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Levinson to direct ‘Everlasting Piece’

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Helena Mulkerns

New York-based actor-producer team Barry McEvoy and Jerome O’Connor made the front page of Hollywood’s showbiz bible Daily Variety last Friday with news that Barry Levinson will direct an all-Irish cast in McEvoy’s script, “An Everlasting Piece” this fall.

Levinson is most recently known for the uncannily prophetic “Wag The Dog” (1998), which satirized the dubious world of contemporary American politics. He has been nominated for Oscars on five occasions, winning as best director in 1988 for “Rain Man” starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise. Johnson shared the Oscar nomination for best picture with Levinson for “Bugsy” in 1991, and it looks as though Johnson, Di Giamo and O’Connor will be producing “Piece,” with Dreamworks slotted for domestic and Summit Entertainment taking on foreign distribution.

McEvoy, who was born in Belfast, is currently seen playing a gangster in Sidney Lumet’s “Gloria,” and has worked on and off Broadway, including several roles in New York’s Irish theaters. He wrote the script in two years between acting jobs, and teamed up with producer O’Connor, originally from Cork and known in New York as the owner of St. Dymphna’s restaurant in downtown Manhattan.

When casting director and producer Louis Di Giamo (who cast “The Godfather”) became interested in the script, he invited producer Mark Johnson, with whom he’d worked on “Rain Man” and “Donnie Brasco” (1997), to a reading at St. Dymphna’s.

After several trips back and forward to Los Angeles, O’Connor also reported the interest of Dreamworks, the company owned by Steven Spielberg, with whom Mark Johnson has a first-look production deal.

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“An Everlasting Piece” is a quirky comedy set in Northern Ireland during the Eighties, when two entrepreneurial barbers, one Catholic and one Protestant, seize an opportunity to monopolize the province’s market in men’s hairpieces. Through various encounters with the respective communities there, they discover that dealing in the rather volatile subject of male vanity, especially within the even more volatile local political situation, can make life very tough for two earnest haircutters just trying to make a buck.

Native Northerner

The charm of the script is that is written by a native Northern Irelander. It is imbued with that unique, often dark, always cheeky sense of humor that addresses the issues of the political situation with an earthiness that incorporates that very same humor as much in the capacity of a survival tactic as a form of entertainment. Well-paced and frequently hilarious, it has been compared with surprise indie hits “The Full Monty” and “Waking Ned Devine.”

“The inspiration came from my father, who is a barber himself, and at one point briefly ran a hairpiece company in Northern Ireland,” said McEvoy, who will also take the lead role in the film. “I’d heard him tell various stories down the years, so I handed him a micro-cassette recorder one day, and suggested that he just talk into it whenever he was inspired, and we ended up with five hours worth of tapes.”

McEvoy sent the script out several times before arranging a dramatized reading with live actors, which brought the words on the page to life, and impressed a large downtown audience who had gathered for the occasion.

“I went to the reading, which Barry arranged when he was still in the middle of shooting “Gloria,” and I couldn’t understand why somebody hadn’t picked it up,” O’Connor said. “Over the next couple of months, I’d inquire how it was going, and one day, when I asked if he needed any help in developing the project, he said yes, and so I optioned the script.”

Levinson has admitted to a limited experience of Ireland; possibly the nearest he’s ever come to it was directing Aidan Quinn in “Avalon” (1990). He told Variety that: “I’d never seen Southeast Asia before ‘Good Morning,Vietnam’ either, but you go where the work is, and follow the good material.”

Dreamworks is obviously thinking along the same lines, since they have contracted McEvoy to write another script for them. This time, it’s a thriller set in the equally quirky world of crossword puzzle enthusiasts.

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