Irish Eye on Hollywood

Kevin Ryan and Tom Weston-Jones in Copper.

By Tom Deignan, Contributor
June / July 2011

1. The girl with the dragon tattoo is going to become the girl with the Irish accent. Rooney Mara – star of the smash hit horror flick based on Stieg Larsson’s trilogy of novels – is slated to star in a big-screen adaptation of Colm Toibin’s best-selling novel Brooklyn.  The screenplay will be written by acclaimed British novelist Nick Hornby, whose novels include High Fidelity and About a Boy. Mara will play Ellis Lacey, who leaves her rural Irish village for Brooklyn, where she experiences a new kind of freedom and falls in love with an Italian American. After pleasurable trips to Coney Island and Ebbets Field, Ellis is forced to choose between her family – and her old life – in Ireland, and her new life in the States.

Though she is Irish American, Mara’s Hibernian roots could not be stronger. She is a product of the Mara and Rooney clans, who have made the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers powerhouses in the National Football League. Mara is slated to begin shooting Brooklyn in 2013 (no director is on board just yet). The film will be shot in Ireland and in the borough of New York which lends the film its title.

2. Another upcoming Nick Hornby project also has an Irish connection. Pierce Brosnan is slated to star in a new film based on Hornby’s recent novel A Long Way Down. The film will have one of the more depressing premises of all time – it begins with four characters who meet on New Year’s Eve when they are all about to commit suicide. Toni Collette and Emile Hirsch will also star.

3. Michael Fassbender has done his time in the trenches of independent film, with gritty performances in Shame, as well as the dark Northern Ireland film Hunger, in which Fassbender played hunger striker Bobby Sands. Now, Fassbender – who was raised in his mother’s native Kerry – will be appearing in a big time popcorn film, out on June 8.  Fassbender joins Charlize Theron and Noomi Rapace in the Ridley Scott thriller Prometheus, a prequel to Scott’s 1979 Aliens, which starred Sigourney Weaver. The film has earned solid buzz because of its outer space setting and the hints of mystery and intrigue provided by writer Damon Lindelof, who worked on TV’s intricate Lost.

But you can’t accuse Fassbender of abandoning small-scale cinema – or for that matter, his Irish roots. Fassbender is also working with Irish writer Ronan Bennett (Public Enemies) to produce a film about the legendary Celtic warrior Cúchulainn. Early reports suggest the film will be set in Northern Ireland and will tell the story of the clash between tribes, led by King Conchobar Mac Nessa and Queen Mebh. Fassbender is slated to star as Cúchulainn himself. Bennett and Fassbender have a production company fittingly named Finn McCool Films.

4. Anjelica Huston has long been the most famous member of the third generation of the Huston show biz clan. First there was Walter Huston, then his son John, the famous director who spent long stretches of time in Ireland and wrapped up his career with a dazzling version of James Joyce’s The Dead, starring none other than his own daughter, Anjelica.

She remains busy these days, starring in the NBC TV show Smash. Her half-brother Danny Huston is also making quite a name for himself. Currently, Danny can be seen in the much-hyped Starz network TV series Magic City, which has been earning comparisons to Mad Men for its Eisenhower-era setting and its intense drama. Magic City is about the Miami crime scene in the late 1950s. Huston plays a ruthless mobster Ben Diamond, known as “The Butcher.”

Danny Huston’s next movie, Two Jacks, is also a family affair. Huston plays Jack, a legendary filmmaker who returns to Hollywood after a long absence looking to begin an ambitious new project. Instead, he drinks, seduces a beautiful woman (Sienna Miller), and battles with film executives. Twenty years later, the filmmaker’s son (Danny’s nephew, Jack Huston) arrives in Hollywood to make his own directorial debut, though it becomes clear he may not have inherited his father’s talent.

Want more family connections? Also starring in Two Jacks is Jamie Harris, brother of Mad Men actor Jared Harris. Jamie  has appeared in films ranging from In the Name of the Father to 2011’s big hit Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Both Jared and Jamie are the sons of hell-raising Limerick-born legend Richard Harris. Down the road, look for Danny Huston in Wrath of the Titans (also featuring Liam Neeson) and Stolen (with Nicolas Cage). Next year, Huston will appear in The Congress with Paul Giamatti and Mad Man Jon Hamm.

5. Jared Harris also recently signed on to play the lead role in the film The Quiet Ones, about an odd yet charismatic professor who persuades his top students to take part in a dangerous experiment. Before that, Harris will appear with Daniel Day-Lewis in Steven Spielberg’s highly anticipated Abraham Lincoln biopic. The Lincoln flick is due out this December. (And is not to be confused with the summer flick Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.)

Day-Lewis is also slated to star in the 2013 film Silence, directed by Martin Scorsese. The reunited dynamic duo (who made magic with Gangs of New York in 2002) will team up with Benicio del Toro for the film, which tells the story of two Jesuit priests in 17th-century Japan who attempt to convert Japanese citizens.

6. More information is coming out about the highly anticipated BBC America show Copper, about the life of Irish immigrant police officers in the notorious 19th century neighborhood Five Points, in New York City.  The show stars Tom Weston-Jones as Irish cop Kevin Corcoran, as well Irish actor Kevin Ryan. Copper premieres on BBC America August 19.

“It’s about the immigrant experience at that time in New York. What was it like? How did people interact in this world?” The show’s executive producer, Christina Wayne, recently told The Hollywood Reporter “We wanted it to feel like the melting pot it was back then. It’s all about being authentic. We’ve stressed being gritty and real. We want viewers to feel like they really lived there then.  There were hundreds of people living on top of each other. Running water was a luxury. The world was a dirty, stinky place.”

British actor Weston-Jones added that he is in the process of learning a new accent. “It’s American with a bend of Irish,” he said. “Whenever they swear, whenever they’re drunk, that’s when the Irish comes out.”

7. There were a number of Irish films at the star-studded Tribeca Film Festival in New York.

Earning serious buzz was Irish writer and director Macdara Vallely’s debut feature film Babygirl, which is set in the Bronx, where there has traditionally been a heavy Irish presence. This film, however, explores a Puerto Rican girl coming to terms with her mother’s boyfriend, who may or may not be hitting on her.

Vallelly recently told the Irish Voice newspaper that the film idea hit him one day on the subway.

“It was one of those things where I was on the number two train one day and I saw this vignette of a mother and daughter on the train. The mother was in her thirties, the daughter was in her teens and I saw this 20-year-old guy eyeing them up. First I could see him looking at the daughter, but she wasn’t having any of it, then he turned his attentions to the mother. It was one of those things that you see in New York every day.”

Meanwhile, Terry George (who won an Oscar for his short film The Shore, starring Ciaran Hinds and Kerry Condon), unveiled a comedy entitled Whole Lotta Sole at Tribeca. The film stars fellow Irishmen Colm Meaney and Brendan Fraser. Set in Belfast, Whole Lotta Sole centers around Jimbo Regan (Belfast actor Martin McCann) who owes a local loan shark $5,000. Jimbo’s only hope is to rob a fish market – which turns out to have its own ties to the loan shark.

Finally, at Tribeca there was Death of a Superhero, featuring Scottish actor Andy Serkis (Gollum from the Lord of the Rings). The film explores the life of a young Irish teenager facing a life-threatening illness.

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