Director Thaddeus O'Sullivan shared with us his thoughts on Lourdes, leading ladies, and the power of prayer.
With The Miracle Club hitting our screens today, July 14, the miraculous French town of Lourdes is very much on the Hollywood map.
The moving story is set in 1960s Ireland, where a group of women make a pilgrimage to Lourdes in search of miracles. Through their journey they discover the power of reconciliation, friendship, and love, all of which lead to miracles they didn’t ask for, and perhaps didn’t even know they needed.
The movie features some of Hollywood’s finest leading ladies, including Laura Linney from Ozark and The Truman Show, Misery’s Kathy Bates, and the indomitable Dame Maggie Smith, whom many of you will know from her recent performance as Dowager Lady Grantham in Downton Abbey.
With such a fine cast, director Thaddeus O’Sullivan — a native Dubliner — was able to portray not only the lives of devout Catholic families finding it hard to make ends meet, but the beauty in female friendships, hope, faith, and of course, Our Lady.
In the interview, which you can see in full in the video below, O’Sullivan, 76, shared with Aleteia some of his thoughts on how he worked with such impressive movie stars, the reality of miracles based on his own experience, and the importance of Lourdes for those of faith, and even non-believers.
Here are just a few highlights:
Working with wonder women
The director may be familiar with working with big movie stars, but these three ladies together lead a particularly impressive cast. As O’Sullivan jokingly pointed out: “it was intimidating, terrifying.”
But working with such professionals, the Irishman stated: “I learned to keep my mouth shut! … If I’ve nothing to add, I don’t say anything.” (Perhaps this is some sage advice for us to apply to certain areas of our own lives!)
O’Sullivan also pointed out how often big names are cast to try and sell the film, but in this case the ladies were “very sensitively cast” and that results in some extremely powerful performances.
He also revealed how the stars had very strong work ethics, with some grueling schedules. “Maggie [Smith] was 87 years of age, she had a slightly shorter schedule, but when she was on the set, my God she worked really, really hard.”
The unexpected miracle of Lourdes
As O’Sullivan is quick to share, the movie itself is not just about Lourdes, “but about people who have to confront something in their past, and this case, to a large degree, it’s guilt.”
When the women head to Lourdes with their list of miracles, “it’s not what they expected from their journey.”
“The thing that they get is of great surprise to them, and I think it reflects a lot about what people say about Lourdes, … non-believers in particular say that when go there it is surprising the effect it can have on you — it’s quite humbling to see people who are so spiritually engaged, and it does have an effect on you, even as a non-believer.”
“It makes them feel open to question who they are and to confront something they are presented with. If they’re not going to reconcile with it in Lourdes, than where are they?”
And this is something we can see in a scene with Maggie Smith. Her character, Lily, demands to go to the baths, and as O’Sullivan suggests, “she’s really saying I’m not going to go back home without something happening.”
The power of prayer
O’Sullivan leaned a lot on his own childhood experience when making the movie. And while filming he was taken back to the time his own parents, who were “very religious, of course,” went to Lourdes.
He shared how his mother prayed to Our Lady when his father became gravely ill. Thankfully he recovered and his parents went to Lourdes to “thank Our Lady for her intercession.”
“[What my mother] was celebrating really was the power of prayer … I don’t think I heard her talk of a miracle, but she would talk about how she prayed for him and we lived in hope … Our hope was rewarded so we thought we should go and say ‘thank you.'”
In the interview O’Sullivan goes on to share some very sweet details of his childhood memories of how Lourdes played a huge part in his community. So click on the video below to learn more.