Irish Eye on Hollywood

Cate Blanchett takes the title role in Veronica Guerin.
Cate Blanchett takes the title role in Veronica Guerin.

By Tom Deignan, Columnist
August / September 2003

It’s going to be a hot Irish summer at the movies, from the art houses to the popcorn blockbusters.

Furthermore, an exciting fall is looming on the horizon, particularly with the October release of Veronica Guerin, the movie starring Cate Blanchett, based on the life and gruesome death of the crusading Dublin journalist after whom the film is named.

There’s also playwright Conor McPherson’s much-anticipated directorial debut The Actors (produced by Neil Jordan) which stars legendary thespians Michael Caine and Michael Gambon.

Finally, Jim Sheridan’s New York Irish immigrant tale In America is still slated for a late November release.

But first, let’s get to the hot-weather movies.

<em>Director of <strong>The Heart of Me</strong>, Thaddeus O'Sullivan.</em>

Director of The Heart of Me, Thaddeus O’Sullivan.

In June, Dublin director Thaddeus O’Sullivan’s (Nothing Personal and Ordinary Decent Criminal) upper-class British romance The Heart of Me, about a love triangle between Paul Bettany, Helena Bonham Carter and Olivia Williams will be out.

But that’s just the tip of, well, the ice cream cone.

On July 11, Dublin actor Stuart Townsend will be seen opposite the legendary Sean Connery in The League of Extraordinary Gentleman. Based on the comic book novel by Alan Moore, The League is a group of characters drawn from famous works of literature who join forces to battle criminal kingpins at the turn of the 19th century.

A week later, American moviegoers will finally get to see The Magdalene Sisters, directed by Peter Mullan. Already the focus of acclaim and condemnation, Sisters is set in 1960s Ireland. The film – which has won many awards but also been slammed as anti-Catholic – follows the lives of four young women placed in convents where “fallen women” were forced to work in laundry sweat-shops – and were often physically abused.

Expect the film to generate major controversy, especially since it is being distributed by Miramax, which has been called anti-Catholic in the past over films such as Priest and Dogma.

Come August 8, it may even seem like the folks at Miramax are trying to atone for any sins with their comedy/romance/sci-fi fantasy Ella Enchanted. This seems like a family-friendly, if sometimes dark, film.

Starring Anne Hathaway (The Princess Diaries) along with Irish veteran Patrick Bergin and Liverpool Irish up-and-comer Steve Coogan, Ella Enchanted is set in a world where children are given a “gift” from a fairy godmother at birth. Ella’s gift (or some might say curse) is one of absolute obedience. Ella cannot refuse any command, and (not surprisingly) is often taken advantage of. In an effort to regain control of her life, Ella goes on a quest to liberate herself from this curse. She must outwit the ogres, monsters and even wicked stepsisters which are by now the standard fare of such fantasy flicks.

<em>An Irish immigrant family comes to New York in <strong>In America</strong>.</em>

An Irish immigrant family comes to New York in In America.

For traditionalists out there, let it also be known that Ella just might find love along the way, in this film directed by Indiana native Tommy O’Haver.

For the slam-bang summer movie fans, there’s the always-busy Colin Farrell and his next action flick, S.W.A.T., based on the 1970s TV series. The film, which also stars Samuel L. Jackson, follows a squad from L.A.’s Special Weapons and Tactics (hence the title) unit. They’ve been assigned to protect a drug kingpin. The twist? The drug dealer has offered a $100 million reward to anyone who can free him from the cops.

Jackson plays the S.W.A.T. veteran in charge of the operations, so we can only assume Farrell will take the role of the wise-cracking young turk.

According to reports, however, no one was cracking wise on the set of S.W.A.T., where things got downright scary on at least one occasion.

According to the New York Post, the cast and crew received death threats while filming at night in the not-so-safe Compton section of Los Angeles. One source even told The Post, “A crew member had a guy pull up to him and say, `Watch your back or we’ll slit your throat.’

