By Olivia Tracey
Hang around Hollywood long enough and you’re bound to bump into a famous face or two. Recently, I was lucky enough to meet up with one of my favorite people, actor Tom Berenger, who, dressed in beige and black, is still as handsome as ever. The occasion was the launch of his latest film, "One Man’s Hero," in which he plays Sergeant John Reilly, the Galwegian leader of the Saint Patrick’s battalion, otherwise known as the San Patricios in Mexico.
"It was a story begging to be told," said director Lance Hool, sporting a black "Feile an Phobail" T-shirt after his recent trip to Ireland to promote the film, where, by all accounts, it was very well received indeed. In fact, it stirred so much interest that Mr. and Mrs. Berenger graciously forfeited their star seats to two Dublin press members, making do with an editor’s copy on the small screen. "It would be nice to see it on the big screen," he said, chuckling.
Of course, on a budget of "less than 10 percent of Titanic," the film was a labor of love for all concerned, with everyone cutting their fees. It was also very much a family affair. The director cast his two sons, Brett and Jason Hool, with his brother Conrad Hool acting as producer, while Berenger was personally preened by his hair and make-up artist wife, Trisha Alvaren Berenger. Latino actress Daniela Romo does a great job as the strong and patriotic love interest, as does our own Patrick Bergin, who plays cut-throat General Scott.
The movie was cast in the U.S., Mexico, Spain and Ireland, but it was at the Monte Carlo Grand Prix of all places that the director scored a royal casting coup. Moving and shaking with no less than the Grimaldi’s, his heroic Irish story attracted the interest of Prince Albert himself.
"Oh, I’m Irish, too," announced the prince proudly, referring to his beautiful mother, actress Grace Kelly. "Well," joked the director, "maybe you’d play a part in our film," to which Albert replied that he’d simply love to. And he wasn’t joking. So, the prince took off for Mexico in the role of James Kelly to don that wool military costume and sweat it out in the desert along with the rest of the cast. He even wanted to return for the hanging scene, but it is suspected that Prince Rainier intervened.
Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter
Being patriotic myself, I was curious to know why Berenger, an American, had been cast in an Irishman’s role. Well, first of all, Tom is Irish American on his father’s side and, being an avid historian, he had been fascinated with the Mexican-Irish story for 12 years. He was also courting a script in an attempt to get it made, like many others before him, including John Wayne, Richard Harris and Peter O’Toole. Meanwhile, Lance Hool had a 30-year-old script written by Milton Gelman with contributions from John Huston and Sam Peckinpah, but rather than fight over who does the movie, the twain joined peaceful forces and put the battle on screen instead. As for Berenger’s Irish brogue, he had no official coaching, but admitted that his many lengthy conversations with Galwegian Mike Glynn of 57th Street’s Kennedy’s didn’t hurt. "One Man’s Hero" gets a U.S. release on Sept. 24.
Speaking of Mike Glynn, the darling of the Irish pub and restaurant world is, as usual, entertaining the snazziest of the celeb world. Not only did he soiree backstage with the Three Irish Tenors at their recent Madison Square Garden hit concert, but he even managed to get the trio singing happily into the wee hours back in Kennedy’s, much to the delight of the packed pub.
"Three nicer fellas you could not meet," he gushed, urging me to meet up with them on my pending trip to Ireland for The Rose of Tralee, where they are performing. The same Mike has also been extending his Irish hospitality to the cast and crew of The Gate Theater’s Broadway production of "The Weir" and "Uncle Vanya" and The Abbey’s "Freedom of the City" at John J. College.
Apparently this is a first for the two Dublin theaters to play simultaneously in the United States, and so, to mark the event, Mr. Mike has arranged a collage of cast photos with the late Donal McCann in the center, to be sent to both theaters as a tribute to one of Ireland’s finest and much-missed actors.
Meanwhile, back in L.A., one of our promising young actresses, formerly featured in my column, Geraldine Hughes, is going from strength to strength. Having begun her acting career, aged 13, with "Children in the Crossfire," the Belfast lass has been gracing the screen and treading the boards incessantly. I caught her a short while ago at West L.A.’s Odyssey Theater in the comedy "When I was a Girl I Used to Scream and Shout" and was blown away by her performance. So was one Hollywood agent, Galwegian John Lyons, who took her under his wing immediately. Now she is on her way to the Ensemble Theater of Santa Barbara for a production of "The Cripple of Inishmann" in which she plays the lead girl, Helen, opposite the delectable Tim Murphy. Both of them being the last to audition, they were cast on the spot, the auditors were so enthralled with their performance. Roll on, opening night in Santa Barbara.