By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — A multi-million-pound Hollywood version of the story of St. Patrick is set to hit the screens in time for the millennium festival next year, with Emmet Bergin playing the patron saint.
Currently being filmed on location in Wicklow and Wexford, it will be the first movie to tell the story of the Welsh shepherd boy who banished the pagan Druids and brought Christianity to Celtic Ireland in the 5th century.
More than 40 actors, most of them Irish, have been hired by the Sharpmist III Production company for the movie, which is being called "St. Patrick, The Irish Legend".
The director is Robert Hughes, who produced the U.S. children’s TV series — also shot in Ireland — "Mystic Knights.
Co-starring are Susannah York — one of only four women in the cast — Alan Stanford, ex-Butchers Boy Eamonn Owens, Luke Griffin as the young St. Patrick, and Stephen Brennan.
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A spokesman for the company said St. Patrick is one of the most famous names in history, with innumerable places around the world, including churches, colleges and institutions named after him, but few know much about him.
The movie will tell a story of "adventure, intrigue, miracles and discovery, full of fantastic visual effects and epic production values," the spokesman said.
The saint will be portrayed as a spoiled and rebellious 16-year-old who is kidnapped by raiders and sold to a cruel Irish chieftain when he is befriended by Nuala, a slave girl.
Troubled by dreams, he escapes six years later and walks 200 miles across Ireland. He finds a boat to bring him home.
The visions continue and 30 years later as a learned priest Patrick returns to the land of his enslavement to lead the warlike heathens from "barbarism into enlightenment."
Converting the Irish to Christianity involves the liberal use of miracles, including healing the sick, walking through fire and stopping a sword before it can kill him.
"The spread of Christianity and learning in Ireland changed the course of the western world, preserving centers of wisdom and learning after Rome fell and Europe descended into the dark ages," according to the movie’s publicists.