1. Michael Fassbender, who was raised in Kerry by his Irish mother and German father, is Hollywood’s current “it” guy. After shocking audiences in 2008 in the harrowing film Hunger, in which he portrayed Northern Ireland icon Bobby Sands, Fassbender has been impressing critics and audiences non-stop.
He earned a Golden Globe nomination and is also expected to earn an Oscar nod for his depiction of a sex addict in the critically acclaimed Shame. Not surprisingly, Fassbender is slated to have a busy 2012. First, he appeared alongside Michael Douglas in the January film Haywire, directed by Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich, Traffic).
Then, in June, Fassbender will team up with another proven Hollywood director – Ridley Scott – in the outer-space thriller Prometheus.
Prometheus, which also features Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson and Guy Pearce, is about a team of scientists who have possibly discovered the origins of the universe, only to also discover they may have stirred up some seriously dark forces.
2. Prometheus also stars Noomi Rapace, who played rebel hacker Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Rooney Mara, of course, snared that part and won over hordes of U.S. moviegoers in the recent version of that flick.
Mara (member of the famous Irish-American Rooney and Mara clans of NFL football fame) earned raves for her performance. She has now dropped out of what had been slated to be her follow-up role. Mara was set to reunite with Tanner Hall director Francesca Gregorini for a film called Emanuel and the Truth about Fishes. However, Mara – possibly because her Hollywood stock has risen so dramatically – has decided against the project, and is currently on the lookout for her next big role. She may not have to look for very long. Don’t forget: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo book had two blockbuster follow-ups.
3. Speaking of blockbusters, Liam Neeson is slated to appear in the latest Batman movie Dark Knight Rises. The summer flick features a galaxy of stars including Christian Bale as the caped crusader as well as Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman. The Dark Knight Rises also features Dublin-born actor Aidan Gillen, who recently appeared in the Jason Statham action flick Blitz and is perhaps best known to U.S. audiences as ambitious Baltimore mayor Tommy Carcetti in the gritty HBO series The Wire.
Neeson, who appeared in the January release The Grey, will also appear in Wrath of the Titans, an action-fantasy follow-up to Clash of the Titans, which Neeson also starred in. Neeson, in both films, portrays the Greek god Zeus.
Wrath of the Titans should hit theaters around St. Patrick’s Day. After that, Neeson will be seen in the board-game-based flick Battleship and a sequel to his sleeper hit thriller Taken.
4. Neeson had been planning for years to portray Abraham Lincoln in a film about the U.S. president and directed by Steven Spielberg. Neeson has since backed out of the project (presumably because there simply aren’t enough hours in the day for the oh-so-busy Ballymena native). In a strange twist, one extra-busy Irish actor was replaced by a famously reclusive one – Daniel Day-Lewis. The two-time Oscar winner has started filming Spielberg’s highly anticipated Lincoln.
“I’m so excited to work with one of the greatest actors of our time,” Spielberg recently told the Chicago Sun-Times. “He wouldn’t say yes for years. He even turned me down seven years ago when I asked him to play Lincoln. I think he was intimidated. You think about playing Lincoln, and it’s true that he was too great a man.”
Many of Day-Lewis’ career highlights include playing Irish characters in flicks such as The Boxer and In the Name of the Father. (He also played an anti-Irish bigot in Gangs of New York). It remains to be seen if Spielberg will tackle Lincoln’s complicated relationship with the Irish in America. The Irish were loyal Democrats at the time of the U.S. Civil War, while Lincoln’s new Republican party contained a deeply anti-immigrant faction.
The Civil War only made these rifts deeper. Not for nothing did the famous Irish ballad “Paddy’s Lament” bitterly explain that Irish immigrants were being told, “You must go and fight for Lincoln.”
5. Two young Irish stars are slated to appear in a film based on one of the most famous Russian novels of all time. Saoirse Ronan as well as Dohmnall Gleeson will star in the latest film version of Anna Karenina, the tortured love story featuring Vronsky and the titular heroine.
The new Anna Karenina film will reteam Ronan with director Joe Wright, who directed her to fame in Atonement, which earned Ronan an Academy Award nomination in 2007.
Gleeson, of course, is the son of acclaimed actor Brendan Gleeson. Before Anna Karenina hits screens, look for Dohmnall Gleeson in the September film Dredd, the latest big-screen version of the Judge Dredd comic book. (Sylvester Stallone starred in an earlier version of Judge Dredd back in 1995.)
Meanwhile, it looks like Irish film fans will have to wait until 2013 for one of the most highly anticipated Irish films in years: At Swim-Two-Birds, to be directed by Brendan Gleeson and starring Dohmnall and a host of other Irish talent, in a film based on the famous Flann O’Brien novel.
6. Indeed, it should surprise no one that Brendan Gleeson is keeping busy. Following his success in the Irish movie The Guard, he appeared alongside Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington in Safe House. The film is about a rookie intelligence agent (Reynolds) who teams up with a renegade when they must take on a crew of killers. (Gleeson had some Irish company on the set of Safe House: Liam Cunningham, whose credits include The Wind that Shakes the Barley as well as, more recently, Steven Spielberg’s War Horse.)
In March, Brendan Gleeson will lend his voice to the animated adventure flick The Pirates! Band of Misfits, which also features the vocal stylings of Salma Hyeck, Jeremy Piven and Hugh Grant.
That same month, Gleeson’s voice as well as the rest of his body will appear in The Raven, alongside Irish American thespian John Cusack. The Raven is a thriller set in the early 19th century and – yes – features none other than the famous writer Edgar Allan Poe. It appears that a serial killer is on the loose and the murders just happen to mirror the crimes committed in some of Poe’s more gruesome stories. Only the writer himself can solve the crimes, in this flick directed by Aussie James McTeigue (V for Vendetta) and also starring Alice Eve and Oliver Jackson Cohen.
7. Finally, Ed Burns and Colin Farrell are both looking back to the past when it comes to making future movies.
Farrell, whose Fright Night remake more or less split critics, will tackle another remake when he steps into Arnold Schwarzenegger’s shoes for the new Total Recall film, also starring Jessica Biel, Kate Beckinsale, Bill Nighy and Bryan Cranston. Word is the film – about a lowly factory worker who just may be working as a spy for a superpower nation – will be more dramatic and have fewer comedic stylings than the 1990 original.
Meanwhile, Ed Burns is reportedly going to revisit the family that made him famous. The actor/director is working on a sequel to The Brothers McMullen, which may be completed in 2014.
Burns recently said: “I’ve kind of always stayed in touch with Jack Mulcahy and Mike McGlone from The Brothers McMullen. Your lives get more complicated and you have kids so you don’t get to hang out as much as you used to, but McMullen was such an amazing chapter in all of our lives. To go from a pack of nobodies who had never been in front of a camera before…all of a sudden that film gave all of us a career. So I think we all feel kind of connected to that.”