Irish Eye on Hollywood
By Tom Deignan, Contributor
June / July 2006
Three top-level Irish talents will be teaming up for a U.S. Civil War drama slated to be released later this year. Pierce Brosnan, Liam Neeson and Anjelica Huston will star in Seraphim Falls, a revenge thriller. Mel Gibson’s Icon Entertainment is producing the film, to be directed by first-timer David Von Ancken, who has directed TV shows such as The Shield and CSI. Seraphim Falls is said to combine the raw brutality of First Blood with the beauty of the more recent Cold Mountain. According to press reports, the movie begins with Gideon (Brosnan) sitting alone in the woods only to hear a gunshot and then a bullet landing in the snow just inches from his head. Colonel Morsman Carver (Neeson) has apparently found the man he has been looking to kill in the five years since the Civil War ended. The rest of Seraphim Falls will take audiences back in time to explain how these two men came to despise each other. Before Brosnan signed onto the film, Richard Gere was supposed to play opposite Neeson, according to an announcement made at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. With Brosnan joining fellow Irish thespian Liam Neeson and Irish-American Anjelica Huston, Seraphim Falls boasts one of the most impressive Irish casts for an American film since Gangs of New York. Speaking of the Cannes festival, a movie about the Irish Civil War was up for the festival’s top prize when it opened on May 17. The Wind that Shakes the Barley has been directed by famous British independent director Ken Loach and stars Cillian Murphy as well as fellow Irish actor Liam Cunningham (The Card Player, Do Soldiers). Loach’s longtime collaborator Paul Laverty (the son of an Irish mother and Scottish father) wrote the screenplay for The Wind that Shakes the Barley (the title comes from an old Irish tune). The film is set in 1919 and tells the story of two brothers who wage guerilla war against the infamous British Black and Tan security squads. Loach is best known for gritty, politically tinged films such as Ladybird, Ladybird, My Name is Joe and Sweet Sixteen. The Wind that Shakes the Barley competed against a batch of films (including ones directed by Pedro Almodovar and Sophia Coppola) for the Palme d’Or, the prize for best film handed out annually at Cannes. Closer to home, the Tribeca Film Festival (now in its fifth year) ran from April 25 to May 7 and featured an impressive slate of Irish films worth keeping an eye out for when they hit theaters or your local video store. Beloved FDNY chaplain Father Mychal Judge, who died on September 11, 2001, is the subject of a moving documentary called The Saint of 9/11. The film explores the life of a man who inspired people from many walks of life, and does not ignore the controversial topic of whether or not Judge was gay. On the lighter side of things, Long Islander and son of Irish immigrants Ed Burns is trying to snap a string of rough box office luck with The Groomsmen, his latest writer/director/star effort, which was also shown at Tribeca. Burns plays the lead in this film about a man on the verge of marriage, who plans to spend a week of fun with his best man and other groomsmen. Of course, cold feet and other matters complicate things. Burns has assembled an excellent cast, including fellow Irish-Americans Donal Logue and Brittany Murphy, as well as Jay Mohr, John Leguizamo and Matthew Lillard. An Irish winner on the recent festival circuit was a film about a young member of the Irish travelling community called Pavee Lackeen. The film, the first by the Dublin-based English photographer, Perry Ogden, tells the story of Winnie, a 10-year-old girl and real-life traveler who lives with her mother in a run-down Dublin caravan. Pavee Lackeen, which features mostly non-professionals (many of them travelers) won the London Film Festival’s Satyajit Ray Award. According to the judges Pavee Lackeen is “a skillfully dramatized and deeply committed portrayal of the traveler community in Dublin and its struggle with bureaucracy, poverty and prejudice.”
A recent article in Esquire magazine had some good news and bad news for Irish-Americans. On the positive side, the article revealed that Emilio Estevez (son of Martin Sheen, whose mother was Irish and who has made no secret of his love for Ireland) is making a movie about the assassination of Irish-American icon Robert F. Kennedy. Stars such as Demi Moore, Anthony Hopkins, Sharon Stone and Lindsay Lohan have reportedly signed onto the movie, which is said to be titled Bobby. The bad news? Well, according to the article (which was written by Nikki Go, “the pen name of an entertainment industry insider”) the shooting of the film was chaotic to say the least. The film is said to run far too long, and some of Estevez’s production partners are more interested in getting their loved ones screen time with A-list stars than they are in making a good movie. “This is a story of determination, career redemption, selflessness, and how not to make a movie,” the article reads. Audiences will have a chance to judge Bobby when it hits theaters. No release date has been set. Gabriel Byrne’s latest film is set to hit theaters in May. Entitled Wah Wah, the film is a period piece set during the dying days of the British Empire in Swaziland, South East Africa, in the late 1950s. The film focuses on a dysfunctional family whose disintegration mirrors the coming end of British rule in the region. Byrne, Miranda Richardson, Nicholas Hoult, Emily Watson and Julie Walters star in Wah Wah, which was directed by Richard E. Grant. On the TV front, this summer will see the premiere of the highly anticipated Showtime series Brotherhood, starring Fionnula Flanagan as Rose Caffee. Set in the blue collar Rhode Island Irish neighborhood known as “The Hill,” Brotherhood explores the tension between two of Rose’s sons. Tommy Caffee (Jason Clarke) is a family man who has made a name for himself in the bare-knuckled world of local politics. The Caffee’s lives are turned upside-down when Tommy’s brother Mike (Jason Isaacs), a notorious gangster, returns to the neighborhood with plans of his own. Though set in Rhode Island, Brotherhood bears more than a passing resemblance to the real-life stories of Boston’s Bulger brothers — one a politician, the other a gangster. Brotherhood begins airing July 9. Fledgling TV network The N has made an Irish Catholic series one of its most prominent shows. The show, South of Nowhere, is the product of Irish-American writer-creator-producer Tom Lynch, who uses his Catholic upbringing and five teenaged kids for inspiration. One of the central characters on South of Nowhere is Paula Carlin, a 40-year-old Irish Catholic mother of three. She also works as an ER doctor and struggles to reconcile the sometimes-conflicting demands of a contemporary parent with those of a practicing Catholic. Lynch also incorporates aspects of his life into other shows he has created. He is an adoptive parent, for example, as is Paula on South of Nowhere. Meanwhile, in another Lynch production Romeo!, (which airs on Nickelodeon) real-life rapper Master P plays a single father with a multi-racial musical family. Lynch has adopted an African-American son. A former producer of Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert and Night Tracks, Lynch is currently collaborating with OutKast’s André 3000 for Cartoon Network’s Class of 3000, which debuts this fall. The N is a nighttime network for teens and airs starting at 6 p.m. Finally, viewers of the hit TV show Lost recently gave a sales boost to one of Ireland’s most interesting artists. For a brief moment, The Third Policeman, a novel by Flann O’Brien — who also wrote under the name Myles na gCopaleen — appeared on Lost. A scriptwriter said the absurd comic novel was chosen “very specifically for a reason.” So who on the Lost team is in the know when it comes to obscure Irish novels? Could it be Katie McGrath who is married to Lost producer JJ Adrams? More than 15,000 copies of the book were sold in the weeks following the Lost episode’s airing.