By Olivia Tracey
LOS ANGELES – Gather together a bunch of Irish people with a tremendous Irish movie and a Guinness-sponsored reception and you cannot but spark a hooley and a half. Such was the case one recent Sunday evening at the launch of The Irish Screen, a new non-profit film and arts organization dedicated to showcasing and promoting Irish films in Southern California.
The event took place in Hollywood’s Raleigh Studios with a screening of a new Irish film, “This is My Father,” starring Aidan Quinn, James Caan, Stephen Rea, John Cusack, Colm Meaney, Donal Donnelly and impressive newcomer Moya Farrelly.
There’s no doubt but that the Quinns have much to be proud of in this family production, which marks the debut for Paul Quinn as writer and director, and stars Aidan Quinn in probably his best work yet and his sister Marion in a cameo role, along with brother Declan as cinematographer. It is a tragic love story set in Ireland in 1939. The heartless religious rules of the local community dictate the path of the two lovers. A tearjerker it certainly is, but with a very generous helping of humor, especially with Colm Meaney’s character as a gay, tea-pouring Mammy’s boy running their guest house.
I had been looking forward to catching up with Colm, but, unfortunately, our Captain O’Brien was away at the Cannes Film Festival. I was also hoping to meet Aidan Quinn, but he had paternal duties back in New York as his wife, the actress Elizabeth Braco, gave birth to their second daughter, Mia Teresa. However, James Caan was there, relaxed and friendly, and seeming very happy to add yet another quality project to his already superlative repertoire from “Misery” to “The Godfather.” I also got speaking to Declan Quinn, a lookalike for his handsome brother Aidan, and whose previous work as director of photography include the critically acclaimed “Leaving Las Vegas” and “Vanya on 42nd Street,” with Joel Schumacher’s “Flawless” lined up for the fall, starring Robert De Niro. Having spent his teenage years being educated in Offaly, which he remembers fondly, followed by five years in Dublin’s Windmill Lane Studios, he considers himself very much bicultural, and knows well the world of “This is My Father,” as indeed does brother Paul. The debut writer/director of the movie was no doubt thrilled with the positive response, especially considering that the project has been in the works for nigh on 10 years.
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Also part of the Irish celebration was actress Fionnula Flanagan (“Some Mother’s Son”), directors Eugene Brady (“The Nephew,” produced by Pierce Brosnan’s Irish Dreamtime company) and Robert Dornhelm (“The Break”), Sean McClory (“The Quiet Man,” “The Dead”) and his wife, producer Peggy Webber McClory and Irish actors Tom McGreevey (“Ryan’s Hope”), Liam Tuohy and Shea Duffin, the latter two now treading the boards after their stint on “The Titanic” with Liam at the Metropole Theater in Hollywood in “Tiger on the Meadow” and Shea dividing his time among Los Angeles, Toronto, Cleveland, Rochester, Chicago and Boston, where he will be playing his mega-hit one-man Brendan Behan show ,”Confessions of an Irish Rebel.”
There were, in addition, some less famous faces – for now, at any rate – including John Lyons, formerly of New York’s D’dalus Theater company and now with big-time Beverly Hills agent Susan Smith. Also, there was Alan Finn, from my neighboring Churchtown in Dublin, a production assistant with Bandeira Entertainment and whose baby sister, Doreen, happened to be one of my students during my English teaching days at Loretta St. Stephen’s Green. I obviously made some sort of impression on her as she herself has become a true Miss Finn, teaching English and Spanish.
Alongside Alan was handsome Dublin actor Gary Mullan, who hails from very impressive stock indeed with relatives that include actress Audrey Dalton, who starred in the original “Titanic,” among many other things, and his grandfather Charlie Dalton, author of “With the Dublin Brigade,” which in fact was read by Neil Jordan when he was doing “Michael Collins,” starring Gary himself as the assassin who shoots Cathal Brugha. Having worked ceaselessly in San Francisco theater, this go-getting 29-year-old has gone on to work with Don Johnson on “Nash Bridges” as well as several independent movies, including an upcoming role as a priest in Colm O’Faolain’s “Conor’s Pass,” which is to be shot this summer in Ireland and L.A. with Cindy Costner (former wife of Kevin Costner) as producer. Something tells me we’ll be seeing a lot more of this Gary Mullan in the future.
Obviously delighted with their launch turnout were The Irish Screen founding trio of Dun Laoire-born and bred Paul Balbirnie, Carlow native Trevor Murray and Julie La Bassiere, who grew up in London, New York and Los Angeles. Not surprisingly, all three of them work in the film industry, with Trevor as art director and model maker on the recent blockbuster “The Titanic,” among others, while Paul and Julie both work for the American Cinematheque, which is currently involved in the $15 million renovation of the historic Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard. They offer Irish Screen memberships, which apart from regular screenings, also provide information on Irish productions within and outside the U.S., networking opportunities with Irish film industry professionals and access to funding and location resources for future productions in Ireland. For information, call (213) 850-4425, fax (213) 913-2105 or E-Mail IrishScreen@WEBTV.NET.