S.W.A.T. also stars Michelle Rodriguez, Jeremy Renner, LL Cool J, Oliver Martinez and Ashley Scott, and is directed by Clark Johnson.

In other Colin Farrell news: He will begin shooting Alexander the Great, along with provocateur Oliver Stone, in July. Stone’s Alexander epic is slated to hit theaters for Thanksgiving 2004. (Much has already been said about Farrell’s commitment to this role, which calls for him to get romantic with a male co-star.)

Interestingly, Leonardo Di Caprio is also shooting an Alexander biopic, directed by much-sought-after auteur Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge). In fact, Luhrmann’s flick will reunite him with Nicole Kidman. But this Alexander film is not expected to be out until 2005.

Speaking of Kidman, she of course appeared as Virginia Woolf in The Hours, based on Michael Cunningham’s novel (which itself was slyly based on Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway.) Well, the next film of a Cunningham novel, At Home at the End of the World, will star…Colin Farrell!

The novel is about two boyhood friends, Jonathan (who is lonely and unsure of himself) and Bobby (hip and mysterious). Living in New York after college, Bobby moves in with Jonathan and his roommate, Clare, described intriguingly in one report as “a veteran of the city’s erotic wars.” Bobby and Clare fall in love, which complicates Jonathan’s plan. Though gay, he was nevertheless hoping to father a child with Clare. When Clare and Bobby have a baby, the three move to a small house upstate and (with another eccentric friend) create what can modestly be described as a new kind of family.

It’s hard to say which of the male leads Farrell is best fit to play. He himself is soon expecting a child with his model/girlfriend, but he may also want to do some “research” for his bisexual role in Alexander the Great. (Who knows? Maybe he’ll play Clare.)

<em>Colin Farrell stars in upcoming films.</em>

Colin Farrell stars in upcoming films.

Anyway, before all that, Farrell will also have a small role in what could be the most highly anticipated Irish movie of the year after The Magdalene SistersVeronica Guerin.

Cate Blanchett takes on the title role of a reporter for the Dublin Sunday Independent who exposed some of Dublin’s most powerful drug lords in the 1990s. But Guerin paid a terrible price. In 1996, she was gunned down by assassins hired by the drug lords she exposed. Veronica Guerin will be released on October 17.

This is both a high-budget and very Irish production, notwithstanding the Australian Blanchett and American director Joel Schumacher (Tigerland, St. Elmo’s Fire).

The all-star Irish supporting cast includes Brenda Fricker, Ciaran Hinds, Darragh Kelly and Gerard McSorley. Even Colin Farrell (who was “discovered” by Schumacher in 2000’s Tigerland) could disappear in a cast as impressive as this one. Carol Doyle and Mary Agnes Donoghue wrote the screenplay.

Following the 1997 cult flick / Went Down (for which he wrote the screenplay), Conor McPherson returns to films with The Actors. The young Dublin playwright will direct legends Michael Caine and Michael Gambon, as well as Lena Headey and Dylan Moran, in this movie which has been described as Ireland’s answer to Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

The Actors, slated for a fall U.S. release, is about two struggling actors who pose as criminals to raise much-needed money. All the players were in Dublin recently for the world premiere of The Actors at the Savoy Cinema on O’Connell Street.

Finally, despite reports that it would open in the summer, Jim Sheridan’s In America – earning solid reviews on the festival circuit – will open November 26 in Los Angeles and New York, according to Fox Searchlight, which is distributing the film.

As we were going to press, we learned that there has been another delay for the slacker flick Prozac Nation. The movie stars up-and-coming Cork actor Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, who recently played the Irish soccer coach in the sleeper hit Bend It Like Beckham. Although it was slated to be out in June, the studio has pushed the date to December. Audiences will just have to wait a while longer to see the Corkman’s Calvin Klein good looks back up onscreen! ♦

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