Irish eye on hollywood By Tom Deignan Saoirse Ronan didn't take home an Academy Award at the

Irish eye on hollywood

By Tom Deignan

Saoirse Ronan didn't take home an Academy Award at the big show on February 24, but the 13-year-old Hollywood star has a busy 2008 planned. Ronan was nominated as a best supporting actress Oscar for her role in Atonement. Prior to the Oscars, Ronan was happy just to be going to the show, which was nearly canceled because of the prolonged writer's strike.

"It will be really nice . to go to the big ceremony and get to sit at the fancy table and everything, that would be pretty cool," she was quoted as saying.

This October, look for Ronan in a starring role alongside Bill Murray, Tim Robbins and Martin Landau in City of Ember. Based on a novel of the same name, the film will also feature a slew of Irish actors and actresses in smaller roles since it was shot in Belfast.

The film is set in a city of dazzling lights called Ember. As the film begins, Ember's powerful generator is losing power, threatening to plunge the city into darkness. Ronan and her co-star Harry Treadway scour Ember in search of a way to preserve the city's light. In the process, they reveal secrets which may expose the mystery of the city's origins. All indications suggest that this will be a breakout starring role for Ronan. City of Ember director Gil Kenan has said: "I won the lottery with Saoirse Ronan. She's about to take over the world. She's amazing. I don't know if any of you have seen Atonement yet, but she's like mind-blowing. She fills the screen with light, which is exactly what she needs to do in every frame."

Acting is sort of a family business for the Ronans. Saoirse's father Paul has appeared in U.K. television shows such as Ballykissangel. Ronan will also appear in the highly anticipated 2009 release The Lovely Bones, based on the best selling Alice Sebold novel.

In keeping with the theme of young Irish talent, 18-year-old Liam Aiken (whose mother Moya was born in Ireland) has recently signed on to join the cast of a comedy-drama entitled Will. The film will also star Lisa Kudrow and High School Musical cutie Vanessa Hudgens. Aiken (whose middle name is Padraic) has had a series of increasingly prominent roles in films such as Road to Perdition and Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Will began shooting in January.

Now we'll move on to the veterans of the Irish film scene. Tom Cruise's next project Valkyrie, about an unsuccessful plot by German generals to murder Adolf Hitler towards the end of World War II, has already generated many headlines. This even though it is not due out until next year. Filming in Germany was temporarily halted because government officials consider Cruise's much-discussed religion, Scientology, to be a cult. Lost amidst all the hoopla was the impressive cast which has signed on to appear in Valkyrie, including Belfast's own Kenneth Branagh, and X-Men director, Bryan Singer.

Pierce Brosnan is having no problems finding work in his post-James Bond life. He has two movies coming out this year, with another slated for 2009.

The three films are, to say the least, diverse. They feature cold-blooded killers, Swedish pop tunes and white gorillas. In March, look for Brosnan in the thriller Married Life, about a man torn between a boring marriage and a passionate love affair. Too ashamed to seek divorce, the husband turns to an assassin and tries to have his wife killed. Married Life also features Chris Cooper, Patricia Clarkson and Rachel McAdams.

In a slightly more fun film, look for Brosnan in the summer release Mama Mia! That's right, Brosnan - along with Meryl Streep - will have a role in the film version of the musical comedy based on the sugary songs of Swedish supergroup Abba. The plot revolves around an isolated woman who is about to be married and is seeking the identity of her father. Somehow, this odd combination of story and song has captivated audiences all over the world.

Finally, in 2009, Brosnan will team up with Irish director Terry Loane for the film Vanilla Gorilla, about (you guessed it) an albino ape who learns sign language and becomes friends with a little girl.

Meryl Streep will bring her amazing versatility to two more upcoming films. First she will star with Irish actor Bran F. O'Byrne in the political thriller The International. The film also stars Naomi Watts and Clive Owen, who plays an agent seeking to bring down a prestigious financial firm which has stooped to smuggling arms.

Next up for Streep will be the film version of Doubt, the highly acclaimed play by Irish-American John Patrick Shanley (who also wrote the film Moonstruck). Streep plays a nun who suspects a priest of sexually abusing a boy. Philip Seymour Hoffman takes over the role of the priest from Bran F. O'Byrne, who won rave reviews and a Tony award for playing the role on Broadway. The film, currently shooting in New York City, is slated for release next year.

O'Byrne, along with Albert Finney, appeared in the acclaimed crime drama Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke. Released last fall, the film is worth picking up on DVD.

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