Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sweet Little ’16

Not too long to go now to the centenary of the Easter Rising of 1916, in which a tiny army of Irish rebels led by Padraig Pearse and James Connolly rose up against the might of the British Empire in a bid to slough off the shackles of oppression that had lasted 800 years. It helped, of course, that the mighty British Empire was otherwise engaged at the time, and looking the other way, bogged down as it was in the trenches of France.
  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.
  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.”
  Which begs the question: why?
  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’?


Dana King said...

It's an American film, probably with a large budget, and American studios are all about actors' name recognition with American audiences. Period.

It's too bad HBO didn't pick this up. They would have done right by it. Not that the current people won't, but HBO has proven their devotion to authenticity (Band of Brothers, The Wire).

John McFetridge said...

Yes, you're right. I think there was more concern about an American playing Sherlock Holmes.

But still, I want to see, ‘Best Irish Tinkers Wedding Brawls.’

That would be some fine, fine television.

Eoin said...

Declan, I agree with most of what you said. You have to wonder if this will be a film about 'history' or will it get the Michael Collins treatment. I suspect the latter. However I do have to admit that Ian Hart playing Thomas Clarke sounds very appealing and is probably the one piece of casting that might actually work. But I suspect his role will probably end up being minor.

Heaven forbid that they get a Yank to play Dev!

Peter Rozovsky said...

I'm wondering to what extent the filmmakers will keep an eye on the potentially huge Irish-American audience for the movie.

Interesting speculation about American reaction to Cillian Murphy being bruited about as George Washington. The French, of course, face no such problems because Gerard Depardieu plays everything and everybody from every period in every movie.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Declan Burke said...

Dana - I understand that it's an American production, and that Hollywood is all about star names. Box office figures, though, are starting suggest that American audiences aren't so much about the star names anymore ...

John - We've already got development funding for 'Best Irish Tinkers Wedding Brawls'©. I'll keep you posted.

Eoin - You're spot on, squire - Michael Collins was the spectre hovering while I was writing the piece. But whereas Michael Collins was about a man, this movie is about an event ... which makes it a different issue, I think. But that's not to say I have any problem with the actors themselves - Hart, Oldman and Pearce are fine actors. Chris O'Donnell, though?

Peter - the 'Irish-American' audience. The other spectre hovering is Far and Away, which was a story of one of the great Irish tragedy-triumphs of emigration and integration, but given a Disney gloss. "You're a corker, Shannon!" "Yes I am, Tom. Now open wide and let me insert this cork."

Cheers, Dec

Gerard Brennan said...

'Box office figures, though, are starting suggest that American audiences aren't so much about the star names anymore ...'

Case in point, THE HANGOVER.


jerrylatter said...

Declan - I agree with much of what you've said - as a Brit, I'm often galled to see foreigners taking on our roles and doing it badly - Robert Downey jnr in Chapman etc. But sometimes (Johnny Depp whenever he does an English accent) it works, and if there's anyone whi can pull it off, it's Gary, the master of disguise. Completely see your point that there should be more irishmen in the film, but this represents Gary's first leading role in a while - rest assured he'll give a great performance, and, if the film's good enough, might get some awards recognition. I'm really looking forward to it.
Jerry, London