Tom Deignan with the latest Irish and Irish American happenings in film and television.
Carlow actress Saoirse Ronan apparently enjoys playing a killer. In April, Ronan starred in the action flick Hanna, which should be out on DVD soon. Ronan played a teenage assassin raised by her dad (Eric Bana) to be a ruthless killer.
Now comes word that Ronan – who shot to fame in 2007, at the age of 13, with her Oscar-nominated role in Atonement – will play another killer in an independent movie entitled Violet & Daisy. Set to be directed by Geoffrey Fletcher (who nabbed an Oscar himself for writing the screenplay for Precious), Violet & Daisy takes a look at two girls who are young, pretty and deadly. Gilmore Girls actress Alexis Bledel will play Violet to Ronan’s Daisy.
Ronan recently told Entertainment Weekly: “I was worried for [Fletcher] to have an actor who had just done a film where I am a killer. But you’ll see when Violet & Daisy comes out, the characters couldn’t be more different [from Hanna].” She adds: “Daisy is a really, really sweet girl. She’s not a natural killer like Violet is. Violet is a bit messed up, and she’s quite tough on the outside. Daisy’s the one who keeps them together and keeps everything intact.”
Ronan added that while she hopes to re-team with Lovely Bones director Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings) for his highly anticipated The Hobbit, nothing is set in stone just yet.“I’d love to be in it. Pete and I want to work together again. It’s something that hopefully we’ll work out.”
May 27 is currently the release date for the highly anticipated Sean Penn-Brad Pitt flick Tree of Life, also featuring Irish actress Fiona Shaw. Directed by the reclusive Terrence Malick (Badlands, Days of Heaven), the film explores several generations of a Texas family with many buried secrets.
The recent Tribeca Film Festival was very much a family affair for the Gleeson clan. No fewer than three members of the acclaimed Irish family of thespians were featured at the fest, which ran from April 20 to May 1 in downtown Manhattan, and gave Irish movie lovers a slew of cinematic offerings to look forward to.
First there was the much-discussed The Guard, featuring Brendan Gleeson, alongside Don Cheadle. Set in Galway, Gleeson plays Gerry Boyle, a cop with a dark side. Just how dark becomes an important question, however, when a corpse turns up, followed by a straight-laced American FBI agent with a lot of questions about the corpse, a drug ring and how things generally operate in the west of Ireland. Written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, brother of playwright Martin McDonagh, The Guard has generated strong buzz on the festival circuit and is currently set to open in the U.S on July 29. Gleeson plays another cop, alongside his real-life son, Brian Gleeson, in the Tribeca short film Noreen. Noreen also happens to have been directed by Brendan’s other son, Domhnall Gleeson. Noreen follows the misadventures of two Irish cops who stumble upon a body during what they’d assumed to be a routine call. Things go awry very quickly, which is not surprising since the film’s promotional material flatly dubs both of these characters “idiots.”
Domhnall, incidentally, is making quite a name for himself on both sides of the camera these days. He had a role in the highly acclaimed Coen brothers flick True Grit, as well as Never Let Me Go with Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield. He will also appear, alongside Irish lass Evanna Lynch, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which hits theaters July 15.Finally, and most ambitiously, Domhnall is set to appear in a film version of At Swim-Two-Birds, Flann O’Brien’s challenging novel, to be directed by Brendan Gleeson. That project is still in the early stages of development, and rumor has it a host of Irish cinematic stars are vying for roles.
Another second-generation Irish film star featured at Tribeca this year was Kate O’Toole – daughter of legendary Connemara native Peter O’Toole. Kate O’Toole is among the stars of The Hideaways, an Irish/French/Swedish co-production. Also known as The Last Furlong, and written by Nick Murphy, The Hideaways also features Irish actress Susan Lynch, and takes a dark look at three generations of men from a single family. Young James comes from a line of men blessed – or, more likely, cursed – with supernatural abilities, which include the ability to switch off the electricity in any given area, as well as going temporarily blind whenever thoughts turn to a sexual nature. James is trying to figure out what sort of ability he will inherit, until he encounters a cancer patient who has run away from a hospital. This inevitably forces James to rethink his curses – or blessings.
Also at Tribeca, Dublin-born filmmaker Alexandra McGuinness turned the camera on London’s young and feckless for her film Lotus Eaters. Alice, in the film, is a former model trying to maintain a living standard she grew accustomed to during her heady days on the runway. She dates Charlie, though neither of them seem mature or stable enough for any kind of commitment. The same can be said for a number of the well-dressed, hedonistic youths who populate this dark and revealing fable, which was shot in black and white. Other Irish-themed shorts at Tribeca include Dublin-based writer/director Thomas Hefferon’s Switch, as well as Pentecost, about a conflicted altar boy in 1970s Ireland written and directed by Peter McDonald, the veteran actor known for films such as The Damned United, I Went Down and Felicia’s Journey.
And after all of this, the Tribeca fest was closed out by the latest romantic comedy from Brothers McMullen writer/director Ed Burns. Entitled The Newlyweds and starring Caitlin Fitzgerald, The Newlyweds is set in Tribeca itself, and looks at a newly-married couple hoping to survive their honeymoon. The film supposedly cost a mere $9,000 to make and is expected to be released in theaters later this year.
What’s next for Belfast thespian Kenneth Branagh, now that his big budget comic book epic Thor has been released? After a summer spent promoting the film about the hammer-wielding Norse god, Branagh is set to return to his native Belfast and appear in a play entitled The Painkiller, by Rob Brydon, at the Lyric Theatre.
For now, Branagh has no movies on his radar. Instead, he will be returning to Sweden to film a third season of his acclaimed detective series Wallander, which has proven to be a hit among the Masterpiece Theatre set.
Another Irish actor dabbling in comic book movies these days is Michael Fassbender. Born in Germany but raised in Kerry by his Antrim-born mother, Fassbender will star in what is being dubbed as a prequel to the X-Men movies. He is set to play Magneto in X-Men: First Class, directed by Matthew Vaughn. Fassbender will stay on the sci-fi action beat for his next movie, Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, which is currently shooting.
In October, Irish veterans Brian Dennehy and Anjelica Huston are among the big names slated to appear in The Big Year, set in 1998. Also starring Owen Wilson, Jack Black and Steve Martin, this offbeat film will look at amateur ornithologists – bird watchers – who are expecting a magical year bursting with sightings of exotic species. That’s because the phenomenon known as El Niño has changed weather patterns so drastically that migratory patterns have been affected. Expect lots of quirky humor and awkward silences.
Finally, Ciaran Hinds will star alongside Helen Mirren and Tom Wilkinson in the August thriller The Debt. The film follows three decades of spies and espionage, with a focus on a team of Mossad agents for Israel who hunted down Nazis in the 1960s. What they did to complete their mission, however, still haunts them, and they have yet to come to terms with their past by the 1990s, when the film unfolds. Hinds plays one of the agents in the present day, as does Helen Mirren, though given her agelessness, it’s surprising director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) didn’t manage to have Mirren play the same female agent in the 1960s as well as the 1990s.