Irish Eye On Hollywood: August / September 2019

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

By Tom Deignan, Columnist
August / September 2019

KEEPING UP WITH THE GLEESONS

It’s the Gleeson family’s world. The rest of us just live in it.

This autumn will be a special time for the Irish acting clan, made up of patriarch Brendan Gleeson and sons Brian and Domhnall. Domhnall was featured in the summer Irish-American gangster flick The Kitchen, about the wives of West Side Manhattan hoods taking over various criminal enterprises when their husbands are sent off to prison. Next up for Domhnall is a little film entitled Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. In some circles, folks are a tad nervous about the continuing success of the Star Wars franchise. You can find more than one website that actually refers to the series’ last film, Solo: A Star Wars Story, as a “bomb.” This, about a movie that made something like $400 million worldwide.

<em>Domhnall Gleeson.</em>

Domhnall Gleeson.

One suspects the producers of Brendan Gleeson’s next movie, Frankie, would be thrilled with a mere fraction of that box office take. Set to be released in late October, Frankie revolves around several generations of a family spread across Europe. The family matriarch (Isabelle Huppert) is aging and may not have long to live. So, the family gathers in Portugal for an eventful reunion. Frankie stars Greg Kinnear and Marisa Tomei alongside Gleeson.

Cillian Muprhy at the Peaky Blinders premiere in Birmingham.

Cillian Muprhy at the Peaky Blinders premiere in Birmingham.

Finally, longtime fans of the British crime series Peaky Blinders were thrilled this summer when the show’s fifth season debuted in the U.K. Featuring a wide range of Irish acting talent, from star Cillian Murphy to supporting players Aiden Gillen and Ned Dennehy, the latest series – sure to make its way to the U.S. in late 2019 or early 2020 – also features Brian Gleeson. Early word is there may be not one, but two more seasons of Peaky Blinders to come.

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<em>Golden Globe-winning actress Saoirse Ronan.</em>

Golden Globe-winning actress Saoirse Ronan.

SAOIRSE, SAOIRSE, SAOIRSE

This Christmas also brings with it another literary / historical epic for Saoirse Ronan, following Mary Queen of Scots, On Chesil Beach (based on Ian McEwan’s novel), and The Seagull, based on the famous Chekhov play. This December, Ronan finds herself in the U.S. Civil War-era classic Little Women, alongside Meryl Streep and Emma Watson.

Louisa May Alcott's Little Women.

Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.

Directed by Greta Gerwig (with whom Ronan worked on the critically acclaimed Lady Bird), the film is based on Louisa May Alcott’s famous book about the trials and tribulations of the spunky March family. In 2020, look for Ronan in another historical flick, this time a love story, alongside Kate Winslet, and then in another starstudded offbeat offering (featuring Bill Murray, Benicio de Toro, Tilda Swinton and, yes, Kate Winslet, among others) from Wes Anderson, The French Dispatch.

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<em>Elton John Live LP.</em>

Elton John Live LP.

ROCK ‘N’ ROLL THE TAPE

Bohemian Rhapsody was a gigantic hit. Rocketman, a somewhat more modest one, but a hit nonetheless. So you know Hollywood is going to ride this rockstar biopic wave for as long as possible. Up next? The life and times of gender-bending Culture Club singer Boy George, born George Alan O’Dowd.

<em>Boy George.</em>

Boy George.

“MGM is developing a feature about the singer, tracking his humble beginnings in an Irish working-class family through his rise to the top of the international charts in the 1980s with the group Culture Club,” The Hollywood Reporter noted recently. Aspects of Boy George’s life were already explored in the big-time Broadway musical Taboo. But once Bohemian Rhapsody – about Queen’s lead singer, Freddie Mercury – made nearly a billion dollars (yes, with a “B”) worldwide, Hollywood began scouring any and all scripts related to musical stars. The Elton John biopic Rocketman didn’t do quite as well, but still earned nearly a quarter of a billion dollars on a $40 million budget. The Boy George life story, which is expected to start shooting soon, is not likely to be the last rock’n’roll picture show.

