Irish Eye on Hollywood

Cillian Murphy and Padraic Delaney in a scene from The Wind that Shakes the Barley

By Tom Deignan, Contributor
April / May 2007

March marks the release of two big Cillian Murphy films. First there is the American release of the Irish Civil War drama The Wind that Shakes the Barley, which won major praise at the recent Sundance Film Festival.  Wind is easily one of the most highly anticipated Irish movies to come out in years.

March 16 is also the release date for Murphy’s Sunshine, a sci-fi thriller which also stars Troy Garrity, son of Irish-American activist-politician Tom Hayden (and Jane Fonda).

Recently, the Cork-born Murphy gave a revealing interview to Premiere magazine, in which he talked about all things Irish.

He noted, for example, that Wind’s acclaimed director Ken Loach does not reveal his scripts to his actors.  So, Murphy was asked if it was risky to take this role, given that it might have delved into risky political territory.

“I tend to agree with Ken’s politics anyway. So I knew that I would be in the right hands,” said Murphy, who re-teamed with 28 Days Later director Danny Boyle to make Sunshine.

Murphy continued: “I didn’t even know [Wind] was going to be about the civil war. I just thought it was going to be the War of Independence. And then as we went along, it became clear that it was going to be about the split.”

Asked if he believed IRA violence was necessary, Murphy said: “I think that when a nation or a country is repressed, they will rise up. Someone said, ‘Sovereignty can’t be given. It has to be taken.’ I believe in that. But it was a lot simpler back then. There’s a very fine line now between a freedom fighter and a terrorist, and it’s very tricky. They [The Troubles] are part of our history. That conflict will always feed us, the Irish people, creatively, and there’s nothing you can do about that.

“You have this nation of poets, in a way, and then this centuries-old struggle. So it’s good combination for art, I guess, but not for the people that had to live through it.”

Murphy even revealed that a 17-year-old cousin of his was killed as part of the Irish conflict

“The two main political parties in Ireland trace their roots back to this split. And it’s never really been dealt with, that specific time. I mean, Michael Collins is the closest, but that was more about the myth of the man, where this is just about real people.”

Speaking of Sundance, another big Irish winner at Robert Redford’s filmfest was the small Irish film Once, starring The Frames singer Glen Hansard and Czech singer Marketa Irglova. Once, a musical love story set in Dublin, won the World Cinema Audience Award for drama.

After Sundance, Fox Searchlight acquired North American rights to Once, which director/writer John Carney (Bachelors Walk, On the Edge), shot in Dublin for about $100,000.

As for more seasoned Irish directors, Paddy Breathnach (best known for Man About Dog and I Went Down) will be releasing a new movie called Shrooms, about a group of American teens who trek to Ireland on a quest for magic mushrooms.

Pierce Brosnan, of course, has left James Bond far behind.  But that doesn’t mean he’s done playing dashing, debonair globetrotters. Brosnan recently confirmed that he will be making a sequel to his 1999 smash hit The Thomas Crown Affair.

Thomas Crown 2, for all intents and purposes, will happen. “Come hell or high water, we’re going to do it,” Brosnan recently said.

Now, this will be a little complicated. Brosnan’s first Thomas Crown (co-starring Rene Russo) was based on a 1968 Steve McQueen-Faye Dunaway movie.  The Thomas Crown follow-up will reportedly be based on the 1964 Peter Ustinov movie Topaki, which was about the theft of a precious knife from a Turkish museum.

So the new Thomas Crown movie – for now known as The Topaki Affair – is a sequel to a remake based on another movie.

“(Topaki) is much loved by people who love that genre of film, and it has a sentimental resonance to it. So we just took Thomas Crown off the shelf, kind of dusted it off, and took Topaki, which is much loved, and is also in the MGM library, so it didn’t cost us anything,” Brosnan was quoted as saying.

Until the Thomas Crown sequel begins shooting, Brosnan can be seen in the upcoming Butterfly on a Wheel, which he produced as well as stars in.

The thriller is about a husband and wife whose lives are shattered by a ruthless kidnapper, played by Brosnan, who apparently remains attracted to dark material. Look for Brosnan’s recent critically acclaimed dramatic turn in Seraphim Falls opposite fellow Irish thesp Liam Neeson when it becomes available on DVD.

The always versatile Belfast actor Ciaran Hinds made another movie earlier this year called Amazing Grace, which was about William Wilberforce’s efforts to end slavery and the slave trade in the British empire.

Next year, Hinds will expand into big time voice over work, lending his talents to the Tale of Despereaux, about a pack of mice who live in a castle and dream big. Kevin Kline, William H. Macy and Sigourney Weaver will also voice Tale of Despereaux.

New details about the much-anticipated Jodie Foster/Neil Jordan movie The Brave One are emerging. Due out in September, The Brave One is about a New York radio host who is attacked in Central Park, and must recover physically and emotionally.

“It started out as basically being the conventional, vigilante genre movie,” Foster was recently quoted as saying.  “But it became more of an existential movie: What’s the process of becoming another person that you wouldn’t even recognize?”

Jordan (The Crying Game, Michael Collins) has said: “It’s also a very American story.  It’s about violence.  It’s kind of an organized anarchy in a way, this country.”

Variety has reported that budding starlet Dakota Fanning will star alongside her sister Elle in Hurricane Mary. According to Variety, the film “tells the true story of an Irish-American mother, played by Patricia Clarkson, who fought a long battle for the rights of her handicapped yet gifted daughters to have a public school education.”

Rory Kennedy, meanwhile, has made another powerful documentary, Ghosts of Abu Ghraib. It’s an inside look at the abuses that occurred at the infamous Iraqi prison in 2003. Ghosts aired on HBO in February, but will air again and later be available on DVD.

This follows previous Kennedy studies of Appalachian poverty (American Hollow) and women struggling with addiction (Women of Substance). Rory is one of Robert F. Kennedy’s daughters.

Acclaimed director David Fincher is getting lots of attention for his current movie Zodiac.  His next project, starring Brad Pitt, is based on a story by great Irish-American author F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is about a 50-year-old man (played by Pitt) who begins to age backwards, which is to say, grows younger. Complications ensue when he falls in love with a character played by Cate Blanchett. Benjamin Button is not due out until next year.

On to TV, while NBC’s The Black Donnellys has been getting all of the Irish-American attention on TV, Eddie Cahill and the numerous CSI shows continue to roll along. Cahill is one of the stars of CSI: NY, and recently told USA Weekend about his Irish-American family, which prepared him well for his TV career.

“I always wanted to be a cop,” said Cahill. “A lot of guys I looked up to were cops, including my grandfather. It’s still something I think about.”

What’s one thing that would improve CSI: NY? Ironically, the show is not shot in Cahill’s native city. “The only thing that would be somewhat better is if we shot in New York,” said the 29 year old Cahill.

Finally, Donal Louge “son of Irish immigrants” is currently staring in the ABC show Knights of Prosperity, and has numerous films coming out in the coming year. But Logue may still best be known for the sitcom Grounded for Life. All four seasons of the show “featuring Logue and Megyn Price as Irish Catholic New Yorkers raising three kids” are now available on DVD. ♦

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