WINTER 2014 / VOL. 14 ISSUE 1

All the Latest from Hollywood

By James Bartlett

It's the run-in to the awards season climaxing of course with the Oscars in early 2014 is starting to rev up, and there's already an Irish-flavored contender who might turn up in a few envelopes come trophy time: Philomena

The Venice Film Festival recently came to an end, and the Irish-set screenplay - which was directed by Stephen Frears (The Queen) and co-written by and starring Steve Coogan - won the best screenplay award, with one critic saying it had "the best reaction to a film since the first screening of The King's Speech."

The movie looks at the true story uncovered by journalist Martin Sixsmith (Coogan), in which Philomena Lee (Judi Dench) plays an unmarried mother in Ireland in the 1950s. Forced to give up her son Anthony to a local convent she didn't know they sold him for adoption, and 50 years later she asked Sixsmith to uncover the fate of her boy. 

Over in Ireland, there is news that Stones in his Pockets, the Kerry-set play by Belfast playwright Marie Jones, is finally set to be adapted for the big screen and will star "Game of Thrones" actor Conleth Hill and former "Boyzone" singer Ronan Keating. Jones will adapt her own work and her husband Ian McElhinney. Filming will take place in Leitrim and Leslie Hall House in Antrim (rather than Kerry) to keep within the budget of €3m.

Hill played one of the lead roles in the stage version, and Marie Jones said she was sure Keating was the man for the job when she saw him talking about his failed marriage in an interview with Piers Morgan. For those who don't know about this classic Irish play, the story is about Jake Quinn (Keating) and Charlie Conlon (Hill), who are working as extras on a movie set when tragedy strikes. Hill won an Olivier award for Best Actor in 2001, and the play ran in Ireland, London's West End and on Broadway.

Some other snippets of news: it has been rumored that director Steven Spielberg and actor Daniel Day-Lewis are interested in making a movie about Daniel O'Connell, a lawyer who campaigned and won Catholic emancipation in Ireland, after they came across his name while researching the movie Lincoln

Also, Guy Ritchie (director of Snatch and the Robert Downey Jr's Sherlock Holmes movies) is set to take the reins in the movie adaptation of the Thomas Kelly novel Empire Rising. A love triangle set against the backdrop of the construction of New York's Empire State Building in the 1930s, it shows two sides of New York as the Great Depression takes hold. 

One of the stories follows Irish immigrant Michael Briody, a steelworker on the building who's also running guns for the IRA, while the other is Johnny Farrell, a bagman for Mayor Jimmy Walker - and they are both in love with an artist named Grace Masterson. Kelly will have plenty of time to write the script though, as Ritchie is working on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and another Sherlock Holmes outing before he gets to work on this.

Elsewhere, DeLorean is again making the news - and this time it's the amazing news that a gold-plated DeLorean, one of only three ever made, has turned up in a dusty garage in the US after being missing, presumed lost, for years. This now brings the total of 24 carat gold DeLoreans to three, with the other two located in a museum here in Los Angeles, and the other at Harrah's in Reno, Nevada.

Originally made as a special edition for American Express, the gold-coated cars were meant to number 100 overall. A special process had to be developed to coat the cars with the thin layer of gold, and workers had to wear special overalls with no buttons or exposed zips - so there was n chance of any scratches. Removing stains on the gold was tricky too, and the cars needed much heavier suspension to deal with the extra weight.

However, the trio were produced at a time when the plant was running into difficulties and violence raged outside the factory gates; they were based in the Belfast suburb of Dunmurry in the North of Ireland, which was then in the grips of "The Troubles" and had seen John DeLorean's plans as a dream worth (over) investing in. 

The factory closed within a couple of years with barely 9000 cars made, and the gold DeLoreans were more a novelty epitaph than the glamorous highlight. As for this newly-found number three, it has barely 650 miles on the clock and turned up in a remote part of Maryland, where an elderly collector named Carl Winters had been keeping it under wraps - literally - in his garage since 1999. 

He had seen it advertised for sale in a newspaper some years before that, and reportedly told his wife to "pack your bags, we're going to get it." Apart from the occasional display at local shopping malls the DMC-12 has barely moved ever since, and its mint condition, it's rarity, the continual popularity of Back to the Future - and the fact that gold prices being at an all-time high - means that it could fetch as much as $500,000 at auction.

Finally, something bad and something good. Firstly, a tasteless stunt for a movie set in the North of Ireland backfired badly when a promotional pack sent out to journalists contained a balaclava, nails and a roll of duct tape. Though someone clearly thought it was a good wheeze to promote the movie A Belfast Story, which is released in the UK next month and stars Irish actor Colm Meaney, all it actually did was frighten and offend.

Writer/director Nathan Todd apologized to BBC Good Morning Ulster as he tried to explain his stunt. "The idea was to interest people in a movie we were making which is essentially the story of the two choices which face Belfast: do we engage in retribution or reconciliation? The (promotional material) box, when you open it, gives you this choice. It's got artifacts of violence on one side and artifacts of living happily to an old age on the other, and the intention is to raise awareness for something that we did that delves into some legitimate questions and tells some interesting stories about the city and the country."

Unfortunately, this aim fell far short of the target - and people quickly took to Twitter to express their anger. Empire movie magazine journalist Chris Hewitt, who is originally from Banbridge in Co. Down, called the press kit "the most distasteful freebie ever," admitting that he was "genuinely stunned by this. Not quite sure what point whoever sent it is trying to make. But I'm pretty sure it's a moronic one." Worse still, he added that "I'm now not going to see it. There is such a thing as bad publicity."

Now for the something good - and perhaps a suggestion for an early Christmas gift? Connemara farmer Joe Joyce revealed recently that he gets regular visits from Tinsel Town celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson and Calista Flockhart, who are all keen to see his sheepdogs.

Galway-born Joyce starting giving sheepdog demonstrations in 2008 after he was asked to help out with the Aniston/Wilson movie Marley and Me, and since then he's built the business into a major tourist attraction. Joyce recalled Wilson's visit, and how he wanted to take one of the dogs back to his home in Malibu. "He was absolutely mad about the dogs, the sheep, the mountains, and he told us he never got much of an opportunity to sit into a family home and have a chat with people."

Aniston was a hit too, posing for pictures with Joyce and his nieces and nephews. "She was so down to earth. She just chatted away with everyone," he told the Irish Independent, and added that Flockhart visited with her parents and young son Liam on vacation last year - though Harrison Ford wasn't with them. 

So far he has transported his Irish-bred dogs to Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Norway and the UK, and you can find out more at www.joyce


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