Liam Cunningham is an Irish actor to look out for as fall approaches. He has built up an impressive resume of Irish and British movies, including Ken Loach’s provocative Irish Civil War Epic The Wind that Shakes the Barley as well as Breakfast on Pluto, in which Cunningham co-starred with fellow Irish actor Cillian Murphy.
Cunningham’s most recent appearance was in the summer horror movie The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor starring Brendan Fraser.
Keep an eye out for Cunningham in Hunger, director Steve McQueen’s riveting depiction of the Northern Ireland hunger strikes which made a global icon out of Bobby Sands (played by German-born, Irish-reared actor Michael Fassbender). Cunningham plays a priest in Hunger, which has been a smash hit on the cinema festival circuits – including Cannes, where it picked up a top award for first time movie makers – but does not yet have a U.S. release date.
In October, Cunningham is also slated to appear in Blood: The Last Vampire, set at a U.S. military compound in Japan, which has been taken over by vampires.
Believe it or not, Colin Farrell is currently shooting a film which also has a military as well as vampire angle. Farrell will star in Triage, which is shooting in Dublin. The film also stars Paz Vega, and it is about a war photographer sent to Kurdistan, only to watch his best friend die. While attempting to cope with this loss, he befriends his girlfriend’s grandfather, who may have a dark war secret of his own in his past. Farrell is also serving as a producer on Triage.
What could possibly be the vampire angle to Triage? Well, among the film’s co-stars is horror veteran Christopher Lee, who played the most famous vampire of them all, Count Dracula, in a 1950s version of the bloodsucker story. A final Colin Farrell note: the much-anticipated New York Irish cop epic Pride and Glory, featuring Farrell and Edward Norton and directed by Gavin O’Connor, is slated for an October 24 release.
Another release to look out for which will surely get lots of promotion during the summer season of silly cinema is The Race to Witch Mountain, featuring sophisticated Northern Ireland stage and screen veteran Ciaran Hinds alongside former wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The film, about magical kids trying to escape from dastardly villains, is a revival of the 1970s Witch Mountain franchise, which included Escape to Witch Mountain and Return from Witch Mountain. No exact release date for this Hinds-“Rock” collaboration has been set.
On to independent Irish film news, September 19 is an important date for Kilkenny-based director Tomm Moore. On that date his animated feature The Secret of Kells – already granted an award by the Screen Directors Guild of Ireland – will be showcased at the Directors Guild of America Theatre in Los Angeles. Movie bigwigs will be on hand, giving Moore a shot at an American film deal. The Secret of Kells tells the story of the boy behind the famed Book of Kells. According to the film’s producers: “Twelve hundred years ago, an orphan named Brendan meets Brother Aidan, the keeper of an extraordinary, but unfinished book of illuminations. Aidan sets Brendan a great task, to complete the Book of Kells. With the threat of invading Vikings all around and with the help of Aisling, a mysterious young girl, Brendan faces his deepest fears to complete the task.”
Another independent film to look out for is The Greening of Southie. Produced by Curt Ellis, the documentary explores efforts by environmentalists to create the first completely “green” building in the famous Irish enclave in Boston. Aside from its educational aspect, part of the film’s appeal is its depiction of the efforts to win Irish-American laborers over to the environmental cause, which is spearheaded by a wealthy (and quite young) real estate heir. The film has been shown on the Sundance channel and festival. (Go to greeningofsouthie.com to order a DVD.)
Finally, Marian Quinn’s 32A is building buzz on the festival circuit. The coming-of-age drama was written and directed by Quinn and stars her famous brother Aidan, as well as acclaimed Irish actress Orla Brady.
Set in 1979 Dublin, 32A revolves around 13-year-old Maeve (played by newcomer Ailish McCarthy), who is having trouble entering womanhood. All her friends seem at ease with boys, but not Maeve. So it is all the more surprising when Maeve starts dating the local heartthrob.
Aidan Quinn, of course, has amassed a highly impressive body of Irish and American film work. Most recently, he completed shooting a film called A Shine of Rainbows in Ireland. Orla Brady, meanwhile, is probably best known to U.S. audiences for her work in the TV shows Shark and Nip / Tuck.
The Quinns are not the only members of the 32A cast with good connections. The film also features up-and-coming star Jared Harris (son of Richard Harris) as well as Kate O’Toole (Peter O’Toole’s daughter).
In Irish-American documentary news, Thomas Maier’s excellent book, The Kennedys: America’s Emerald Kings, is being made into a two-hour Warner Brothers documentary. The film will be shown in select theaters and then released on DVD. Screenings in New York will begin in November. The big news when it comes to television is that it appears The Sopranos are going Irish.
One of the more anticipated TV shows of the fall season is Life on Mars, which stars two Irish actors, Jason O’Mara and Colm Meaney.
O’Mara plays Sam Tyler, a modern-day detective transported back to 1972. Meaney plays a detective who actually worked in the early 1970s. Life on Mars is a remake of the acclaimed BBC detective series. Former Sopranos star Michael Imperioli has joined the Life on Mars cast.
Another Sopranos star is hoping an Irish-American character will be good show biz luck next year. Edie Falco – Tony Soprano’s long-suffering wife – is slated to star in Nurse Jackie, in which she plays Jackie O’Hurley, a brilliant nurse who has personal problems. Set in a bustling New York City hospital, press reports about Nurse Jackie – which should air on Showtime next year – also play up the fact that Nurse O’Hurley struggles with her Catholicism. The series also stars Eve Best, Peter Facinelli and Paul Schulze.
Finally on the TV front, Rhode Island native Michaela McManus, best know for starring in One Tree Hill, has been added as a new assistant DA to the cast of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
If today’s TV and movies are not your thing and you want to go back to Hollywood’s golden age with an Irish-American star, 20th Century Fox has just released a boxed DVD set titled The Tyrone Power Matinee Idol Collection. A star through the 1930s and 1940s, Power was a great-grandson to the acclaimed Irish actor of the same name. Power’s films include The Luck of the Irish, in which he plays a newspaperman who becomes pals with a leprechaun (played by Cecil Kellaway). The film was made with a green tint to lend authenticity to scenes set in Ireland.
The Tyrone Power Matinee Idol Collection also includes early films such as Love Is News, Café Metropole and Second Honeymoon (all with Loretta Young) and later films such as Prince of Foxes and Nightmare Alley.
Sadly, Power died in 1958, following a heart attack, when he was just 44.