Irish Eye on Hollywood

From left: John C. Reilly, Ben Whishaw, and Colin Farrell, in a promotional still from The Lobster. Image: filmweb

By Tom Deignan, Contributor
August / September 2014

TV is the place to be for Irish acting talent these days.

This should not be surprising since high-quality small-screen shows tend to get as much respect and buzz from critics and audiences as Hollywood films.

First up, rumors are swirling that Colin Farrell will star in season two of the HBO drama “True Detective.” The highly acclaimed HBO series featured Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey in its first season, though producers all along planned to feature a different cast of talent each season – so long as HBO picked up the show for a new season. Ratings and critical attention were strong, with “True Detective” earning 12 Emmy nominations. No deals were finalized concerning Farrell at press time, but neither creators nor Farrell himself have denied that he was a strong contender to lead the cast (unlike Jessica Chastain, who shot down similar rumors about her participation in the show in the spring). The second season of “True Detective” is expected to feature a trio of lead characters, and be set in California. (Meanwhile, though his box office track record has been less-than-impressive in recent years, Farrell is not giving up on feature films. He is currently in Ireland shooting the sci-fi flick The Lobster, along with Rachel Weisz, Ben Whishaw, and Irish American John C. Reilly.)

Another much-buzzed-about cable drama is Showtime’s “Ray Donovan,” featuring Liev Schreiber as a tough Irish American from South Boston who has relocated to Los Angeles where he, uh, solves problems for a law firm – by any means necessary.

Blackrock-born actor Glenn Keogh will appear in episodes of “Ray Donovan” this year, the second season of which kicked off in July. It’s turning into a big 2014 for Keogh, who also regularly appears in the NBC soap opera “Days of Our Lives.” He also starred along fellow Irish actor Jack Reynor and Mark Wahlberg in the blockbuster Transformers: Age of Extinction and in the fall will be one of the stars of the CBS drama “Scorpion,” which also stars “American Idol” runner-up Katherine McPhee and Robert Patrick. The dramatic series is about a band of troubleshooting geniuses who travel the globe solving problems for the government.

Meanwhile, Jason O’Mara and Gabriel Byrne will be using the small screen to go back in time in two separate historical TV projects.

O’Mara ­– a Dublin-born veteran of TV shows including “Life on Mars,” “Vegas” and “The Good Wife” – will take on possibly the most iconic American role ever created. O’Mara is slated to play general and president George Washington in a new History Channel special entitled “Sons of Liberty.” The mini-series will take a close look at the American Revolution, and the characters who played major roles in the movement for freedom from Britain. Also starring in “Sons of Liberty” are “Breaking Bad” and “Under the Dome” actor Dean Norris (Benjamin Franklin), as well as E.T. and Gangs of New York actor Henry Thomas (John Adams).

Gabriel Byrne and John Kavanagh are among the Irish actors who’ve appeared in the first two seasons of the History Channel series “The Vikings.” Recently, a third 10-episode season was ordered and began shooting this summer. The third season of “Vikings” is expected to air sometime next year.

Since “The Vikings” shoots mainly in Wicklow, the cast is loaded with Irish talent, including Tadhg Murphy and David Pearse, along with Irish American Donal Logue. (Logue, incidentally, was also seen as Lt. Declan Murphy last season in NBC’s “Law and Order: SVU,” and is expected to return when the show starts airing new episodes in September.)

All this, plus Denis Leary is still on track to star next year as an aging rock star in the FX series “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll.” The cast has been rounded out by Irish American comic Bobby Kelly, John Corbett, Elizabeth Gillies, and Elaine Hendrix.

Finally, onto movies!

A film about “Ireland’s smoking, swearing and singing answer to Mother Teresa” has nabbed a big award and is building buzz for its fall release in theaters. Starring Drogheda native Deirdre O’Kane, the film is entitled Noble, and looks at the trials, tribulations and charitable work of Christina Noble. She created a foundation in her name that has gone on to help thousands of children, mainly in impoverished areas of Asia – this after facing a hard life of abuse herself.

“Playing her is the biggest thing I’ve done in my career – by a mile,” O’Kane was quoted as saying recently, after dubbing Noble a Mother Teresa with, uh, colorful habits.

Directed by Irishman Stephen Bradley (who happens to be O’Kane’s husband) Noble also stars Ethiopian-born / Irish-raised Ruth Negga, Pauline McGlynn and Liam Cunningham.

Noble recently won the top jury prize at the 29th Annual Santa Barbara Film Festival, which was attended by such Hollywood royalty as Martin Scorsese, Oprah Winfrey and Leonardo DiCaprio. “I’m absolutely thrilled,” O’Kane said of the victory. “What a great start to our Noble movie journey. I’m particularly happy for Christina as she deserves every accolade she gets.”

When the summer draws to a close in September, filmgoers will be treated to two action flicks with strong Irish ties.

First, Liam Neeson continues to kick butt and take names in the crime thriller A Walk Among the Tombstones.

Based on Lawrence Block’s best-selling book, part of Block’s Detective Matthew Scudder books, Neeson plays a heroic New York City detective who makes a fatal mistake. Now relegated to private investigations, Scudder is drawn into a bloody battle between a ruthless gang of drug dealers and law enforcement.

On the casting of Neeson in the role of one of his most popular characters, novelist Lawrence Block said, “Readers often ask who’d be my ideal Matt Scudder, and I usually change the subject. But now it’s safe to tell you that, ever since I saw him in Michael Collins, Neeson has been up at the top of my personal Scudder wish list…. My book’s in good hands.”

A Walk Among the Tombstones is slated for release September 19, and will also star Dan Stevens, Whitney Able, and Ruth Wilson.

Also slated to open on September 19 is The Drop, written by Irish American novelist Dennis Lehane, the powerhouse writer behind cinematic hits like Gone, Baby Gone and Mystic River. The Drop (which had previously been titled “Animal Rescue”) stars Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace as well as the late James Gandolfini, in a role completed before he passed away last year. Also set among New York’s underworld, The Drop explores the lower-level players in the drug world, focusing on run-down bars where illicit cash is stored. Things get complicated when a bartender takes in a battered pit bull puppy and falls under the spell of a mysterious woman.

Irish-born novelist Emma Donoghue will team up with Irish director Lenny Abrahamson to bring Donoghue’s best-selling psychological thriller Room to the big screen. The film will star up-and-coming actress Brie Larson. The chilling novel is about a mother and child held hostage by a mysterious man. The novel is told from the five year-old child’s point of view, which will present a particular challenge for Donoghue, who is writing the screenplay.

Finally, Northern Irish screen veteran Ciaran Hinds will be featured in the ambitious film The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, slated for release this fall. The project – written and directed by Ned Benson – is actually three separate films entitled Him, Her, and Them, and looks closely at a crumbling marriage from a number of different perspectives. Currently, the film Them – starring Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy – is slated to be released in the U.S. in September, with the two subsequent films to be released shortly afterwards.

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