Irish Eye on Hollywood

Ruth Negga in a scene with Cillian Murphy in Breakfast on Pluto

By Tom Deignan, Contributor
April / May 2006

With the Oscars over and Hollywood royalty officially crowned once again, perhaps now is a good time to look at the Irish movie landscape and see what stars are up-and-coming.

County Louth actress Evanna Lynch recently got the career break of a lifetime and she’s just 14 years old. Lynch beat out thousands of girls across Ireland and the United Kingdom to land a role in the next Harry Potter film. Lynch will play Luna Lovegood in Harry Potier and The Order of the Phoenix, which began filming in February and hits big screens next year.

Meanwhile, Gillian Murphy’s Irish costar in Breakfast at Pluto was recently honored as an actress to watch in the future. Ruth Negga was named the 2006 Irish Shooting Star at the International Berlin Film Festival earlier this year. Negga, a graduate from the Samuel Beckett Centre at Trinity College Dublin, has performed at the Abbey Theatre and the Peacock. On screen she has been seen in Irish films such as Isolation (directed by Billy O’Brien) and Capital Letters (directed by Ciaran O’Connor). Now that she’s had a role in the high-profile Breakfast at Pluto and nabbed the Rising Star award, keep an eye out for Negga down the road.

Finally, an Irish-American actress who is on the verge of hitting the big time is Kate Mara. Kate is a granddaughter of the late, beloved Irish-American New York Giants football owner Wellington Mara. Like Negga, Mara appeared in a critically acclaimed movie recently: Brokeback Mountain. She has appeared in the TV show Nip/Tuck . Later this year, Mara has a role opposite a bunch of established Hollywood stars in the popcorn summer film The Return of Zoom. Zoom features Chevy Chase and Courtney Cox-Arquette and stars Tim Allen as a superhero called back into action to save the planet. The Return of Zoom is scheduled for an August release.

Matt Dillon is developing a movie about New York Irish crime figure Ed Maloney. Maloney began his life as a petty thief but moved up the crime ladder by successfully straddling the tense worlds of the Irish-American and Italian-American mafias. Maloney was perhaps best known for the kidnapping ring he ran. Maloney and associates would kidnap organized crime figures and demand a large amount of money for ransom. This was a very dangerous but very lucrative way to earn a living. As Matt Dillon told Variety recently: “I’m co-writing a script about an – unkillable gangster I once knew named Crazy Eddie Maloney. And I’m working on another script with Brian Hamill about Moondog, the famous New York street musician admired by Stravinsky.” Brian Hamill is the brother of New York Irish writers Denis and Pete Hamill.

Colin Farrell will team up with an upand-coming Irish-American director for his next project, Pride and Glory, a movie about a family of New York City cops torn apart by corruption. The movie, which is shooting right now in New York, will be directed by Long Island native Gavin O’Connor, whose father was a New York City police officer in the 1960s. “My father was a New York City detective and I grew up in that world,” O’Connor said recently. “Pride and Glory is a celebration of honest cops, which is what my father was all about. Though it is fictional, it is an homage to my father.”

On the DVD front, a new edition of David Lean’s classic Ryan ‘s Daughter has been released. The film is set during World War I on the Irish peninsula of Dingle. The film tells the story of a widower named Shaughnessy, played by Robert Mitchum. He falls in love with the much younger Rosy, played by Sarah Miles. The marriage is an unhappy one for Rosy, who falls into the arms of an English officer and has a scandalous affair. Things only grow worse for Rosy when she is suspected of having sold out local Irish Republicans to the British authorities. Critical reception of Ryan’s Daughter was mixed, but the film has many admirers. Particularly outstanding is the film’s lush cinematography, as well as the forceful sweep of its emotions.

While on the hunt for DVDs. you might also want to check out an adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan entitled A Good Woman starring Scarlett Johansson and Helen Hunt. This is another tale of a troubled marriage, but in this case, it is the upper-class mix of gossip and intrigue that leads the marriage to crumble.

At the Sundance Film Festival this year, one of the biggest surprises was a tale of growing up in melting pot Queens, New York. The film, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints. earned such praise that it is expected to land a distribution deal in the coming months. The film stars Shia LaBeouf as an Irish-Nicaraguan boy growing up and facing tough choices in his life. The film is based on the memoirs of Dito Montiel, who also directed the film. The actor Robert Downey Jr. was such a big fan of Montiel’s memoirs that he talked the writer-turned-filmmaker into getting behind the camera. Montiel’s Nicaraguan dad is played by Chazz Palmintieri. and Dianne Wiest plays the Irish mother.

Meanwhile, on the TV front, there are two intriguing Irish shows in production. First up, Minnie Driver is set to appear in an FX series about Irish Travelers called Lowlife. The series will also star British comic Eddie Izzard. The show could bring some controversy. Travelers, or gypsies, have often loudly complained about being depicted poorly in both the news media and pop culture. But FX officials have said Lowlife will present a complex portrayal of people struggling to live their lives. Another source of controversy, of course, could be related to the accents of the actors. Travelers often have thick accents. Brad Pitt pulled the accent off brilliantly in the movie Snatch a few years back. Let’s see how Driver and Izzard match up.

Meanwhile, a Hell’s Kitchen Irish family will be the focus of The Black Donnellys. NEC’s highly anticipated new crime drama. Emmy Award winner Paul Haggis is the creative force behind The Black Donnellys. The series will be shot in New York and debut in the fall. Haggis received an Oscar nomination for his screenplay of the Oscar winning film Million Dollar Baby (based on F.X. Toole’s short story). This year he was Oscar nominated as best director for Crash. The Black Donnellys is about four young Irish brothers’ involvement in organized crime in the historically Irish Manhattan neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen. The cast includes Kirk Acevedo (Band of Brotherx, Law &Order: Trial by Jury), Tom Guiry (Mystic River, Black Hawk Down), Billy Lush (Huff, Law &Order: Criminal Intent) and Keith Nobbs (NEC’s Law &Order. Phone Booth).

Finally, the fourth Jameson Dublin International Film Festival in February screened two highly anticipated new Irish films. First was Paul Mercier’s debut film Studs, starring Brendan Gleeson. Another new Irish film. Johnny Was, directed by Mark Hammond. has been dubbed “a slick IRA reform tale” starring Laurence Kinlan, Patrick Bergin and Vinnie Jones. Keep an eye out for those films to cross the Atlantic and make it to U.S. art houses. ♦

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