Irish Eye on Hollywood

Saoirse Ronan in The Host.
Saoirse Ronan in The Host.

By Tom Deignan, Contributor
February / March 2013

The latest with your favorite Irish and Irish American stars and screenwriters.

1. February 14 is going to be a very “good day” for Irish-born director John Moore. The Dundalk, Louth native – who has directed thrillers such as Behind Enemy Lines (2001), The Omen (2006) and Max Payne (2008) – has directed the latest installment in Bruce Willis’ storied and lucrative Die Hard franchise. The title? A Good Day to Die Hard. This is the fifth film to feature Willis as beleaguered former New York City cop John McClane. This time around, McClane has to track down his son in Russia, where the boy has gotten himself into some trouble. Once in Moscow, McClane becomes ensnared in a terrorist plot. Expect lots of jump-cutting and swift action from Moore, who has made a name for himself as a top-flight director of thrilling scenes.

2. Also in February, Irish Americans Melissa McCarthy (Identity Thief, with Jason Bateman) and Rooney Mara (Side Effects, with Channing Tatum and Jude Law) have films opening.

3. That same month, keep an eye out for Jack O’Connell in Beautiful Creatures, based on the best selling books by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. O’Connell has appeared in numerous British films, including an adaptation of the Martina Cole novel, The Runaway, which also starred Alan Cumming. In that film, O’Connell played Eamonn, the male half of a pair of star-crossed lovers.

“Eamonn is half Irish, born in Ireland. I’m half-Irish, so his heritage was part of what interested me,” O’Connell said at the time, noting the similarities between his own life and his character.

“I was wondering about his accent, because he was brought up in London, so I guess all of his mates would’ve influenced him mainly, but his dad’s a Dubliner. I was wondering if there would be any [Irish] twang in his accent, and I tried to work some in, but it might just register as a bad attempt at cockney!”

Beautiful Creatures, also about a pair of young lovers, explores the consequences of family secrets.

4. Meanwhile, it’s going to be a Happy St. Patrick’s Day for Michael Fassbender, Saoirse Ronan, Dermot Mulroney and Matt O’Leary. All have films opening around March 17.

First there’s Trance, starring Fassbender in addition to James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel and Rosario Dawson.  Trance follows a group of thieves who have to figure out what to do when a planned robbery goes bust. Fassbender (who was raised in Kerry by an Irish mother and German father) is becoming one of Hollywood’s hottest leading men.  Trance will also be directed by the great Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire), whose parents left Galway for the heavily Irish Catholic neighborhood of Lancashire, England.

Also in late March, Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan’s latest film The Host will hit theaters. Also starring William Hurt and Max Irons, The Host is based on Twilight author Stephanie Myers’ best-selling book. The film revolves around outer-space parasites who invade human bodies. Things get complicated when Melanie Stryder (Ronan) reacts to the parasitic invasion unlike anyone else around her. Ronan was born to Irish immigrant parents in the Bronx and raised in Carlow. She shot to fame in films The Lovely Bones and Hanna, after receiving an Oscar nomination for her extraordinary turn in 2007’s Atonement.

Look for Dermot Mulroney alongside Nicole Kidman and Matthew Goode in the March release Stoker, about a family trying to cope with loss following a tragic accident.

And finally in March, Irish American Matt O’Leary (who, incidentally, appeared in 2007’s Live Free or Die Hard) is among the stars of Eden. O’Leary, a Chicago native, plays a wild, violent drug addict alongside Beau Bridges in this dark flick, which looks at the grim world of kidnappers who sell their victims into the underground world of sex slavery.

5. As always, Colin Farrell remains busy. He is currently in New York City shooting the star-studded Winter’s Tale. The film, set in the 19th century as well as modern-day Manhattan, also stars Will Smith, Russell Crowe and Irish Americans Jennifer Connelly and Kevin Corrigan. Before Winter’s Tale hits screens, you can see Farrell this April, in the film Dead Man Down. Farrell stars alongside Noomi Rapace, Dominic Cooper and Terrence Howard in the film, about a hit man who is seduced by his intended victim.
Finally, in May, Farrell will lend his vocal talents to the animated film Epic.

6. As 2012 drew to a close, two of the most talked-about films were Flight starring Denzel Washington and The Hobbit. Behind the scenes, the Irish played key roles in both of these films.

Much of the credit for Flight went to Denzel Washington’s powerful performance and director Robert Zemeckis’ gripping scenes. But when the Critics Choice Award nominations were announced late last year, screenwriter John Gatins finally started receiving credit for a story he’s been working on for over a decade.

Gatins, a former actor whose brother George is an accomplished film producer, has told interviewers he is “100% Irish.” His parents met in the Manhattan Irish enclave of Washington Heights.

“We were this tight kind of Irish culture,” Gatins said in an interview with Kristopher Tapley of Hitfix.com.

Of his father, a New York City police officer, Gatins added: “He had a great Irish tenor singing voice. He honestly was a performer.”

Gatins previously wrote films such as Coach Carter (with Samuel L. Jackson) and Summer Catch. He also directed the 2005 film Dreamer, after starring in several not-so-great films, including (unfortunately) Leprechaun 3.

But the brilliant screenplay for Flight – about an alcoholic airline pilot – has catapulted Gatins into show biz royalty.  And he is making sure his Irish family is along for the ride.  When Flight was screened at the New York Film Festival, he told one interviewer:

“Most of the time when we’re involved in an event, it’s out in L.A. And I’ve worked on a lot of mainstream movies and had a great time . . . But this was very different. To be in New York where my family was watching, and my mom was there – my 75-year-old Irish-Catholic mother from the Bronx!”

Gatins has said he’d now like to make a comedy as well as a high school movie, since one of his children is about to enter high school.
Meanwhile, Peter Jackson is generally seen as the driving force behind the Lord of the Rings trilogy as well as the recent fantasy smash The Hobbit. Less well known but no less important is Fran Walsh.

“Ms. Walsh was born to an Irish family in Wellington,” the New York Times recently noted of the three-time Academy Award winning writer, musician and producer. The paper adds: “Ms. Walsh, 53, is also one of Hollywood’s biggest living mysteries. She rarely grants interviews and refuses to sit for a photograph. Forget walking a red carpet alongside Mr. Jackson. Ms. Walsh has not even allowed her face to be shown on camera when contributing DVD commentary.”

With two more Hobbit films to be rolled out – and surely more Academy Award nominations – the world may finally begin to appreciate Fran Walsh’s contributions to these cinematic masterpieces.

7. Pierce Brosnan will star in the international (Danish, Italian and English are spoken in the flick) romance Love Is All You Need. The film is about a cancer-stricken hairdresser (Trine Dyholm) who loses her hair. Her marriage on the rocks, the hairdresser heads off to Italy alone for her daughter’s wedding where she makes a terrible first impression upon a fellow (Brosnan) who may help piece her life back together. Love is All You Need is slated to hit American screens in May.

8. Finally, as he continues working on the all-star Irish film At Swim-Two Birds with his father Brendan, Domhnall Gleeson is coming into his own as a star.  This spring he will appear alongside Rachel McAdams and Bill Nighy in About Time, which explores a family whose men are blessed (or is that cursed?) with the ability to travel back and forth through time.

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