WINTER 2014 / VOL. 14 ISSUE 1

No Rest for Filmic Irish

By James Barlett

Competition for the Golden Globes and the Oscars (among many other awards ceremonies) is hot this winter, and will hopefully see many Irish and Irish-American people getting the nod for their work.

The show business machine keeps on rumbling though, with plenty of stories about upcoming movies for the next year. First off - and already subject to a huge media blitz - is the news that Irish actor Jamie Dornan has won the role of "Christian Grey" in the movie adaptation of book sensation Fifty Shades of Grey

The 31-year-old Co. Down native - and former Calvin Klein model - is set to take on the part, according to Variety, and will star alongside Dakota Johnson, 24, who will play the heroine of the novel, Anastasia Steele.

Donan has received rave reviews for his performance in the current BBC Northern Ireland police serial killer drama "The Fall" alongside Gillian Anderson ("The X-Files"), and should be on the big screen in the saucy tale on Aug. 1, 2014. 

Also filming in Wicklow and Sligo around June, 2014, for a couple of months is The Secret Scripture, which will star Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) screen legend Vanessa Redgrave in the movie version of the novel by Sebastian Barry. Chastain and Redgrave will play the younger and older versions of the main character, Roseanne McNulty, a Sligo woman who keeps a diary of her many years confined to a mental hospital in Roscommon. 

Tragically, the screenwriter - Irishman Johnny Ferguson - died earlier this year, and The Secret Scripture's producer Noel Pearson (My Left Foot) said that he felt the movie would be a fitting tribute:

"(It was what) motivated me to get it made. Johnny's script is very character-driven and actor-driven, and it wouldn't work without the right actors. So we're lucky to have Jessica Chastain and Vanessa Redgrave."

Chastain was in Co. Fermanagh early in 2013, shooting Miss Julie with Colin Farrell, while Redgrave's most memorable recent performance was again playing the older version of someone - in this case Saoirse Ronan's "Briony" - in Atonement.

Talking of Saoirse Ronan, she's set to take on the leading role in upcoming Brooklyn, which is adapted from the 2009 Colm Tóibín novel of the same name. Director John Crowley has confirmed that Ronan will replace Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) as Eilis Lacey, a young Irish immigrant in 1950's New York whose blossoming relationship with an Italian plumber is threatened when tragedy comes calling at her doorstep. 

Director Crowley (Intermission and Boy A) described the novel as "exquisite" and had high praise too for the screenplay by novelist Nick Hornby (Fever Pitch, An Education), adding that he hoped they would be "telling a story we've never seen on film, certainly not from Ireland yet." 

Domhnall Gleeson, the son of ubiquitous Irish actor Brendan and star of current romantic drama About Time has been linked to the project too, while Ronan will soon be seen on screen in Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel (due to hit theaters in March), and then in June, in the debut directorial effort of Ryan Gosling, How To Catch A Monster

Another endlessly-busy Irish (or Irish-German at least) actor, Michael Fassbender is still in cinemas in 12 Years A Slave, but his life is getting more and more booked up. He's currently in negotiations to star in a new crime movie called Trespass Against Us, which will be the directorial debut of pop documentarian Adam Smith. Fassbender will play Chad Cutler, one of the three generations of a family who live as outlaws, poaching game, robbing houses and laughing at the police." Chad wants out of this dangerous and shady lifestyle though, but it's not going to be that easy. 

Production is scheduled to begin in the UK next year, though right now Fassbender is in New Zealand shooting a Western called Slow West for writer-director John Maclean, and straight after the holiday season he is taking the prestigious role of Macbeth, playing alongside Marion Cotillard (The Dark Knight Rises) in a movie version of the classic play.

Now, finally, this month's weird Irish happening. It's one that has certainly got the ingredients for a scary thriller-at-sea (and not for you if you don't like fur, long tails and gnawing teeth) and is the strange story of the ghost ship that's lost somewhere of the coast of Ireland and is sailing aimlessly on the high seas.

Bringing back memories of the legend of the Marie Celeste, it was reported recently that a 4,000-ton, rat-infested cruise ship named Lyubov Orlova was afloat and adrift in the ocean. It apparently left Canada last January and was bound for the Dominican Republic where it was to be taken apart and scrapped - but then something else happened. 

Barely out of Canada it not once, not twice, but three times broke loose from the ships that were towing it, and then sailed off on its final unmanned and unscheduled last voyage, with the Irish Coast Guard reporting that it could now be now floating anywhere between Ireland and the Faroe Islands off the coast of Scotland.

There's no major danger - there's so little oil left on board in the engines that it's not going to be a chemical or environmental hazard - but the number of suspected rats it's carrying on this impromptu journey could be a serious biohazard if they ever come close to (or arrive) on land, noted Irish Coast Guard director Chris Reynolds:

"'The ship was alongside the harbor in Newfoundland so we assume there are rats on board, and we don't want rats from foreign ships coming onto Irish soil. If it came and broke up on shore, I'm sure local people wouldn't be very happy about it."

Reynolds explained that if the ship is still afloat, it would likely be without power and "blacked out" - which also makes it a near-invisible and uncontactable hazard to shipping in the area. A second alarm was detected from the vessel via satellite, and since the Irish Coast Guard believes the first one came from a lifeboat that was tipped or fell overboard, they're hoping this one came from the ship itself, as they're only activated when a vessel comes into contact with water.

So hopes are high that the ship may have struck an object and sunk to the bottom of the ocean, but as Reynolds admits, "We'd never be able to prove that it sank," so perhaps then the Lyubov Orlova, which was named after a Russian movie goddess from the 1930s, is still out there on its lonely vigil - and complete with an expanding cargo of more and more rats.


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