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Irish Make Their Mark in Hollywood

By: James Bartlett

Awards season in Hollywood this spring was typically star-studded and tinged with Irish Green.

The Golden Globes threw up some surprises (A Star is Born being overshadowed by Bohemian Rhapsody for one), though Irish production company Element Pictures, one of the companies behind Yorgos Lathimos’ The Favourite, would have been happy on the night too.

Olivia Coleman won Best Actress – Drama, and I expect this to be a long line of wins for her – with the Oscar finally coming her way too. Her co-stars Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz also got many nominations, but not as many triumphs.

Spare a thought though for Caitríona Balfe, who went away empty-handed after her fourth straight Globes nomination for her performance in Starz’ series Outlander. Still, she had other good news recently as well: she will be one of the voice actors in the upcoming Netflix series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.

A prequel to the popular Jim Henson fantasy movie The Dark Crystal, the 10-part series returns to the world of Thra, and Balfe will voice one of the Gelfing characters, which will use puppetry instead of CGI or human actors. Other voices you’ll hear are Mark Hamill, Keegan-Michael Key, Alicia Vikander, Andy Samberg, Simon Pegg, and Helena Bonham-Carter and others.

Caitríona Balfe

Another Irish person celebrating recently was young Dublin actor Barry Keoghan, who was named as one of “TV’s 7 Rising Stars Poised For a Breakout in 2019” by The Hollywood Reporter. You might remember him from his turn in last year’s Dunkirk, and he’s also the lead in “Y” the adaptation of the popular comic Y: The Last Man, written by Brian K. Vaughan.

Keoghan plays lead character Yorick Brown, the last surviving human with a Y chromosome after a mysterious plague, and he’s also the lead in Irish-set feature, Calm with Horses, which has entered post-production.

There was good news for Irish filmmaker Nora Twomey as well.

Her animated movie The Breadwinner won everything it was nominated for at the 2018 Emile Awards in France: Best Direction, Best Storyboard, Best Character Animation and Best Background and Character Design in feature films, though they beat Irish co-production Captain Morten and the Spider Queen in a couple of those categories, and Angela’s Christmas went home empty-handed too.

The Breadwinner tells the story of Parvana, an 11-year-old Afghani child who gives up her identity to provide for her family, and to try and save her father’s life. It was executive-produced by Angelina Jolie.

January was also the month for the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, where five Irish movies were screened.

The Hole in the Ground sees Sarah (Séana Kerslake) building a new life on the fringes of a rural town with her young son, but a terrifying encounter with a mysterious neighbor throws Sarah into a spiraling nightmare as she tries to discover if the disturbing changes in her little boy are connected to an ominous sinkhole near their home. It’s directed by Lee Cronin.

A fierce and unapologetic celebration of female friendship, Animals is an intimate, funny and bittersweet examination of being a modern woman. An Irish/Australian co-production, it’s directed by Sophie Hyde and stars Holliday Grainger and Alia Shawkat.

Dirty God is a powerful film about motherhood, courage and self-acceptance. Jade is a young mother recovering from an acid attack that has left her with severe facial burns. Distanced from her daughter, Jade finds solace in the hidden world of online liaisons, but when things start to crumble, she takes drastic action. It’s an Irish/Dutch/UK/Belgian co-production.

GAZA is a documentary about a brave group of people who live their lives in a conflict zone and is directed and produced by Garry Keane and Andrew McConnell, while documentary Shooting the Mafia unflinchingly explores the stark reality of life, and death, under the oppressive yoke of the Corleonesi Mafia.

The scale of the Mafia’s brutality and power is revealed through a combination of rare archive footage, newsreel and personal photographs and memories: it’s directed by Kim Longinotto and produced by Niamh Fagan for Lunar Pictures.

Another Irishman getting an award in February was Aiden Gillen (Game of Thrones, The Wire) who were honored at the US-Ireland Alliance’s 14th Annual Oscar Wilde Awards.

Gillen can also be seen in Bohemian Rhapsody, and is currently working on the BBC/Netflix series Peaky Blinders and is about to star in the Robert Zemeckis-produced History series Project Blue Book.

Aidan Gillen

Trina Vargo, founder of the US-Ireland Alliance, said, “Aidan’s body of work is rich with a range of diverse and memorable roles that span television, theater and film. While his career his taken him to London, Los Angeles and beyond, he has remained loyal to working Ireland as well.”

Trina Vargo

As for upcoming filming, Liam Neeson and his son Michael Richardson have been revealed as the leading characters in James D’Arcy’s feature film debut Made in Italy.

Due to start production on location in Italy in April, the comedy will follow Robert (Neeson), a bohemian London artist who returns to Italy with his estranged son (Richardson), to make a quick sale of the house they inherited from his late wife.

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