The Irish presence at Hollywood’s premier awards shows is sometimes writ large (Jim Sheridan’s My Left Foot in 1990 cleaned up) and sometimes it’s more understated, for example when an Irish short film like Terry George's 2012 The Shore pulls a nomination and then clinches it.
This is a year without major Irish contenders or nominations for most of the top awards, but nevertheless the Golden Globes and the Oscar nominations have just reminded us how far Irish and Irish American talent has risen globally.
Arguably the most buzzed about leading actor of the moment is Northern Ireland’s Jamie Dornan, 32, who’s much anticipated feature Fifty Shades Of Grey hits the theaters on February 13, just in time to steam up the box office.
Dornan and his British wife, actress and singer Amelia Warner (a former paramour of Colin Farrell's, but what actress isn't?) caused a sensation on the red carpet at the Golden Globes, a reaction that will only increase as his stock rises thanks to his portrait of Mr. Christian Grey.
Saoirse Ronan, an emerging Irish superstar in her own right, is also among the A-List principles cast in director Wes Anderson’s most personal and poignant film to date, The Grand Budapest Hotel, which received nine Oscar nods, including Best Picture.
Ronan, 20, will be at the Sundance Film Festival next week to unveil her latest film Brooklyn, based on the bestselling novel by Dublin writer Colm Toibin. In the new film she plays a young Irish emigrant who is caught between the pull of her adopted homeland in the U.S., and the old life she has left behind in Ireland.
Meanwhile, there’s good news for the Irish with a nomination in the Best Animated Feature race for director Tomm Moore’s Song of the Sea. It’s the second nod for the Irish director after 2010’s The Secret of Kells and it’s a particularly significant achievement for his Cartoon Saloon studio based in Co. Kilkenny, which he helped found in 1999.
The boost an Oscar nomination gives to an actor or a film cannot be understated. Earlier last week Tomm told the press he believed that Song of the Sea, his hypnotic tale about the mythical Irish sea creature the selkie, had no chance of making into the final cut.
“I went to Kilkenny Castle Park and had my lunch,” he told the press. “I tried to pretend I was calm and then my wife called me and let me know. I was just on to the distributors in the states. Now we have the nomination, they are really going to give it a push.”
Moore, an Irish upstart whose gorgeously drawn animations reference classical Irish manuscripts, is already competing against the biggest animation studios in the world, so just to clinch this nomination puts him in the master animator leagues and is a real thing for the Irish to take pride in.
Other Irish Oscar nominations that may have escaped your notice include one for director John Carney, whose 2008 low budget Irish film Once delighted the audience when its title song “Falling Slowly” picked up an Oscar for Best Original Song.
This year a song from Carney’s latest film Begin Again called “Lost Stars” (performed by Keira Knightley) is once again in competition in the same category.
Boogaloo and Graham is a delightful short film nominated in the Live Action Short category. It follows two Belfast boys named Jamsey and Malachy whose lives are transformed when their dad presents them with two baby chicks to look after. But as the film shows, that’s not the only surprise ahead of them.
Director Michael Lennox was born and raised in Northern Ireland and directed his first feature film in December starring Conleth Hill and Ian McElhinney (both from Game of Thrones). The Oscar nod will see him emerge as a bright new Irish talent in an award season filled with them.
Rory Kennedy, the youngest daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, was nominated for Best Documentary Feature for her work alongside Kevin McAlester in Last Days in Vietnam.
The hard hitting documentary feature follows what happens as the Vietnam War drew to a close, as the U.S. government’s refusal to face up to the approaching final days led to chaos in the last hours of Saigon’s fall.
As U.S. personnel and members of the South Vietnamese army were being evacuated, panic stricken South Vietnamese citizens who aided the losing side learned that they would be left behind.
As far as TV goes, one of the rubberneck moments at the Golden Globes was delivered via Dominic West, Colin Donnell and Maura Tierney’s sensational new Showtime drama The Affair, which won two of the most coveted television drama awards for best show and best actress.
In the show West -- a graduate of Trinity College Dublin and married to an Irish aristocrat, Catherine Fitzgerald (they were wed at the family castle in Glin, Co. Limerick) -- plays Noah Solloway, a writer and schoolteacher who is happily married to Helen, (played by Boston born Maura Tierney.
They live in Brooklyn with their four children thanks to the financial help from Helen’s wealthy father, who pays for their spacious brownstone. Noah’s writing career isn’t the ascent to fame and fortune that he hoped it would be and – while staying at his in-law’s estate in Montauk – he falls under the spell of a beautiful young waitress who takes him out of himself but threatens everything he has.
“He realizes that his life isn’t what he thought it was, and his life eventually falls apart,” West told The Hollywood Reporter. You can say that again, as anyone familiar with this intense high stakes series can attest to.
West was born to an Irish Catholic family in Yorkshire and attended the most famous private school in the country, Eton College (British Prime Minister David Cameron is a graduate) before studying at Trinity. His American accent is so convincing that his previous stint on The Wire had audiences convinced he was native-born.
Tierney plays West’s wife on the show and her character is, in the actress’s own words, a tiny bit annoying.
“Because she’s sort of perfect,” Tierney told the press. “She’s a great mom -- she has four kids -- and she’s a successful businesswoman that has a fair-trade, eco-friendly store, and she sort of grew up wealthy, so she’s kind of in a great place. But little does she know...”
Donnell was best known for his Broadway performance in Anything Goes and his turn in the CW television series Arrow. But now the 32-year-old actor has achieved a whole new level of exposure playing Scotty Lockhart, the is-he-isn’t-he character at the center of the show’s cliffhanger finale.
Donnell has Irish and French ancestry and grew up in St. Louis, where school musicals were his thing. He thought football would be his career but Broadway eventually beckoned.