Sunday 17 December 2017

Saoirse to play Sheriff St girl in Jim's biopic

She first appeared on our screens playing upper-class English girl Briony Tallis in wartime drama Atonement.

But actress Saoirse Ronan will sound more like Bill Cullen in her new movie, a working- class drama set in Dublin's Sheriff Street, by director Jim Sheridan.

The Diary can exclusively reveal that the My Left Foot director has signed up the 16-year-old to play local girl Frances in the autobiographical tale on which he is currently working.

"Saoirse has the Sheriff Street accent off to a tee. It's like listening to Bill Cullen; the way she sounds, she could have been selling penny apples in Moore Street with Bill back in the day," said an insider who heard the Carlow girl reading her part this week.

Sheridan has been at his best when telling his own story in films like In America, the semi-autobiographical tale of Irish immigrants trying to make it in New York; or My Left Foot, which tells writer Christy Brown's struggle to be accepted in poverty-stricken 1930s Dublin.

But, in recent times, the 61-year-old has had mixed results making studio films, including the poorly received supernatural thriller Dream House, starring Daniel Craig.

Now Jim wants to play to his strengths by returning to his home patch of Dublin's Sherriff Street.

So autobiographical is his new drama, the main family featured are called the Sheridans.

"It's centred all around this one working-class family living in early '60s Dublin, before the visit of the Beatles or JFK.

"Not only is it completely authentic for Sheriff Street, it's also extremely funny, with much of the comedy taking place in the family's front room, similar to Caroline Ahern's sitcom The Royle Family, an insider told The Diary this week.

High comedy comes to the house with the arrival of television.

"There's one really funny scene when the family are trying to fix a TV aerial on the roof but they can't get any reception because the steeple on the local church is blocking the signal, which is a kind of metaphor for the church interfering in people's lives," added the source.

Insiders revealed to me that Saoirse Ronan plays Frances in the film, the teenage girlfriend of Sheridan's own character, Shamie.

"Frances is very Dublin girl but at the same time a romantic. Jim has created the perfect part for Saoirse and this could be a big role for her," said the source.

It seems that hooking up with Sheridan has paid off for The Lovely Bones star, who revealed to me earlier this year how she wanted to work with the much loved Dublin director.

"Jim has made the most fantastic Irish films of our time but, more than that, every single actor I have spoken to about Jim said he is everything you want in a director, being both honest and warm.

"That's why I want to work with him," said Saoirse.

Filming on the as-yet-untitled Sheriff Street film is expected to begin later this year.

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