Irish Eye on Hollywood

Liam Neeson in Taken 2.

By Tom Deignan, Contributor
October / November 2012

The latest Irish and Irish-American news in film and television.

1. Let’s hope the ever-busy Brendan Gleeson doesn’t get whiplash.

The Dublin-born star of recent flicks such as The Guard as well as the Harry Potter movies is regarded as one of the most versatile actors in the world.  Still, even Gleeson may have a little trouble making the transition from At Swim Two Birds to Smurfs 2.

As is well known by now, Gleeson is adapting At Swim Two Birds for the big screen. The movie is based on the challenging but brilliant Irish novel by Flann O’Brien (writing under the pen name Brian O’Nolan). The novel, published in 1939, is a head-spinner about an Irish student of literature who rages against the basic conventions of storytelling, so that it’s hard to tell which elements of the plot are O’Brien’s creation and which are the creations of his creations.

At Swim Two Birds is also expected to star Michael Fassbender, Colin Farrell, Gabriel Byrne, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Cillian Murphy and Gleeson’s own actor-son Domhnall, who has appeared in True Grit and Dredd 3D. (Look for Domhnall in Joe Wright’s forthcoming movie version of Anna Karenina.)

Brendan Gleeson has said At Swim Two Birds will be released in about a year or so, though he has admitted the script has already gone through over a dozen rewrites.
In the meantime, Gleeson will go on to star in the slightly less brainy Smurfs 2, also featuring the voice and live action work of Sofia Vergara, Neil Patrick Harris and Hank Azaria. Smurfs 2 is slated to be in theaters July 2013.

2. Also expected in summer 2013 is the highly anticipated film of Irish-American literary legend F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous novel The Great Gatsby. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Baz Luhrmann, the film had been slated for a winter release, but producers have said they believe the 3D flick can be a summer blockbuster.

3. Like Brendan Gleeson, another Irish thespian going the sequel route is Liam Neeson. This October, look for Neeson to be kicking some more serious butt in Taken 2, also starring Maggie Grace and Famke Janssen. Not that Neeson needed any more arrows in his quiver, but the Ballymena native – having earned respect on stage and in serious films such as Schindler’s List – is now a bankable action star. In Taken 2, Neeson once again plays retired CIA operative Bryan Mills. Set in Istanbul, the film follows Mills and his wife as they are taken hostage by the father of a kidnapper Mills killed in the first Taken film.

4. Also in October, look for Colin Farrell collaborating with acclaimed Irish playwright and director Martin McDonagh in Seven Psychopaths. The film is about a screenwriter (Farrell) whose unsavory best friend is an unemployed actor and part-time dog thief who crosses the wrong man. Also starring in Seven Psychopaths are Christopher Walken and Woody Harrelson. The film re-teams Farrell and McDonagh, who, along with the aforementioned Brendan Gleeson, filmed the criminally underrated In Bruges in 2008. Perhaps McDonagh can help Farrell regain his box office mojo after pricey re-make flops such as Fright Night and Total Recall.

5. In November, it’s time for history class, when Daniel Day-Lewis returns to the big screen to portray Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s biopic of the 16th president. It will be curious to see if the great director will touch upon Lincoln and the Irish, who were loyal Democrats and, thus, generally not supporters of Lincoln or the Civil War he oversaw.

6. Colm Meaney is set to star in an Irish-American film project called The Yank. Set in Cleveland, the film features writer/director Sean Lackey in the starring role, as Tom Murphy, a conflicted son who wants to please his Irish- American parents by marrying a sweet lass. When a pal decides to hold his wedding in Ireland, Tom thinks it might be his best chance to find his beloved Colleen. Of course, Irish-American expectations clash with 21st-century reality. Meaney will reportedly be playing the role of curmudgeonly farmer Fintan Maguire. Fred Willard and Kevin Farley (brother of Chris) have also been linked to the project. Lackey himself is the son of Irish immigrants who settled in Cleveland. The Yank started shooting in late July (the opening scene takes place at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) and could be in theaters next year.

As for Colm Meaney, he can currently be seen in AMC’s Western railroad series Hell on Wheels, and is also tapped to appear in the film Occult, as well as an Irish picture entitled Belfast Story. The latter also stars Malcolm Sinclair and is set in post-Troubles Belfast, where terrorists find themselves out of work and looking to crime. Producers hope to bring Belfast Story to U.S. theaters next year.

7. Irish-American icon Grace Kelly will be the subject of a new biopic entitled Grace of Monaco, and Nicole Kidman has reportedly been cast in the starring role.

Set to hit screens in 2014, the film will focus on the year or so during which Princess Grace – as she was known after marrying Rainier III – prevented a coup in Monaco. She was seen as a key player in brokering peace after French leader Charles de Gaulle ordered Rainier to institute key reforms or face dire consequences. Tim Roth has also signed on to the project, and will portray Rainier III. Frank Langella will appear as well.

Kelly, of course, was a Philadelphia native and one of Hollywood’s brightest stars in the 1950s, appearing in Alfred Hitchcock classics such as Rear Window and To Catch a Thief. Following her marriage, she stopped making films.

8. Tim Roth, incidentally, has also appeared alongside Irish actor Cillian Murphy in the film Broken, which was screened at Cannes in May but has not yet received an American release date. Broken (written by Irishman Mark O’Rowe, who also wrote the fine Irish film Intermission) is about a young girl (Eloise Laurence) in London who witnesses a violent crime. No word yet on when Broken might be released in the U.S.

Though he had a role in the mega-hit Dark Knight Rises, Murphy has not had the best luck at the box office of late, with films such as In Time and Tron: Legacy. Perhaps that’s one reason Murphy is going the TV route next. He will appear in a BBC mini-series entitled Perky Blinders about gangsters in post World War I Birmingham. Aside from poverty and angry revolutionaries, Murphy’s character must also contend with a mysterious woman and a ruthless Belfast police chief.

9. Irish actor Liam Cunningham will team up with Irish American John Cusack and up-and-comer Malin Ackerman (Rock of Ages ) in the thriller The Numbers Station.  Expected to be released later this year, The Numbers Station follows
a CIA operative with a troubled past who has been given a simple assignment: protect a 20-year-old woman. Needless to say, things get complicated.

10. Saoirse Ronan has several new projects on tap. The young Oscar nominee will star in Byzantium, to be directed by fellow Irish star Neil Jordan. Also starring Gemma Arterton and Johnny Lee Miller, Byzantium is a vampire thriller and was shown at the Toronto Film Festival in September.

Ronan is also linked to films such as The Host and Justin and   the Knights of Valor, though perhaps her most intriguing upcoming project is a biopic about Mary Queen of Scots.

Ronan is expected to play the title role in the film of the Catholic queen who was crowned when she was under a year old and executed in 1587 during England’s religious wars.

11. Finally, on the TV front, Dublin actor Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids) has signed on to an HBO series entitled Family Tree, while Irish American Jerry O’Connell (Crossing Jordan, Stand By Me) is slated to star in Mockingbird Lane, a reboot of the classic black-and-white TV series The Munsters.

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