Irish Eye on Hollywood

A still from the film The Eclipse

By Tom Deignan, Contributor
October /November 2009

In the next couple of years, acclaimed Dublin-born director Jim Sheridan (In the Name of the Father, In America) is planning to tell gritty Irish-American stories about gangsters in Boston and New York. This coming holiday season, however, Sheridan will be releasing Brothers, a dramatic film about a love triangle which will surely get some attention when it comes time to hand out Oscar nominations.

Brothers stars Natalie Portman, Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire. Portman plays a wife whose husband (Maguire) is presumed lost in Iraq. The soldier’s brother (Gyllenhaal) seeks to console the young widow, only to fall in love with the grieving woman. Then it turns out her husband is not dead after all and will soon be returning home.
Brothers is Sheridan’s first film since the 2005 biopic of rapper 50 Cent, Get Rich or Die Tryin’.

The screenplay for Brothers was written by David Benioff, whose previous work includes the film The 25th Hour, in which Ed Norton played an Irish-American drug dealer at odds with his immigrant dad.

After Brothers, Sheridan’s next two projects are Black Mass, which tells the sweeping story of South Boston gangster Whitey Bulger (due out in 2010) and Emerald City, about the Irish mob in Hell’s Kitchen (which may not be released until 2011).

Brothers is due in theaters December 4.

Also in December, look for The Lovely Bones, based on the best-selling novel by Alice Sebold and starring wunderkind Northern Ireland actress Saoirse Ronan (Atonement, City of Ember), as well as Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz and Susan Sarandon

The Lovely Bones tells the tragic story of 14-year-old Susie Salmon (played by Ronan), who is killed by a neighbor. The rest of the story is told as Susie, uncomfortably perched in the afterlife, watches how her family and friends cope with her loss.

The Lovely Bones is directed by Lord of the Rings impresario Peter Jackson.

Speaking of Mark Wahlberg, one of the most anticipated upcoming Irish-American films is The Fighter, starring Wahlberg as Irish boxer Mickey Ward. But nearly as compelling as Ward’s unlikely rise to fame is the life story of Richard Farrell, who helped write the screenplay for The Fighter.

From the Irish stronghold of Lowell, Massachusetts, Farrell recounts his struggles with his abusive father as well as drugs in his memoir What’s Left of Us. The movie rights of that memoir have been purchased by the same A-list stars behind The Fighter, including Wahlberg, director David O. Russell (Three Kings) as well as Batman himself, Christian Bale.

After helping to write a book called A Criminal and An Irishman: The Inside Story of the Boston Mob-IRA Connection, Farrell worked on the script for The Fighter, which is now shooting on the streets of his hometown, an experience he finds surreal.

“I was a junkie, dead on the street, and now here I am, talking to Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg, and David O. Russell,” he recently said.

No word about when shooting will begin on the film of Farrell’s life.

Liam Neeson is staying busy.  His latest film, a thriller entitled Chloe, had its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. The film also stars Julianne Moore, who plays a doctor who hires an escort model to seduce her husband (Neeson).  The film is directed by celebrated indy auteur Atom Egoyan, best known for The Sweet

Hereafter as well as Felicia’s Journey, based on Irish writer William Trevor’s novel.

Chloe was the film Neeson was shooting when his wife, Natasha Richardson, died following a skiing accident.

After Chloe, Neeson will be playing Zeus in a remake of Clash of the Titans and is reportedly starring in a big-screen remake of the 80s TV show The A-Team.

Most recently, Neeson signed on to star in Unknown White Male, about a doctor (Neeson) who awakens from a coma to find he has been replaced in his life by another man. Unknown White Male is set to begin filming in January in Berlin.

Another movie tinged with tragedy, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus was also screened at the Toronto film fest. Directed by Monty Python alum Terry Gilliam, Imaginarium stars Heath Ledger. The movie was still shooting when the young star died.  Irish star Colin Farrell was among those who pitched in to help finish the film. Look for Imaginarium in U.S. theaters later this year.

Farrell may also do replacement duty in Gilliam’s next film, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.  Johnny Depp was originally slated to star but has backed out, and Farrell is reportedly ready to sign on.

The busy Julianne Moore will also star alongside Pierce Brosnan in The Hunter, written and directed by Stanley Tucci and produced by Irish DreamTime, Brosnan’s production company.  Set in New York’s exclusive enclave of Westchester County, Brosnan plays a privileged man whose life, suddenly, seems to be slipping away.

It’s worth mentioning that Tucci also stars in the aforementioned The Lovely Bones as the murderous neighbor.

Also on the film festival circuit in September, Conor McPherson’s new movie The Eclipse, starring Ciaran Hinds and Aidan Quinn, opened the 2009 Los Angeles Irish Film Festival.

The supernatural flick also opened the Tribeca Film Festival and is expected to be released in the U.S. later this year.

The Quinn family, as a whole, is raising its Hollywood profile behind the camera as well.  Acclaimed cinematographer Declan Quinn (Aidan’s brother, whose most recent movie was The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, starring Robin Wright) will soon be serving as cinematographer on a film called Good Ol’ Boy, to be directed by his other brother, Paul Quinn.

Talk about all in the family!

Declan Quinn is also serving as cinematographer on a documentary about Bob Marley, directed by Jonathan Demme, as well Jim Sheridan’s aforementioned project Black Mass.

Declan Quinn is not the only busy Irish-American cinematographer. Seamus Tierney recently earned raves for the film Adam (dubbed “lovingly photographed” by The New York Times) and will soon be working on Burning Palms (with fellow Irish Americans Shannon Doherty and Dylan McDermott), and The Forlorn, about the infamous Donner Party of Western U.S. settlers, which included Irish immigrants and resorted to cannibalism.

The Forlorn will be directed by T.J. Martin.

Irish actress Fiona Shaw is set to appear in a film by one of the world’s most beloved Irish writers. Shaw, Ben Barnes, Colin Firth and Ben Chapman are set to star in a new version of Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray. So far, the film is set to open in the U.K. in September, though no U.S. date has been confirmed.  Shaw will also be seen in director Terrence Malick’s (Thin Red Line, Badlands) long-awaited film Tree of Life, which also stars Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. It is the famously slow-working Malick’s first film since 2005’s The New World, with Colin Farrell.

On the DVD front, look for the acclaimed indy horror flick I Sell the Dead. Written and directed by Dubliner Glenn McQuaid and starring Ron Perlman and Dominic Monaghan, the film played in art houses over the summer and earned impressive reviews. On the Hollywood DVD front, Irish actor Michael Fassbender was among the stars of Quentin Tarantino’s kill-Nazi’s film Inglourious Basterds.  (Centurion and Jonah Hex are two of Fassbender’s upcoming projects.)

British actor Steve Coogan (whose parents were Irish immigrants) has been in films such as Tropic Thunder and the Night at the Museum films.  But he became famous for
his work on the BBC, which has just released a 14-disc set of Coogan sketches, including his famous creations “Alan Partridge” and “Tony Ferrino.”

Finally, the new TV season will see the return of Irish-American small-screen veterans Ed O’Neill and Chris O’Donnell. O’Neill, most famous for Married With Children, will star in an ABC sitcom called Modern Family.O’Donnell (Scent of a Woman, Circle of Friends) will appear in NCIS: L.A. alongside LL Cool J.

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