By Olivia Treacy
Despite its glossy image, Los Angeles is not a late-night town but rather a place where the perfectly coifed are seen to make appearances, sipping sparkling eau minerale before retiring to their beauty sleep. This phenomena was explained to me one Monday night in Morton’s, where I was, of course, the last to leave at the ridiculously civilized hour of 10:30 p.m.
The waiter brought me back to the old studio days when, if you were seen to stay out past 10 p.m., it was assumed that you weren’t working and, therefore, either a nobody or a somebody on a downslide. Well, no such paranoia was evident at the chi chi Pagani’s eatery last week when the Irish film world bantered and bustled insatiably at the worldwide launch of the Screen Commission of Ireland.
Minister for the Arts Sile de Valera and the Screen Commission’s chief executive, Roger Greene, were on a six-day trip to L.A. where they liaised with every major studio in town and checked out the global competition at the Film Locations Expo in the Downtown Convention Center. The point of the Commission is to promote Ireland globally as a film location and to encourage international partnerships in the film and television industry. The Board, whose members include no less than Pierce Brosnan and Sinead Cusack, will act as a one-stop shop for incoming production companies, furnishing information on all aspects of filming in the home country, from locations and tax incentives to casting, crews, and equipment.
Irish-American P.R. prodigy Maggie Begley did a superlative job in attracting an attendance that was abundant in terms of both quality and quantity. The gorgeous Gabriel Byrne was there, on a brief respite from his current movie, "End of Days," in which he plays the devil opposite Big Arnie himself. Apparently the movie is due to be released on Nov. 17 at the exact same time in every city in the world. In the meantime, one of his own projects, "The Lying Lord" goes into production this summer in London with Mel Smith of "Not the Nine O’Clock News" fame. In fact, Gabriel could be a pretty hot property to hang out with considering that, in the four short minutes I was speaking to him, a string of admirers took the opportunity to shake his glorious hand, including Allied Irish Bank Vice President Breda Ryan, who generously offered Byrne any assistance he may need. So, cashing in on this golden moment, I very quickly shook her glorious hand with a heartfelt thank you.
Also in fine form was Colm Meaney, surrounded by family members including his darling mother, Kathleen, her cousin Sheila Mulvaney, and his niece Ciara Meaney, all over on vacation from Ireland. For those of you who are New York-based, you can soon catch the "Star Trek-Next Generation" star in the flesh, playing the lead in an adaptation from the John Irving novel "Cider House Rules" at David Mamet’s prestigious Atlantic Theater in Chelsea. Previews begin in mid-April. As for the Star Trek series, it comes to a close this season, but Colm remains unperturbed and actually welcomes the opportunity to venture down new pastures.
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Venturing along his own exciting path is "The General’s" Brendan Gleeson, who was there with his agent, Joan Scott of Writers and artists agency. His latest movie, "Sweetie Barrett," is due for release soon followed in June by the David E. Kelley project "Lake Placid" opposite Bill Pullman and Brigid Fonda. Also in celebratory mood was Paul Quinn, writer, director and brother to Aidan, whose wonderful film, "This is my Father," is to be released here on May 7 while currently enjoying a top-three ranking on the Dublin cinema scene. "The Nephew’s" director, Dubliner Eugene Brady, was working his natural charms around the room and clearly content with his current choice of projects.
Equally happy were composer Patrick Cassidy and his manager/producer brother, Frank; Galwegian John Lyons, who has just established his own theatrical agency here in the heart of Hollywood; Ardmore Studios Morgan O’Sullivan and Kevin Moriarty; The Chieftains’ Paddy Moloney, with his Grammy nomination and subsequent win; ICM agent whizz kids David Flynn and Justin Moore Lewy, from the Dublin office; "Braveheart’s" Sean Lawlor, looking radiant from the good life in Santa Monica; Fionnula Flanagan, who, unfortunately, could only stop by for a short while; Tony "Emerald Green’s" O’Donnell (cousin to Daniel); Larry King’s make-up artist, Navan-born Janice Kavanagh; former Elite model and director of the Modelslink website, Ennis lass M’ve Malone; King World’s Meryl Karpf, "Titanic’s" Chris Byrne; "The Dead’s" Redmond Gleeson, whose latest film "St. Patrick’s Day," with actress Geraldine Hughes, is due for a Los Angeles release soon; Bronwen La Grue, from Windmill Lane L.A.; producer Angela O’Donoghue of Doghouse Productions, currently on a Peter Sheridan project; IDA’s Jim Whelan and his wife, Ann, due to return to Dublin in August; Paul Barnett, from San Francisco’s Aisling Works production company; Vice Consul Niamh Ryan; mega-producer Roger Connan, and equally mega Mark Johnson, who is joining forces with director Barry Levinson on "Everlasting Piece," to be shot, appropriately, in Ireland this summer.
As you might imagine, the atmosphere was electric among the 270 guests who eventually had to be thrown out onto the outdoor patio so that dinner could be served in the dining room. As you also might imagine, I was one of those guests. And doesn’t it all augur very well indeed for the Screen Commission and the future of the Irish film industry.