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<em>Irish actor Ely Solan stars in </em>Detainment<em> (2018).</em>

Irish actor Ely Solan stars in Detainment (2018).

YOUNG ACTORS GET RECOGNIZED

Two young Irish actors with bright show biz futures have recently been honored for their fledgling careers.

First, Dubliner Jordanne Jones – who has appeared in movies like I Used to Live Here and Metal Heart, as well as the Irish historical TV series Rebellion – has been named a Screen International “Star of Tomorrow,” joining the ranks of previous winners such as Emily Blunt, Dominic Cooper, James McAvoy, Carey Mulligan, and John Boyega. Previous Irish winners include Jessie Buckley, Ruth Negga and Seana Kerslake. The daughter of Irish senator Lynn Ruane, the politically-outspoken Jones was recently profiled by the Irish Independent under the headline: “Lights, Camera, Activism: Jordanne Jones is the 18-year-old actress using her voice for good.”

Meanwhile, Galway-born teenager Ely Solan has been recognized for his work in the Oscar-nominated short film Detainment. Solan recently received a Young Artist award at a ceremony in Hollywood, joining the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Julia Roberts, Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, and a host of other Hollywood royalty who won the award.

“This is crazy!” Solan said as he accepted the award. He thanked his mother Olyvia for bringing him to Los Angeles from Ireland. “I love acting so much and it is so nice to get recognition for something I put my heart and soul into.”

Following Detainment, Solan appeared as a young Charles Dickens in The Man Who Invented Christmas. Next up is the new season of the RTÉ 2 series Rory, as well as the feature film Four Kids and It with Michael Caine and Russell Brand.

“To even think of the idea of being able to make a living out of something that I enjoy so much is absolutely crazy,” Solan has said.

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Normal People <em>by Sally Rooney.</em>

Normal People by Sally Rooney.

NORMAL PEOPLE TO BE TURNED INTO SERIES

Imagine the success Irish author Sally Rooney will have after she turns 30! The young Castlebarborn author has published two novels now, met with massive critical acclaim. As Vanity Fair noted recently, Rooney has been, “heralded by everyone from Sarah Jessica Parker to Zadie Smith,” and “immediately became Someone You Need to Know About.” The New Yorker referred to her as the “first great millennial novelist,” and now the BBC and Hulu are teaming up to turn her acclaimed bestselling novel Normal People into a 12- episode series.

Normal People follows the tender but complicated relationship of Marianne and Connell (Daisy Edgar- Jones and Paul Mescal) from the end of their school days in a small-town in the west of Ireland to their undergraduate years at Trinity College,” Deadline.com reported.

Irish talent – including Oscar nominated director Lenny Abrahamson and writer Mark O’Rowe – are among those who will be working on Normal People.

“As a long-time admirer of Lenny Abrahamson’s work, it’s a special privilege for me to be working alongside him on the adaptation of Normal People,” Rooney was quoted as saying in The Guardian newspaper. “I couldn’t be happier with the cast and team we’ve put together, and I’m very excited to watch them bringing new life to the story on screen.”

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<em>Filmmaker Donal Foreman.</em>

Filmmaker Donal Foreman.

FOREMAN MAKES DOCUMENTARY ABOUT HIS FATHER ARTHUR MACCAIG

The Image you Missed is a curious but thoroughly Irish documentary to keep an eye out for. Directed by Donal Foreman, it explores the life and legacy of Arthur MacCaig, a New Jersey-born Irish American who moved to France, and also made gripping documentary films about the nationalist cause in Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles. Foreman – raised by a mother from Dublin – also happens to be MacCaig’s son.

Calling the film “intriguing,” New York Times critic Ben Kenigsberg added: “The film is constructed as a dialogue that’s at once son-to-father (MacCaig was mostly absent from Foreman’s upbringing) and filmmaker-to-filmmaker. Foreman compares his dad’s way of making documentaries to his own: ‘You had been able to reach conclusions; my narratives were partial, incomplete, at risk of falling apart at any moment.’” ♦

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