Irish Eye on Hollywood: Lenny Abrahamson Takes a Chance

Director Lenny Abrahamson.
Director Lenny Abrahamson.

By Tom Deignan, Contributor
December / January 2017

Director Lenny Abrahamson earned an Academy Award nomination for his adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s Room. Up next for the Dublin-born filmmaker is a Hulu TV show and a controversial boxing film.

Abrahamson is currently producing the TV show Chance, starring Hugh Laurie, in the British actor’s return to TV after years playing the lead character on House. In fact, just as in House, Laurie’s character’s name again provides the show its title.  Abrahamson directed several Chance episodes, which are now available on Hulu.

Meanwhile, Abrahamson is also putting together a movie about American boxer Emile Griffith. Griffith was a title-holder in the 1960s. However, he also struggled with his sexual identity, living as a bisexual at a time – and in a sport – that did not tolerate such things.  Abrahamson told the radio show Second Captains Sunday on RTÉ 1, “Occasionally you read a story where you go, ‘My God, that is so much stranger than fiction and that is so extraordinary.’ That’s Griffith. It’s such an incredible story because it’s about sexuality, it’s about masculinity, it’s about sport, but ultimately – and the thing that I’m always interested in is – it’s just about that particular person.”

Abrahamson added, “He lived this double life between the Times Square underground gay scene and his continuing interest in ladies’ millinery on the one hand, and boxing on the other. His story becomes very, very powerful as it goes on. It’s just such an amazing world. I’m always drawn in stories to people whose sense of themselves gets radically interrupted.”

Abrahamson closed by saying that he hopes to make a movie similar to Martin Scorsese’s classic Raging Bull, as “a sports movie” that’s “not ultimately about the sport. Good work is always about going from surface to depth and a sports movie is good if the sport becomes part of the leverage or the ‘crowbar’ that opens up that character.” ♦

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