Friday 2 December 2016

Cameras and profits rolling for Ireland Inc

Bareknuckle boxers, vikings and vampires are just some of the weird money-makers of today's Irish film industry, writes Roisin Burke

Published 31/07/2011 | 05:00

SO who'd have thought a film about a podgy middle-aged ginger Connemara garda could take on Bridesmaids at the box office and win?

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Yet the small budget Sundance Film Festival sensation The Guard toppled Universal's $32.5m (€22.8m) roistering blockbuster, grossing €500,000 in its first week in Irish cinemas.

That's tiny compared to Bridesmaids' global take of course, but the hype is good ahead of its opening in cinemas abroad next week.

There's a whole lot of good film and television projects either being made here or commercially connected with Ireland. It's worth €200m a year to the economy, not to mention jobs as well. Of that, €100m comes from foreign film and TV production lured here by tax breaks.

Here's a lowdown of the very latest in stuff sprinkling some stardust on the ailing national coffers.

Traffic and Ocean's Thirteen director Stephen Soderbergh filmed the €17m action thriller Haywire here. Mixed martial arts fighter turned model/actress Gina Carano leads as a black ops soldier on a revenge mission in Dublin.

It opens in January 2012 and Ewan McGregor and Antonio Banderas also star.

The Glenn Close vehicle Albert Nobbs, which was shot on location in Dublin by Irish company Parallel Films, has scored a major US rights deal and is the film Hollywood pundits say could finally get Close an Oscar.

The project spent €4.3m on jobs, local goods and services while filming here, according to the Irish Film Board.

Neil Jordan revisits the vampire theme with a new film called Byzantium, to star Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton and start shooting in October with a circa €8m budget. Dublin's Parallel Films developed the script.

Alas, sightings of hottie Clive Owen ambling around the streets of Dublin are no more, as Shadow Dancer (which he stars in and was shot around Stoneybatter and Tallaght) has wrapped.

Oh yeah, X-Files vixen Gillian Anderson is in it too. Element Pictures made the movie with Oscar winner James Marsh directing. It spent €3.3m locally while shooting here.

The Guard star Brendan Gleeson directs his first film, a €7.5m project called At Swim-Two-Birds, with X-Men star Michael Fassbender, Colin Farrell, Gabriel Byrne and Cillian Murphy in the cast. Most of the funding has been locked down and shooting will start next year.

Ian Palmer's documentary about bareknuckle fighting Travellers in Dundalk also caused a buzz at Sundance.

Now US cable giant HBO has paid an undisclosed sum for the rights to make Knuckle into a TV drama series, written by Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh, to appear by 2013.

While there's no home turf involvement, it's nice to see Irish director John Carney has Scarlett Johanssen signed up for his next film, Can a Song Save Your Life? to shoot in New York.

With a $10m (€7m) budget, it's a result for the guy who made Irish Oscar winner Once with €130,000. His Aran Islands-based horror movie The Rafters is due out soon.

Parked, a film with Star Trek actor Colm Meaney in a lead role and made partly in Dublin for €1.1m, has been picked up by indie distributor Olive Films for a US release this autumn.

Next month, the fourth film in the Asterix franchise will shoot scenes on location in Ireland, bringing some of a €50m budget with it. Paris-based Fidelite Films and Ireland's Octagon Films are collaborating, with Irish producer James Flynn leading the Irish arm of the filming taking place around counties Wicklow and Louth and, possibly, the West of Ireland. It will be the first 3D film made here.

There's plenty happening in the high-end TV production line too.

US giant MGM is back from bankruptcy and its first new TV venture is to be made at Ardmore Studios.

Written by Michael Hirst (The Tudors and Camelot) and with Irish film and TV dealmaker extraordinaire Morgan O'Sullivan involved, Vikings will be a ten-episode Irish-Canadian production that MGM will distribute and co-finance. It should mean up to €25m to the local economy, according to the IFB.

O'Sullivan's Octagon Films is shooting the second series of Neil Jordan's €40m-budgeted The Borgias in Budapest.

The drama series about the colourful and ruthless 15th century dynasty makes the Ewings look like the Brady Bunch. Series one has been nominated for several Emmys.

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