Irish Eye on Hollywood

Frank, starring Domhnall Gleeson, Michael Fassbender and Maggie Gyllenhaal

By Tom Deignan, Contributor
February / March 2014

Maybe they should call it the Father and Son Dance Film Festival!

After all, it was an Irish family affair at this year’s Sundance Film Fest, which ran from January 16 – 26 in Park City, Utah.

First up is Frank, starring Domhnall Gleeson, Michael Fassbender and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

The film has been described as an offbeat comedy about a musician struggling to make it with a band fronted by a self-proclaimed musical genius who is so odd he wears a large, fake head when he performs on stage.

Directed by Lenny Abrahamson (Adam & Paul, What Richard Did), Frank is based on a memoir by Welsh journalist Jon Ronson and bears similarities to the life of musical artist Frank Sidebottom.

Reacting to the Sundance selection, Frank director Lenny Abrahamson said, “I can’t think of a better place for this film to begin its life.” Producer Ed Guiney added,“Sundance is the perfect place to launch the worldwide campaign of this great new film from Lenny Abrahamson. And it’s great to be there with fellow Irishmen and collaborators, Michael Fassbender and Domhnall Gleeson.”

Indeed, Gleeson’s father, Brendan, was also represented at Sundance. Gleeson stars in Calvary, a dramedy about a tortured priest directed by John Michael McDonagh. The film re-teams Gleeson and McDonagh, who brought the excellent comedy The Guard to cinemas in 2011. Calvary features an A-list Irish cast, including Chris O’Dowd, Aidan Gillen, Dylan Moran and, yes, Domhnall Gleeson.

Also screening at Sundance was The Last Days of Peter Bergmann, a short film about the case of a mysterious Austrian who showed up in Sligo in 2009.

Brendan Gleeson will also team up with fellow veteran Irish thespian Fiona Shaw in an upcoming thriller based on an Edgar Allen Poe short story. Gleeson and Shaw — who recently wowed New York stage audiences in a performance of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” —will join Michael Caine, Kate Beckinsale, and Ben Kingsley in Eliza Graves. The original short story might well have been the inspiration for the phrase “The inmates are running the asylum,” because that’s exactly what the main character, a Harvard medical school graduate, encounters when he takes on his first job — a mental institution where the one-time patients are now posing as doctors. Look for Eliza Graves to hit screens late this year or early next.

 

February is going to be a busy month for Irish film stars.

Slated for a February 7 release is One Chance, about singer Paul Potts, a Welshman who stunned the audience, viewers and judges on the TV show “Britain’s Got Talent.” Colm Meaney stars in the film, along with James Corden and Alexandra Roach. Down the road, look for the always-busy Meaney to appear in a biopic about global football icon Pele. The film (simply entitled Pele) will feature Meaney as the coach of the Swedish national team that lost to Brazil in the 1958 World Cup, in which a 17 year-old Pele played.

 

Also in February, Irish veteran of stage and screen Gabriel Byrne becomes the latest star to (if you will) get sucked into the vampire trend.  Byrne will appear in Vampire Academy, based on the best-selling series of books by Richelle Mead, about the battles between good and evil among the undead at an elite school. Sarah Hyland, Olga Kurylenko and Zoey Deutch lead the cast of Vampire Academy, which features the inevitable tagline: “They Suck at School.”

 

February will also see the release of two long-awaited films from two of Ireland’s top stars: Colin Farrell and Liam Neeson. The latter’s latest action flick, Non-Stop, is slated to hit screens in mid-February. Non-Stop, also starring Julianne Moore, is a kind of Speed at 30,000 feet. Neeson plays an air marsha l who begins receiving texts which state that one passenger on the fight will be killed every 20 minutes until certain ransom demands are met. Meanwhile, Colin Farrell’s long-awaited time-traveling film Winter’s Tale (based on the novel by Mark Helprin) will also hit screens in February. Winter’s Tale also stars Russell Crowe, Will Smith and Jessica Brown Findlay.

 

Finally for February, two Irish names we haven’t heard in a while: Stuart Townsend and Paddy Considine. Townsend was on the rise in the early 2000s, starring in films such as About Adam, Queen of the Damned, and The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, while also dating A-lister Charlize Theron. But after a number of quiet years recently, Townsend is jumping back into the fray with the film A Stranger in Paradise. A thriller set in the world of high finance, A Stranger in Paradise is about an ambitious money manager who is banished to Thailand, on the run from people trying to kill him. Meanwhile, Paddy Considine (who was inspired by his real-life Irish father in Jim Sheridan’s In America) will appear in the German romantic drama Girl on a Bicycle, about an Italian bus driver who has second thoughts after proposing marriage to his German girlfriend.

 

Rumors of a Dusty Springfield biopic have been swirling around London and Hollywood for years. Well, the rumors are heating up once again, now that Grammy-award winning singer Adele has been mentioned as a possible star.

For years, Nicole Kidman was said to be considering the lead role in any film about the celebrated “Son of a Preacher Man” singer, who was born Mary Catherine Bernadette O’Brien in London in 1930 and always described herself as “just an Irish Catholic girl.”

In a separate project, comes word that “Boardwalk Empire” writer David Stenn has completed a script about the years when Springfield moved to Tennessee to record the now-classic album Dusty in Memphis. Adele has long counted Dusty Springfield as an influence, and is now said to be considering starring in the film.

Springfield’s many fans are hoping a strong movie about her life and work will create renewed interest in this beloved crooner.

As the Irish Times columnist Brian Boyd put it recently, Springfield “is always left off that now all-too-familiar roll-call of great musicians of Irish descent. We have tested and tasted too much of the ‘Irishness’ of The Smiths, Oasis, John Lydon, et. al. But, in truth, Dusty was bigger and better than any of the boys.”

 

But if you still feel you must see Nicole Kidman in a film about an icon with Irish roots, then you’re in luck. Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, Kidman’s Grace Kelly biopic Grace of Monaco will be released on March 14.

 

Ed Burns has been making headlines starring in the critically acclaimed TNT drama “Mob City,” about cops and crooks in 1940s Los Angeles. Burns gets in touch with his dark side to portray infamous gangster Bugsy Siegel in the show, which was created by Hollywood big wig Frank Darabont, who directed such Hollywood hits as The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. “Mob City” also features another actor whose parents, like Burns, came from Ireland: Neal McDonagh. In “Mob City,” McDonagh plays a crime-fighting cop dedicated to tackling the West Coast mob. McDonagh is the son of Irish immigrants from Tipperary and Galway who raised their family in Dorchester, Massachusetts. McDonagh’s other small screen credits include HBO’s “Band of Brothers” as well as ABC’s “Desperate Housewives.”

In other Ed Burns news, the writer/director has apparently changed his plans for a sequel to his groundbreaking 1995 film The Brothers McMullen. Burns now says catching up with the Long Island Irish clan in the 21st century was simply not working out, and he is now thinking of going further back in time.

On Twitter, Burns recently wrote: “I had to throw out the McMullen sequel idea. I just didn’t fall in love with any of the ideas I had about where to find them 20 years later. So instead of a McMullen sequel, I’m writing a prequel. Set in 1986, Jack is a senior in college, Barry a senior in (high school), Pat finishing 8th grade.”

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