Irish Eye on Hollywood

Larry Mullen and Juliette Binoche in 1,000 Times Goodnight.

By Tom Deignan, Contributor
October / November 2014

1. Dublin native Samantha Power is now a high-ranking member of the Obama administration, currently serving as Ambassador to the United Nations, a demanding position at a time of great instability across the globe. In October, Power will be prominently featured in a documentary entitled Watchers of the Sky, which won numerous awards at the recent Sundance Film Festival and is well-timed given the humanitarian issues the film raises. Watchers of the Sky tells the story of Raphael Lemkin, himself an immigrant to the U.S., from Poland. Lemkin is credited as the first person to use the word “genocide” and used his legal talents to become an activist against what he termed “the destruction of a nation or an ethnic group.” Lemkin went on to play a key role in the Nuremburg trials (which exposed Nazi atrocities) and helped create the International Criminal Court. Prior to her government work, Samantha Power herself was an activist and scholar whose books, such as the Pulitzer Prize winning A Problem from Hell, explored genocide, and how America and the world should respond. Given recent terrible events in Syria and elsewhere, Watchers of the Sky is very much a timely film.

2. Another dark movie about international violence (also featuring Irish talent) is 1,000 Times Good Night. Also hitting theaters in October, 1,000 Times Good Night features U2 drummer Larry Mullen in his latest acting role, as well as Irish actress Mary Doyle Kennedy (best known from the TV shows The Tudors and Orphan Black). Filmed in Ireland, 1,000 Times Good Night stars Juliette Binoche as an ambitious war photographer forced to choose between her dangerous work and her family

3. In keeping with this dark October for Irish acting talent, Cavan-born Diarmaid Murtagh as well as Northern-Irish-raised Will Houston are among the stars of Dracula Untold, the latest retelling of the vampire legend created by Irish author Bram Stoker. Starring Welsh actor Luke Evans, Dracula Untold focuses on the origin story of the infamous vampire, focusing on the real-life 15th Century Romanian who became known as “Vlad the Impaler,” and is widely believed to have been the inspiration for Stoker.

4. On a decidedly lighter note in October, Colm Meaney stars in the American-Idol style crowd pleaser One Chance, and Bill Murray teams up with Irish star Chris O’Dowd and Irish American Melissa McCarthy for the October comedy St. Vincent. St. Vincent features McCarthy as a stressed-out Mom and Murray as perhaps the world’s least qualified baby sitter. St. Vincent also stars Naomi Watts and Terrence Howard.

5. Finally, October will see the long-awaited release of Gone Girl, based on Irish American writer Gillian Flynn’s best selling novel, as well as a special 75th Anniversary theatrical release of Gone With the Wind, based on Margaret Mitchell’s blockbuster book, which introduced the world to Irish American heroine Scarlett O’Hara.

6. Wicklow-reared actor and Transformers star Jack Reynor has been added to the star-studded cast being assembled for a new film version of the Rudyard Kipling classic Jungle Book. Entitled Jungle Book: Origins (and in 3-D, of course), Reynor joins Benedict Cumberbatch, Christian Bale and Cate Blanchett, among others. The film will be directed by Planet of the Apes star Andy Serkis and will combine animation sequences with live action scenes. Jungle Book is about a boy named Mowgli living in the wilds of India, who is befriended by most (but not all) of the animals in the jungle. Threats come not only from a particularly fearsome tiger named Shere Khan, but also from Mowgli’s fellow humans. Look for the big budget Jungle Book: Origins to hit theaters in the Fall of 2016.

Jack Reynor is certainly keeping busy, since he is also slated to appear in a new version of Macbeth (along with fellow Irish actor Michael Fassbender) as well as the film based on Irish writer Sebastian Barry’s novel Secret Scripture.

7. Reynor also stars, alongside Toni Collette, in the much-acclaimed film from Kerry director Gerard Barrett. Entitled Glassland, this bleak film explores a Dublin family wracked by addiction. Glassland shared top film honors at this summer’s Galway Film Fleadh along with another drama, this one about schizophrenia, entitled Patrick’s Day. Glassland presented star Toni Collette with a challenge that has sunk many other actors: the Dublin accent.

“I loved the script but I was very nervous about doing the accent,” she told Britain’s Express newspaper. “I arrived on the set and sat down with a dialect coach and turned myself into a knot. I actually called my husband and cried and said, ‘I cannot do this, I think they are going to have to re-cast’. It freaked me out so much but I relaxed and just did it.” Keep an eye out for the U.S. release of Glassland and Patrick’s Day.

8. On to TV news, Northern Irish actress Michelle Fairley (“Game of Thrones”) will star in the new season of “Resurrection” on ABC television. The fantasy show revolves (as the title suggests) around a dead person who comes back to life, and the complications that ensue and the secrets that are subsequently revealed. Fairley, who also starred in the Fox series “24: Live Another Day,” will portray Margaret Langston, who (according to Variety magazine) “who has been dead for over three decades.” She is “the formidable matriarch of the Langston clan and mother of Henry and Fred (Kurtwood Smith, Matt Craven). Her return and knowledge of the family’s dark past will have consequences for the entire family.”

Fairley, who also appeared in Philomena, will also star alongside fellow Irish actor Cillian Murphy in the March 2015 release In the Heart of the Sea, directed by Ron Howard.

9. Irish director Jim Sheridan (In the Name of the Father) is also looking to conquer TV. Sheridan is reportedly working on adapting his film In America for long-form television.

Sheridan was recently quoted in the Irish Independent as saying: “It could be HBO, but I don’t want to say for definite before we sign the deal. I want to tell the story of illegal aliens; the people on the edges of American society. It will focus on the Irish community in the States.” In America, starring Paddy Considine and Samantha Morton, from 2002, explored the ups and downs of an undocumented Irish family in New York City.

Sheridan will also be honored at the fourth annual Irish Film New York (IFNY) event in New York, which will run from October 3-5.

10. Irish-born Director John Moore has signed on to direct another action flick, this one entitled The Hunters. Moore, a Dundalk native, has previously directed A Good Day to Die Hard, Behind Enemy Lines and Max Payne. The Hunters is based on Chris Kuzneski’s bestselling novel about an elite team of treasure seekers. Moore recently said The Hunters reminded him of “the kind of great action movies I grew up on like ‘Lethal Weapon’ – great characters and smart dialogue.”

11. After appearing in the Irish comedy Life’s a Breeze (released in the U.S. in September), legendary actress Fionnula Flanagan will lend her vocal talents to an animated film entitled Song of the Sea. Brendan Gleeson and Patt Short (he also appeared in Life’s a Breeze) also star in the film, directed by Kilkenny artist Tomm Moore. Song of the Sea follows Ben and Saoirse who live in a lighthouse with their grieving, widowed father, and the magic shell they find that opens up a whole new world for them. Look for Song of the Sea in December.

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