Irish Eye on Hollywood

Bridget Moynahan / Photo by Kit DeFever

By Tom Deignan, Columnist
October / November 2006

Two of Hollywood’s most promising young Irish actors, Cillian Murphy and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, remain very busy. And coming up the show biz ladder not far behind them is Kerry Condon, a Tipperary-born actress who will be featured in a big-budget HBO mini-series in January.

But the biggest Irish movie news early this fall surely is the opening of The Departed, Martin Scorsese’s Irish-American crime epic. Think of it as “The Gangs of Boston,” starring Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg. Nicholson plays mob boss Frank Costello, while DiCaprio and Damon play good cop and bad cop respectively. The movie is set to open in early October, and will likely get plenty of Oscar support.

Now, on to the Irish youth movement in Hollywood.

First off, Cillian Murphy (Red Eye, Batman Begins, Breakfast on Pluto) can currently be seen in a film that is breaking box office records in Ireland: Irish Civil War epic The Wind that Shakes the Barley, directed by Ken Loach and starring Murphy and fellow Irish actor Liam Cunningham.

Wind follows the lives of two brothers who battle the British forces of the Black and Tans in 1919. The film won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival and took in more money than any other movie the first weekend it opened in Ireland.

IFC Entertainment has acquired all U.S. distribution rights for the movie, which will be released simultaneously in cinemas and through video-on-demand on cable channels next spring.

Up next for the Cork-born Murphy is the apocalyptic Sci-Fi thriller Sunshine, directed by acclaimed Scotsman Danny Boyle. (Boyle and Murphy first teamed up in the 2003 movie 28 Days Later.) Sunshine also stars Aussie beauty Rose Byrne and Irish-American Troy Garity (the son of Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden). Look for Sunshine in October.

Murphy has also signed on to play a film noir buff alongside Lucy Liu in Watching the Detectives, a romantic comedy currently shooting in New York. As for Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, his star is rising following a brilliant performance in Woody Allen’s Match Point. Next up for Rhys-Meyers is a Showtime cable series called The Tudors, which is being hyped as a very modern look at Henry the VIII and his numerous wives. Rhys-Meyers is slated to play Henry in this series, which also stars Sam Neill and Jeremy Northam. The Tudors was filmed in Dublin over the summer.

A costume cable mini-series is also where American audiences will get another look at up-and-coming Irish actress Kerry Condon who has had roles in films such as Angela’s Ashes, Ned Kelly and Unleashed. In January, she will be among the stars of HBO’s Rome, playing the role of Octavia, in the second season of this exploration of sex and politics in the ancient Italian city.

Speaking of television ventures, Irish-American Bridget Moynahan – who has appeared on Sex in the City – is returning to the small screen, while also keeping busy with the big screen.

Moynahan, who has appeared in films such as The Recruit and I, Robot, is set to play Tim Robbins’ wife in a movie called Noise, about a man driven to violence by the constant noise of car alarms in his neighborhood.

Meanwhile, in September, Moynahan returns to TV in the new ABC series Six Degrees. The producers of Lost and Alias are hoping for another hit with this series about strangers whose lives are intertwined.

“It’s a story that will prove just how small the world really is and how someone just five people away could be shaping your future right now,” is how Six Degrees is described by the network.

Jay Hernandez (Friday Night Lights), Erika Christensen (Flightplan) and Hope Davis (About Schmidt) also star in Six Degrees.

It seems like “Lohan Goes Wild,” is a headline we read all the time. But next year, Lindsay Lohan will be going “Wilde,” when she stars alongside Sean Bean and Annette Bening in a new version of Oscar Wilde’s classic A Woman of No Importance.

Meanwhile, as all these young ones establish their names in Hollywood, Irish veterans such as Daniel Day-Lewis, Gabriel Byrne and Neil Jordan are also keeping busy.

Day-Lewis is shooting an adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s novel There Will Be Blood. The film, directed by critical darling Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love), is about an investor who buys a tract of land and strikes oil.

But this is no rosy look at the American Dream. Instead, despite his wealth, Day-Lewis’ character spirals downward.

Some wags on the gossip pages were saying similar things about Day-Lewis himself, claiming the actor was losing a dangerous amount of weight on the Texas set of There Will Be Blood. One tabloid said the quirky actor looked “manorexic.”

Danger of a different kind was faced not long ago by Gabriel Byrne, who was shooting in Australia. “I have done two films [in Australia] that I have hugely enjoyed but I have almost been killed five times,” Byrne was quoted as saying.

Among the hazards he faced shooting Wah Wah and Jindabyne (check for both on DVD, if you didn’t catch their art house runs), Byrne stepped on a venomous snake which was sunning itself, and then was nearly run off a road by a kangaroo.

Byrne also explained why he’s been drawn to smaller movies these days.

“Being a European actor in America is an uphill struggle unless you manage to get into a gigantic hit which wipes out any ethnic difference and you become the thing that they value the most, which is box office bankability,” he said.

“Being a European actor of a particular age without a huge box office hit, I try to work with interesting directors. It doesn’t matter to me whether it is Croatia or Iceland, if I think the director is trying to say something important, I will do it.”

Neil Jordan, meanwhile, is currently directing The Brave One, starring Jodie Foster and Terrence Howard. The film, shooting in New York, is about a woman who is assaulted and then seeks revenge on those who attacked her. Think of it as Death Wish but with a feminist twist. Jordan, of course, knows a thing or two about twists, having directed such classics as The Crying Game.

Speaking of twists, check this one out: Brian F. O’Byrne, the Tony-winning Irish stage actor making a name for himself in films, will soon be seen in a thriller called Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, with an all-star cast which includes Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke. This film will be directed by the legendary Sidney Lumet.

This is not to be confused with another film with the same exact title also in production, starring James Gandolfini and based on a novel by New York Irish writer Mike Ledwidge (who made a big splash with his gritty debut novel The Narrowback in the late 1990s).

Of course, the title for both movies comes from the famous Irish toast: “May you be in heaven 15 minutes before the devil knows you’re dead.”

O’Byrne will also be seen in the December thriller The Bug, starring Ashley Judd and Harry Connick Jr.

An American who played an unmistakably Irish role to great acclaim, has died. A star of stage and screen, Barnard Hughes was best known for his Tony-winning role in Hugh Leonard’s great Irish play Da. He later starred in the film version alongside Martin Sheen. See obituary on page 29.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

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