on a set and it might trickle into a few months or years. Then you might meet a new friend of theirs who wants to work on a project. Since I got out of acting school I’ve had a great agent, Jonathan, and I’ve been with him for 12-13 years. It’s all combined to be where I am now.
Cryptic Rock – Well you certainly have been involved in a lot of interesting projects. Would you say that you have developed a liking for a particular genre, or do you enjoy the diversity of working in different areas?
Moe Dunford – I suppose it depends on the older you get, doesn’t it? Your tastes change and you don’t want to repeat things. You sometimes get the opportunity to do something that you’ve never done before and that is a challenge. There are three things they say – the script itself, the director, or the money. It’s like stepping stones. I like the variety and these past two years I’ve gotten to work on things that are very exciting.
Cryptic Rock – And building up to this point now, perhaps one of your biggest projects was your time as Aethelwulf on the hit series Vikings. An intricate part of the series for a while, you character was very compelling and well-portrayed. What was that experience like for you?
Moe Dunford – Thank you very much. It was a joy and pleasure. I grew up in a pub for some of my life and I remember seeing The Vikings (1958) with Kirt Douglas, Tony Curtis, and Ernest Borgnine. I come from the south-east of Ireland and Weisfjord (Wexford) was the first town the Vikings invaded when they got here. There has always been a Viking connection for me. I grew up watching the likes of Braveheart (1995) too.
My first job with Michael Hirst was on The Tudors. With Vikings I was in my mid twenties working on a TV show in its second season with an international cast and fantastic scripts by Michael Hirst. I was able to play a character who subtly worked his way in. In my early days on the show I was very much in the background, and that suited me. I enjoyed playing the moments where the character didn’t have to say very much, but a lot can be told by his relationship with his father. Michael had written someone that had such depth and as the seasons went on, even though the character wasn’t a Viking, there were times I felt I lucked out.
Aethelwulf had a lot of depth as well as an interesting relationship with his father as well as his own sons. I had a great time, it was a great run, and the crew was amazing. It was also a joy to work with Linus Roache, I learned a lot from him.
Cryptic Rock – It was a fantastic show and you did an equally fantastic job with the role. Which leads us to your latest project, Nightride. You are the lead actor and executive producer on this film. How did it come about for you?
Moe Dunford – The writer, Ben Conway, and I’ve been friends for about five years. It’s so bananas how small Ireland is. A friend of mine, Terry McMann, recommended him to me. Years later Terry became Ben’s mentor and he told me you have to check this guy out, he is inspired by all the American greats and writes inspiring stuff. So I met Ben at the gym, I dropped my weights and said, “Ben Conway, I’ve read all your scripts.” He said, “No you didn’t, no one has read my scripts. I said, “I have!” (Laughs) Ben and I became good buddies. I worked with him on a short that he wrote and directed.
Luck played a huge part of Nightride. I wanted to work with Stephen Fingleton since I’d seen The Survivalists (2015). We started to collaborate on ideas and read-throughs. Then when I was just finished with Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2002), Stephen rang me and told me, “I have this script called Nightride, I’m not going to tell you who the writer is, read it, and tell me what part your interested in.” To me it sounded like an offer and it was exciting. I read the script and it said that Budge was a 25 year old and I was nearly 10 years older at this age, but I looked at the roll and asked Stephen to please let me play Budge. He said, “It’s yours!” That is how it came about in a middle of a pandemic.
Cryptic Rock – It’s a very interesting film which has a lot of tension. What is really interesting about this film is that 90% of it you are in a car all by yourself. There are scenes where you do interact with other actors/actresses, however, most of the film you are alone. The tension is built within the time restrictions of your character. What was it like working under these circumstances?
Moe Dunford – I’m not going to say it was easy. The alternative in January or February of 2021 in Ireland was I would be doing nothing. A challenge like this was something I wanted, so I said yes, bring it on.
The practicality of being in Belfast in lockdown with little rehearsal and doing it in one take was a challenge. In many ways it felt less like we were trying to make a film, but more like we were trying to set a heist. We were driving around 26 miles in Belfast and there was 100 pages of script! It was a challenge to try and get the energy right and trying to figure out who is this character. The main thing I loved about Ben’s script is something we can all relate to – here is a character who wants to leave a part of his old life in the past, move on, and begin a new, healthier life. I thought this was worth it; we’ve been in a tough pandemic here and imagine if we can pull this off in one take and people can see this.
The crew worked so hard on this. Yes, it is me on camera, but there are a dozen guys in the crew who were a part of it; avoiding shadows and trying to make this work. The other actors were a godsend when I got out of the car every hour to meet them!
Covid made the filming easy in a way because there were less people in the streets. Again, it was quite tense. Each time I didn’t get the take right my fear was, can I do this? In many ways it’s a challenge against yourself to just believe you can do this. The script is great too. I had a wonderful time working with Stephen Fingleton; he’s on you, and it’s not always easy, but he can see things that you can’t. He’s quite visionary and there was a reason why he wanted to do it all in one take. It wasn’t easy, but very collaborative.
Cryptic Rock – You pull it off very well. Your character isn’t one who is a hardened criminal. It is someone looking for a way out and you can easily put yourself in his shoes. You can feel the tension in your facial expressions and the race against the clock to fight for your life.
Moe Dunford – It makes it real! The tension on my face is just underneath my skin, you can feel it. It was real. I am doing the driving and I’m operating all the tracks on the CD player. Then I am driving and using call and response, etc.
Each day if you don’t quite get it, it becomes sort of an obsession, and you wake up the next day thinking you have to get it. Then there is the neighborhood where you’re shooting; they are throwing glass bottles at you and they are threatening to set your tires on fire… it becomes quite real. The script was quite light when it starts, but there is an element of tension. We are also inspired by Michael Mann, we love Michael Mann. There are not many Irish movies that have really been inspired by Michael Mann. The script is a man who has one last job. There are many references in Ben’s script that it’s a Michael Mann stoic man on a mission theme.
At times it sort of felt like a puppy who had just been bought and does a shit on the carpet and the owner says, “don’t do that again,” but he does again, and the owner makes him smell it, but he still does it again. It felt like that when the one take wouldn’t go right. Stephen would bring me in and tell me do less of this, less of that, don’t do that again. Each night would be different. It was a real journey and I hope the audience can go on that wild ride with us.
Cryptic Rock – It sounds like a very intense, yet exciting experience. Last question. Since you just worked on the new Texas Chainsaw Massacre, what are some of your personal favorite Horror films?
Moe Dunford – I love the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). I watched it with my brother when I was 16 years old. I thought it was crazy what they could achieve with little money and little gore. Was there any meaning to it? What was it? It was so scary I didn’t laugh! I also loved The Shining (1980). I loved Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook (2014) too.