Vardy v Rooney director Oonagh Kearney: ‘They’ll probably hate our show, but we tried to be fair’

The image of Coleen Rooney “dragging” her husband Wayne to court has a strong attraction to Irish director Oonagh Kearney.

There is something very interesting about that,” she said. “An inversion of the football game where the women are there supporting their husbands…maybe there is a sense of cost.”

Kearney, from Ballintemple in Cork, directed Channel 4’s highly anticipated two-part series Vardy v Rooney: A Courtroom Play.

If your memory needs a jog, the case focuses on whether Rebekah Vardy, wife of footballer Jamie, leaked stories about Coleen to the press. But it’s more than that.

It all started on October 9, 2019, when Rooney revealed that she had been slowly and systematically running a social media campaign to discover which of her friends had informed her. with journalists.

She has restricted her Instagram stories and created completely fabricated ones – such as the flooding in the basement of her Cheshire mansion. She placed the bait and then waited. It worked, and in a now-legendary post, she revealed the culprit: “It was… Rebekah Vardy’s account.”

And so “Wagatha Christie” was born.

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Coleen Rooney leaves the Royal Courts of Justice in London during the trial of ‘Wagatha Christie’. Yui Mok’s photo

Rebekah Vardy, who was heavily pregnant at the time, was mocked online. Enraged, she sued Rooney for defamation – a decision that cost her millions of pounds.

In May this year, all eyes were on room 13 of the Royal Courts of Justice of the United Kingdom.

But the media circus had largely ignored Kearney. And with good reason: she’s pregnant and nearing the end of her first trimester.

“I don’t feel great. So I feel like the trial goes on when I’m not looking at it,” she said.

It wasn’t until she was approached by Irish producer Julie Ryan about a potential TV series that she started to notice and realize how compelling it was.

There are too many fascinating details: comprehensive analysis of “pants gear” by Peter Andre; Coleen is compared to a common pigeon; adultery; confusion over the identity of Davy Jones and his locker; and a strangely lost phone lying at the bottom of the North Sea.

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But for Kearney, the heart of the film is the driving force that drives these women to take it all the way to the Supreme Court.

“It’s about… these two women who are not from the elite of the media, not from a rich background, taking the case to the Supreme Court to resolve their own problems. It is very unusual. I don’t know if we’ll ever see a case like this again,” she said.

“We’re always trying to understand who they are, why they behave a certain way, and why they say what they say.”

She also found Rooney’s pure investigative genius. “The independence of mind, the innovative thinking alone, the bold type, the fact that she didn’t even tell her husband she did this makes her interesting, doesn’t it? There’s a bit of talent in how she did it, she said.

At times, she also admired and marveled at Vardy.

“[Lawyer] David Sherborne accused her of her lack of morals in saying these things,” she said in reference to a 2004 case. International Newsletter interview in which Vardy said singer Peter Andre was “hanging like a little chipolata”.

“But when you listen to the language she uses to describe his ‘pants device,’ even that phrase, she’s a writer. I must say, these women can both turn a phrase.

Even if it’s an insult.

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Director Oonagh Kearney with Chanel Cresswell on the set of Vardy vs Rooney: A Courtroom Drama

Kearney began her career in theatre. She studied English and philosophy at University College Cork but spends most of her time at the Granary Theater “acting for a bag of crisps” or doing nothing at all.

Then in 2005, Ken Loach went to Cork to shoot The wind blows barley and she got the job as casting director.

“It was one of those moments at the crossroads where I think I opened my eyes to the power of cinema,” she said. “A lot of us are in our 20s and we couldn’t believe our luck to have worked on this project.”

After production ended, Kearney was accepted into the National Film and Television School in London. She describes being there as “coming of age” and graduating a few years later “without any experience, desperately looking for work”.

She spent the next decade crowdfunding, making short films, and directing shadows. She has produced several award-winning films including Five Letters To Strangers That Will Dissect My Brain, Women’s Christmas Eve and On the border. Most recently, she worked as the second unit director for Dearbhla Walsh on Sharon Horgan’s hit series. bad sisters.

