Irish Eye on Hollywood

Left to right: Ryan Jones, Daniel Patrick Carbone, Florian Weghorn, and Nathan Vamson at the Berlin premier of Hide Your Smiling Faces.

By Tom Deignan, Contributor
April / May 2014

The St. Patrick’s Day season brings with it two movies featuring Irish actors – one an established veteran and the other a versatile up and comer. First, there’s the always-busy Ciaran Hinds in McCanick. The crime flick features David Morse as the title character, a detective driven to the brink of insanity during his pursuit of an ex-con just released from prison. Belfast-born Hinds plays the harried chief of police trying to keep his detectives on the right side of the law. There is a tinge of real-life sadness in McCanick. The mysterious ex-con is played by Cory Monteith, the young star of the television show Glee who died from a drug overdose last year. Look for McCanick in theaters at the end of March. Hinds, who has appeared in a slew of movies ranging from Munich to several Harry Potter flicks, also recently lent his vocal talents to the March animated release Mr. Peabody and Sherman.

A much smaller release in March is Hide Your Smiling Faces, starring Ryan Jones, Nathan Varnson, and Colm O’Leary. A few years back, O’Leary starred as an Irish immigrant carpenter in The Builder, a film for which he also co-wrote the screenplay. O’Leary also co-wrote the 2012 drama The Comedy. Hide Your Smiling Faces is set in the rural U.S. South and looks at two innocent brothers whose lives pass as a string of happy, lazy days until they are forced to confront some of the more unpleasant aspects of the adult world. O’Leary plays an abusive father. The independent film, directed by Daniel Patrick Carbone, generated lots of buzz on the festival circuit and was picked up by Tribeca Film for a late March release in theaters. Back when Hide Your Smiling Faces was playing at festivals, Variety magazine praised the film’s “elegance and insight,” calling it a “richly lensed mood piece about two brothers plunged into a state of nascent death anxiety.”

In April, check out Dublin-born actor Aidan McArdle in The Borderlands, about Vatican investigators sent to Britain to authenticate reports of paranormal activity. Directed by Elliot Goldner (his debut behind the camera), The Borderlands also features Robin Hill and Gordon Kennedy. After graduating from University College Dublin and London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, McArdle (who happens to be a cousin of Philomena star Steve Coogan) broke into show biz with a string of roles playing historical figures, including Albert Einstein and Igor Stravinsky.

As for big-time Hollywood flicks in April, Irish American Denis Leary is part of an all-star cast in Draft Day. The film is set on the day of the National Football League draft and chronicles the tough choices facing a general manager, played by Kevin Costner. As the film unfolds, it becomes clear just how much is riding on the player he selects that day. Not only does the general manager want to pick a player who will prove to be successful, the future of football in the city of Cleveland may well be riding on the results of this draft. Toss in some high personal stakes and you’ve got a football movie that is not just about football. (Think Jerry Maguire meets Moneyball.) Draft Day was directed by comedy legend Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters, Stripes, Meatballs). Joining Leary and Costner in Draft Day is Irish American Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn as well as Jennifer Garner, Frank Langella and Rosanna Arquette.

Speaking of Denis Leary, the son of Irish immigrants funnyman will also star in a new half-hour sitcom on FX entitled Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll. Leary, who also created the series, will appear as Johnny Rock, a former singer in a highly-praised rock band that broke up just as they were about to hit the big time, because of Johnny’s drug abuse and infidelity. The show picks up with Johnny confronting middle age and hoping to reunite the band.

Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll brings FX and Leary back together, following their long, successful run with the post-9/11 dramedy series Rescue Me, in which Leary also played a middle-aged man whose past substance abuse and infidelity continued to wreak havoc on his current personal life. Early word is Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll will also feature cameos from real-life musical icons.

Also on the TV front, CBS continues to tinker with its forthcoming Boston Irish sitcom The McCarthys, which has very interesting potential, so long as it is not a big, gay, Irish stereotypical disaster. The network recently announced that film and TV veteran (not to mention Emmy winner) Laurie Metcalf will join the cast of The McCarthys. Metcalf will star alongside Rescue Me alum and Bronx-born Irish American Jack McGee and New Kids on the Block alum Joe McIntyre. CBS says the show revolves around “a big, Irish Catholic, sports-crazed Boston clan and the gay son whose greatest sin is not his sexuality but his desire to spend less time with his family.” Metcalf will be playing the family’s mother Marjorie, who the network says has “no filter and loves having her gay son keep her company when her husband and other kids are off coaching basketball games.” Keep your fingers crossed that the Catholic, Irish, and gay stereotypes are kept to a minimum.

One final note from TV Land: Irish actors Ardal O’Hanlon and Orlagh O’Keefe will star in a new Irish TV series for children entitled Driftwood Bay. Peter Mullan, Stephen Fry and Jane Horrocks are also expected to voice the show, which follows a little girl who waits at the shoreline of a beach and lets her imagination run wild as items wash up on the shore. The show will air on RTÉ in Ireland and the Sprout network in the U.S.

Also in April, we’ll see how American audiences react when a bunch of Irishmen make a movie with a distinctly British comic sensibility. Aidan McArdle’s cousin Steve Coogan (whose parents were Irish immigrants to Britain) stars in his first film following his Oscar nomination for writing the screenplay to Philomena. Coogan is taking his famous talk show personality character Alan Partridge to the big screen. The Alan Partridge persona is designed to satirize talk shows and the inflated egos of the hosts. “Narcissistic” and “vulgar” were two words Entertainment Weekly used to describe Partridge, as part of a broader rave about Coogan’s film, which is entitled Alan Partridge:  Alpha Papa. In the movie, workers at Partridge’s radio station are taken hostage by a disgruntled former employee, played by the ever active Irish actor Colm Meaney. Partridge is technically the man responsible for the former employee losing his job, and so now he is the only man Meaney’s character will talk to. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa received raves when it was released in the U.K., and will be available On Demand in the U.S. before it hits theaters in April.

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa was directed by Wexford native Declan Lowney.

Finally, two historical movies with Irish connections that might be worth some space on your Netflix queue if you didn’t get a chance to see them in theaters. First, building off of the surprising success of her cable TV epic The Bible, Roma Downey starred in – and co-produced – Son of God, which tells the life story of Jesus. Downey and her reality-TV mogul husband Mark Burnett edited the Jesus footage from The Bible to create this movie, which is quite different from, say, The Last Temptation of Christ or Passion of the Christ. Meanwhile, Belfast-born actor Michael Smiley plays the main antagonist the alchemist O’Neill in A Field in England, released in February in the U.S.  The black-and-white flick follows a band of deserters during the 17th-century English civil war who may or may not be descending into madness.

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