Twenty five years on and still focused on the music

by Ian Begley

25 YEARS ago, on the big screen, wannabe band manager Jimmy Rabbitte put an advert in the local newspaper and before long a loveable ragtag group of Dubliners got together to form the soulful sounds of The Commitments.
Renowned director Alan Parker’s funny, uplifting, gritty film, based on Roddy Doyle’s debut novel, took the world by storm on its 1991 release, garnering critical acclaim and awards galore, including a BAFTA for Best Film.
It has since spawned a slew of touring bands and a hugely successful stage musical which commences its UK tour later this year.
Jimmy Rabbitte (Robert Arkins) knows he’s the world’s greatest band manager… now he just needs a band. Auditioning anyone and everyone he can find from the rough streets of Dublin, he eventually gathers the ten most talented, but least experienced musicians with the aim of launching the greatest Irish Soul band of all time.
Speaking to The Gazette this week, Robert told the story of how he was landed the role of Jimmy.
“The keyboard player of my band had a girlfriend who was an actress. She told her agent about the band and somehow we were tracked down and asked to come in for an audition.
“I didn’t know anything about what they were doing even though I read the book about a month before. It was when I was on holiday in Copenhagen that I got a call from the agent to say I needed to come back to Dublin because I got the part of Jimmy Rabbitte.”
Robert added that he wasn’t nervous about playing the role because the director of the film said he believed he could do the character justice.
“Acting and filming never crossed my mind at any point before The Commitments.
“I definitely was a bit of a film freak before then, but I never really thought about what the film would entail, but what it really entailed for me was more to do with contracts and negotiations.
“They all wanted me to be at their beck and call… I didn’t have time to absorb how big the film was at the time. My time was taken up with lawyers and potential managers and agents, which just went on and on and on. I didn’t really get to enjoy the whole thing of being in films and being famous. I was in a band and only focused on my music. I wasn’t interested in being famous, selling records or making money – it was all about music.”
Robert said that music is still a big part of his life and plans on releasing something in the near future.
“I reckon down the line I’m going to release something as soon as I can, which has nothing got to do with the 25th anniversary of The Commitments or anything like that.”
The Commitments 25th anniversary special edition DVD and Blue-Ray will be released on September 19.

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