PHOTOS BY ROLLING NEWS . IE
By Michael Gray
The fanfare for Irish films and filmmakers at the recent Sundance Film Festival amplifies their success at the Golden Globes in December, and gives cause for further dreaming when the envelopes are opened at the Academy Awards ceremony later this month. Saoirse Ronan, luminescent in John Crowley’s “Brooklyn,” is in contention against Brie Larson, star of Lenny Abrahamson’s “Room,” in the Best Actress category, both performing in features by Irish directors, adapted from Booker Prize-listed novels by Irish authors.
The two films are nominated in the Best Film and Best Adapted screenplay categories, and Dubliner Abrahamson is up for Best Director. Also in the frame on the big night, Michael Fassbender is nominated for Best Actor for his performance as Steve Jobs in Danny Boyle’s Silicon Valley biopic “Jobs.” If the Golden Globes are a reliable bellwether of the results to come at the Academy, it is likely that Brie Larson will have the edge over Saoirse on Oscar night, and “The Revenant” will leave the Irish films in the shade. Win or lose, the nominations for the Hollywood Irish contingent have given the compact native film industry a welcome boost, and our thriving movie talents are set to deliver an even more exciting year ahead in 2016, with a host of quality films due to be released.
The Bronx-born actress Saoirse Ronan has two features already in post-production – a new version of Anton Checkhov’s “The Seagull,” directed by Michael Mayer, and an animated feature of the life of Vincent Van Gogh, “Loving Vincent.” She shares top billing in the Van Gogh film with Dubliner Aidan Turner, star of the “Poldark” TV series, and Roscommon native Chris O’Dowd, creator of “Moone Boy” on Irish TV. O’Dowd also stars later this year opposite Cillian Murphy in Beeban Kidron’s comedy drama, “Hippie Hippie Shake”. A troubled production long-delayed, the film follows the fortunes of Australian journalist and sixties counter-culture agitator Richard Neville (Murphy) and his co-conspirator, future Maxim publisher Felix Dennis (O’Dowd) as they clash with British authority over obscenity charges leveled at their magazine “Oz.”
“Peaky Blinders” star Cillian Murphy has two more features set for release later this year. “Anthropoid” is a Sean Ellis World War II drama about the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the senior Nazi official in occupied Czechoslovakia, and “Free Fire,” a Ben Wheatley gangland drama set in Boston. Murphy and Belfast-born actor Jamie Dornan play the Czech resistance assassins who target Heydrich in the Ellis movie, and Murphy plays a gangster caught up in a battle for survival in Wheatley’s 1970s crime feature.
There’s further criminal skullduggery in the offing for Best Actor nominee Michael Fassbender, who goes head to head with Brendan Gleeson in “Trespass Against Us,” Adam Smith’s drama about the scion of a crime family who shuns the family business and tries to make it in the straight world. Fassbender and Gleeson pair up again in summer blockbuster “Assassin’s Creed,” a film which also features Gleeson’s son Brian. Fassbender keeps up the popcorn movie momentum with “X-Men: The Apocalypse”, and “Alien: Covenant,” while the senior Gleeson promises more gravitas in “Alone in Berlin,” a wartime feature based on the 1947 novel “Every Man Dies Alone” by tormented German author Hans Fallada. His more conspicuous son Domhnall Gleeson, hot off the success of two of last year’s biggest box-office draws “Star Wars: The Awakening” and “The Revenant”, dials it down a little for the romantic comedy “Crash Pad”, before ramping up to interstellar speed again for the next installment of “Star Wars”, slated for release towards the end of this year.
Kerry, Michael Fassbender’s home county, provides the locale for Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’s peculiar drama, “The Lobster,” set in a skewed near-future in which single people are given a month and a half at a hotel to find a suitable romantic companion, and those who fail do so are turned into wild animals and let loose in the forest. A moustachioed Colin Farrell leads a heavily Irish cast in this high-pressure speed-dating scenario. Premiated at Cannes last year, “The Lobster” opens in the US in mid-March.
A new Martin Scorsese movie will always demand cinema audiences’ attention, and his upcoming drama “Silence” will likely feature in the next awards discussion as the year advances. The film is set in 17th Century Japan, at a time when the Tokugawa Shogunate had banned the practice of Chistianity. The film stars Liam Neeson and Adam Driver as beleaguered Jesuit missionaries, and Belfast actor Ciaran Hinds features in a minor role as a Portugese priest. Hinds will also be seen in boxing biopic “Bleed For This” with Scorsese on board as executive producer.
There’s no role on the “Silence” sacerdotal roster for Scorsese’s fellow ex-seminarian Gabriel Byrne, who is busy elsewhere with “Mad to Be Normal”, playing a member of Scottish Psychiatrist RD Laing’s circle in 1960s East London, and with Susan Johnson’s coming-of-age comedy “Carrie Pilby”, in which he plays the title character’s father.
Being the year that’s in it, one of the most significant releases for Irish audiences will be “The Rising: 1916.” Cork actor Jonathan Rhys-Myers will play Padraig Pearse, while David O’Hara will be seen as James Connoll, and Fiona Shaw, Countess Markievicz, in a dramatic recreation of the events of the Easter Rising, completed in its centenary year. Mícheál Neeson, son of Liam, will play Michael Collins, a role essayed by his father 20 years ago in the eponymous Neil Jordan biopic.
The hand of history will also be felt in an account of more recent political events, in Nick Hamm’s “The Journey.” This film, currently in post-production, follows the passage from bitter enmity to a kind of friendship between Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley in the years after the Good Friday Agreement. Colm Meaney and Ian Beattie play McGuinness and Adams, respectively, and the role of Paisley, original rumored to have been filled by Liam Neeson, goes to Timothy Spall. Neeson, besides his major role in the new Scorsese film, keeps the locale Asian with “Operation Chromite,” in which he plays General Douglas MacArthur at the pivotal Battle of Incheon, in the Korean War. In lighter fare, Neeson voices the Tree Monster in Catalan director J.A. Bayona’s “A Monster Calls” penciled in for October 2016 release. Thankfully, there’s no “Taken 4” on the horizon – small mercies.
Next week: The year ahead for the talent behind then cameras – what we can expect to see from Ireland’s directors, writers and producers in 2016.
Michael Fassbinder as Steve Jobs.