But Vardy v Rooney Definitely the most popular TV show she’s ever been on.

“Obviously I’m really worried,” she said. “I’m sure Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy will really watch this. I hope they will. I mean, who knows what they’ll think, maybe they’ll both hate it, but I think we tried to be fair.”

The series was written by Chris Atkins and built entirely from court transcripts.

Atkins is a Bafta Award-nominated filmmaker who was convicted of tax evasion in 2006 and sentenced to five years in prison.

He described being questioned on the witness stand as “horrific” and the worst experience of his life – much more difficult than being in prison.

The producers were keen to convey the pressure and intensity of that experience, while also examining the structure of the justice system. “The goal is to get fair judgments,” says Kearney. “But it shows…does the means justify the end? Because it’s pretty brutal and pretty tough.”

Kearney and the production team wanted to avoid portraying women as heroes and villains — a challenge given how badly Vardy emerged after the case.

“Certainly Vardy is seen as the bad guy,” she said. “I think when you get under the surface of that, it’s always going to get more complicated.”

Kearney believes that “the wounds are deep in both of them” [Vardy and Rooney’s] stories… Rooney is a very private person, but she was drawn into the limelight at a young age. And also betrayed very openly in her childhood.

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Coleen Rooney (Chanel Cresswell), David Sherborne QC (Michael Sheen), Rebekah Vardy (Natalia Tena) and Hugh Tomlinson QC (Simon Coury) in Vardy V Rooney: A Courtroom Drama. Marcell Piti .’s photo

Early in their relationship, Coleen had to deal with stories of Wayne’s infidelity – humiliating front pages of him sleeping with multiple escorts, including a grandmother.

“So it makes her nervous knowing who she can trust,” Kearney said.

Vardy was sexually abused by a family friend when she was 12 years old and alleged that her mother didn’t believe her when she confided in her.

“[She] ran away from home at a young age, coming from a broken past and several failed marriages behind. And famously she was abused, it was terrible… her heartache was that she was not trusted… and here we have this trial, almost reliving that.” Kearney said.

Sometimes she feels “sympathetic to both and sometimes, I admire both for different reasons and it’s a joy to be a director”.

TV production usually takes years, and the process is completed in just a few months.

“It’s refreshing. And it’s really interesting. And it was intense,” Kearney said.

“There was a motive…we had these court records. They are in the public domain. Anyone can touch them. Try and do something. Be the first to come out.

The film stars Michael Sheen and Natalia Tena, who play wild Osha in Game of Thrones, and was shot in Hungary. On top of the lightning-fast spin, Kearney was also pregnant during the shoot.

She said: “I was in the lovely energetic space of the second trimester.

“I just feel like I’m really capable and I hope more pregnant women get to direct.” She was in the final stages of editing the series when her son arrived six weeks early.

“We went for an ultrasound in Cork and didn’t leave the hospital. And then a week later, we had a baby. He arrived in October and was due to give birth last Thursday.”

After a few weeks of inactivity, she re-subscribed to the series.

“I was in the postpartum period watching edits and chatting about how a text message would sound on the screen and how graphics work,” she said. “But it’s good. It’s like a whirlwind.”

On the day we spoke, Kearney was busy searching for places in Donegal with her six-week-old son Peter.

It’s for the upcoming drama obituary by Paddy Hayes, starring Siobhán Cullen. She described it as a “great outrageous black comedy”. She is also working on a feature film in Irish and is developing with RTÉ for a Cork-based TV series titled notion.

Things got busier since she had a son. “There’s nothing like having a baby to do that,” she said. “It will be a busy couple of years.”

‘Vardy v Rooney’ will air on Channel 4 on Wednesday, December 21 at 21pm Vardy v Rooney director Oonagh Kearney: ‘They’ll probably hate our show, but we tried to be fair’

Fry Electronics Team

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