Tuesday 27 September 2016

High Rise director Ben Wheatley says Ireland can 'look forward to a huge surge in Hollywood productions'

Stephen Milton

Published 23/03/2016 | 13:00

Ben Wheatley thinks Ireland has a lot to offer Hollywood productions.
Ben Wheatley thinks Ireland has a lot to offer Hollywood productions.
Sienna Miller in a scene from High Rise.
Elizabeth Moss and Tom Hiddleston in a scene from High Rise.
Jeremy Irons and Keeley Hawes in High Rise.

Rising director Ben Wheatley claims Ireland is on course to becoming Hollywood’s European hub.

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Shooting his latest movie, High Rise in Belfast and Bangor, the filmmaker believes the industry is hungry to work on these shores after the success of Game of Thrones and Star Wars, which recently put Kerry’s Skellig Michael on the international map.

And between unique landscape and diverse architecture, Wheatley says the country can look forward to a huge surge in Hollywood productions.

“Ireland is where a lot are looking now because there’s so much on offer and such a big welcome to crews and productions.

Sienna Miller in a scene from High Rise.
Sienna Miller in a scene from High Rise.

“And because of Game of Thrones and Star Wars and the success they’ve had, it’s risen to the top of the list in Europe.”

A dystopian thriller set in the pre-Thatcher era starring Tom Hiddleston and Sienna Miller, High Rise follows life in a modern tower block in London's Docklands, which has been designed as a luxury bolthole from a decaying city.

And initially disappointed by sites and uncooperative authorities in the UK, Wheatley was thrilled by what was on offer in Ireland

“We looked around the UK, you’d think there would be suitable locations but there was nothing that worked. We tried to get into Birmingham Library, the old one, and they wouldn’t allow it, even though it was vacant. And then shortly afterwards, they knocked it down. So it would have made no difference.

Elizabeth Moss and Tom Hiddleston in a scene from High Rise.
Elizabeth Moss and Tom Hiddleston in a scene from High Rise.

“We found it really tough. And then out of the blue, this sports centre came up in Bangor and we went to see it, absolutely fantastic. Exactly what we needed. And it all became that more attractive with Belfast being nearby because of Game of Thrones and all that cinemas stuff that’s going on around there.

“We found another brilliant place at the former Stena ferry terminal quay at Belfast Harbour, that worked perfectly. It was the answer to my prayers.”

High Rise is one of a number of new movies filming on Irish shores.

Currently productions include period drama, A Storm in the Stars with Elle Fanning and Douglas Booth, which took over Dublin’s Collin’s Barracks last month while another costume epic, The Lost City of Z with Robert Pattinson and Charlie Hunnam was shot in locations around Belfast including City Hall and Royal Academical Institution.

Jeremy Irons and Keeley Hawes in High Rise.
Jeremy Irons and Keeley Hawes in High Rise.

And recently Disney and Lucasfilm confirmed Stars Wars Episode VIII will return here to shoot at spots up and down the Wild Atlantic Way, with rumours Donegal’s Malin Head coast could feature heavily in the upcoming blockbuster.

Wheatley, who’s working with Cillian Murphy and Jack Reynor on his next film, crime saga Freefire, says it’s a sign of things to come.

“There’s so much potential in Ireland, so much natural beauty and so many diverse, contrasting environments which you can’t resist as a filmmaker.

“And honestly, I don’t know if we could have made High Rise without shooting in Ireland. It made the impossible, possible.”

**High Rise is in cinemas now

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