Nonetheless, the Rising failed miserably, unless the objective was to see Dublin’s city centre levelled, and only belatedly became a success after the perfidious Brits, instead of recognising the courage-bordering-on-insanity of the men who took on the British war machine, had most of their leaders executed for treason and then incarcerated the rest in what would become a University of Insurrection at Frongoch in Wales.
History being, in large part, the science of revisionism, the lead-up to the centenary celebrations of Easter 1916 will be a feast for Irish fans of propaganda. The battle for possession of the Rising will be fought on a number of fronts, most pertinently the silver screen, and it appears that the opening salvo will be sounded by LA-based Marathon Pictures. To wit:
Nicola Charles of LA-based Marathon Pictures has confirmed that principal photography is set in Ireland for the end of April 2010 on Jason Barry’s debut feature ‘Easter Sixteen’. It stars Gary Oldman as James Connolly (The Dark Knight, Leon), Guy Pearce (LA Confidential, Memento) as Patrick Pearse and Ian Hart (Michael Collins, The Butcher Boy) as Thomas Clarke, Chris O’Donnell (Kinsey, Scent of a Woman) as Ross, Elaine Cassidy (Felicia’s Journey, The Others) as Nora, and Anthony La Paglia (The Salton Sea, Sweet and Lowdown) as Spindler.Which begs the question: why?
Originally from Dublin, Jason Barry has acted in a dozen movies including Titanic. As well as directing he will briefly feature as Roger Casement in the movie.
“There has been much speculation about the identity of Jason and my first choice for the role of James Connolly,” says producer Nicola Charles. “But for us there has only ever been one actor for this role. Gary Oldman.”
Gary Oldman is a fine actor, as are Guy Pearce and Ian Hart, but – at the risk of sounding parochial – would it have broken their hearts to have an Irish actor or two in amongst the leading lights of the cast? It’s not as if the talent isn’t there – Brendan Gleeson, for example, has put together a cast that includes Colin Farrell, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Cillian Murphy and Gabriel Byrne for his directorial debut, an adaptation of Flann O’Brien’s AT SWIM TWO BIRDS, which is due next year. And it’s not simply a case of the horrors shivering down the spine at the idea of Oldman, Pearce et al mangling the Irish accent, begorrah, as they go about their business (seriously, is the Irish accent really that difficult to get right?). It’s more that the Easter Rising was (my crass interpretation above notwithstanding) a complex, nuanced glorious failure, akin in its own way to the Spartans’ stand at Thermopylae in that the main players knew they were doomed before they began, and words such as ‘complex’, ‘nuanced’ and ‘glorious failure’ don’t play so well in Hollywood.
On the positive side, one of the writers, Brendan Foley, is a Belfast man, and the director, Jason Barry, was born in Dublin, although the fact that the other writer’s credits include writing the TV spectaculars ‘Forbes 20 Most Expensive Celebrity Weddings’ and ‘America’s Junior Miss 2002’ doesn’t bode well.
Maybe, as I say, I’m being excessively touchy and parochial about this, but I don’t think I am. Can you imagine the reaction in France, say, were Chris O’Donnell slated to play Georges Danton in an epic about the French Revolution, written by Bartlesby O’Bonkers, whose previous credits included ‘Best Irish Tinkers Wedding Brawls’? Or if Cillian Murphy were mooted to play George Washington in a movie written by the author of ‘One Hundred Great Sweet Sixteen Party Hummer Limousines’?