Irish eye on hollywood Tom Deignan The Irish and boxing are longtime Hollywood staples from J


Irish eye on hollywood

Tom Deignan

The Irish and boxing are longtime Hollywood staples, from John Wayne as the reluctant slugger in The Quiet Man right up to Russell Crowe in Cinderella Man and Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby. In December, a Cork-born writer-director and quirky American actor are going to take their shot at the genre with Strength and Honor.

Buzz on the film is solid. True, one gossip web site said the film combines a couple of genres - the "poor and miserable Irish people movie and the boxing movie," but Strength and Honor (written and directed by Mark Mahon) did win Best Picture and Best Actor at the recent Boston Film Festival.

It was the first time a single movie nabbed these two awards. Strength and Honor is about an Irish-American boxer (Michael Madsen, best known for his psycho ear-chopping role in Reservoir Dogs), who may have to break a promise he made to his wife when he finds out his son is dying.

The wife, by the way, is also dead. So, yes, it appears this movie is heavy on the Irish trauma. It also explores the underground world of Irish travelers and their penchant for bare-knuckle boxing.

Strength and Honor was filmed in Mahon's native Cork last year and also stars Patrick Bergin, Richard Chamberlain and Vinnie Jones.

After his triumph at the Boston Film fest, Mahon said: "To win top awards at such a prestigious festival is surreal - competition was fierce this year with a large number of high profile titles competing. We're absolutely ecstatic that Michael Madsen won for his superb lead performance."

Meanwhile, the Irish ring chronicles continue with buzz building about a Brad Pitt-Mark Wahlberg pairing. The dynamic duo is slated to star in The Fighter, a film based on the life of "Irish" Mickey Ward.

Pitt is expected to play Ward's half-brother Dickie Eklund, a tough boxer in his own right, who pushed Ward to the top of the fight game.

Critically-acclaimed director Darren Aronofsky (The Fountain, Requiem for a Dream) is shooting the movie. In recent interviews, Wahlberg has said he idolized Irish Mickey Ward while growing up in working-class Dorchester, Massachusetts. Ward grew up in Lowell, Massachusetts.

"Mickey Ward was, in my opinion, one of the greatest champions of all time, and the biggest heart that ever stepped into the ring," Wahlberg recently said. "I am committed to making him proud, and I know that Brad feels the same way about portraying his brother Dickie. We are going to make it real." The Fighter is slated for release in 2009.

It's not exactly a happy holiday film, but Daniel Day-Lewis' epic There Will Be Blood is set for release the day after Christmas. Directed by hip auteur Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love), the movie is based on a novel by muckraker Upton Sinclair and looks at corruption following the discovery of oil in Texas. Oil? Corruption? Texas? It's safe to say a few reviewers are going to see echoes of the present day in this historical movie.

Colin Farrell will star alongside Ewan McGregor in Woody Allen's next movie Cassandra's Dream, due for release in late November. In yet another British-set movie for the New York directing legend, Cassandra's Dream follows English brothers lured into a life of crime.

The movie "is simply a story of some very nice young people who get caught up because of their weaknesses and ambitions in a tragic situation," Allen said after the film premiered at the Venice film festival. "They mean well. They were raised decently, but it turns out that their own events and own actions bring them to a tragic demise at the end of the movie."

Initial reviews of the movie are not very inspiring. Word is that both Farrell and McGregor sport accents reminiscent of Dick Van Dyke's in Mary Poppins, while The Independent newspaper in Britain said, "To many critics, it seemed feeble and dispiriting fare - the work of an old master in decline."

The Oscars will not be held until February 2008 but the Irish film community is already making cinematic history.

The Irish movie Kings, starring Colm Meaney, Brendan Conroy and Donal O'Kelly, has become the first movie from Ireland to be submitted to the Oscars for consideration as top film in a foreign language.

Written and directed by Tom Collins, Kings explores a group of Irish-speaking men who leave the west of Ireland for London in the 1970s. They are so filled with hopes and dreams, they believe they can someday be "kings."

The men meet up 30 years later when one of their pals dies. "I know it's always dangerous to have messages in films, but I hope people will watch Kings and empathize with the whole experience of emigrants in a foreign land and how hard it is for them to find their way home," director Tom Collins said. "This is a universal story - it's not just about paddies." Kings was shot in Belfast, London and Dublin last year.

"Kings is a powerful and moving story that transcends its native language and can communicate universally with its raw and honest storyline," Aine Moriarty, CEO of The Irish Film and Television Academy, recently said.