No limo?” asks Johnny Murphy with mock dismay as he eyes the chartered bus parked outside Los Angeles Airport’s international terminal. He and his 10 Irish compatriots have just alighted as honored guests flown in by Twentieth Century Fox. They’ve been looking forward to some heavy pampering during their five days in the glamour capital of the world, and pampering means limos. Still, even a gray-and-blue bus is a lot more luxury than these rookie actors are used to, and more than the working-class rock & rollers they portrayed on-screen could ever dream of. The Dubliners standing curbside with their mismatched suitcases are the Commitments, a struggling soul band with an abundance of talent, ambition, and naïveté, in Alan Parker’s new film of the same name.
Most are in their early 20s; only Murphy, 48, a stage veteran, has been in a film before. Hundreds of musicians were auditioned in Dublin before Parker cast the group. ”They’d already made a decision in their lives to be performers,” says the director, ”so it wasn’t as if I took someone off the street.”
And here they are — eight of them making their first trip to the U.S. — getting a taste of the Big Time, Hollywood-style, with a heady round of galas and greetings capped by their film’s world premiere. After that, they’ll be off to Chicago and New York to shake more hands, attend more parties, and be quizzed yet again about their heavy accents, an expectable annoyance for someone who says ”fill-um” when the subject is movies. And at the moment, waiting to board the bus, they look a bit bowled over, or as the Irish would say, gobsmacked.
As soon as the bus sets off for the tony Sunset Marquis Hotel, where they’ll be staying, it’s obvious that some of the Commitments are not entirely unfamiliar with L.A. ”Where’s Jim Rockford?” one asks as they swing onto Sepulveda Boulevard. Amid the laughter, Murphy, the film’s hip, middle-aged trumpeter Joey ”The Lips” Fagan, acts the wise world traveler, just as he does on-screen. Don’t jaywalk in this town, he warns — stiff fines. The only other performer with acting experience — 19-year-old Bronagh Gallagher, who plays gritty backing singer and ”Commitment-ette” Bernie McGloughlin — has never been Stateside, and she’s jumping out of her seat regularly. They pass over the jammed San Diego freeway. ”Oh my God,” she cries in a thick brogue, ”look at the motorway!” ”Stop,” comes another voice as the bus passes two famous golden arches, ”I want a burger.”