Hollywood's take on the IRA in The Devil’s Own has brought charges that the Americans are romanticising what they don't understand. Even actors HARRISON FORD and BRAD PITT can't agree on their stance. Words: Alan Morrison
Ireland: a land of rolling green hills where the natives sup perfect pints of Guinness and indulge in misty-eyed folk songs. This is the Emerald Isle as mythologist by Americans from John Ford to John Fitzgerald Kennedy; but when it comes to the modern film industry. it sure is a long way from Los Angeles to Tipperary. When Hollywood dabbles in Ireland‘s political troubles then. unlike the Murphy‘s. a lot of British film-goers are bitter.
Although Some Mother’s Son and In The Name Of The Father get the right-wing press all in a fankle about sympathetic portraits of characters with IRA connections. at least these closer- to-home films recognise the complexity of the situation and the rights and wrongs on both sides. In Hollywood too an IRA figure is rarely a straightforward villain up against a clean-cut good guy. but this is the means by which the filmmakers dangerously hedge their bets. In Pan-int Games. Sean Bean wasn‘t an IRA terrorist. he was part of an extreme splinter group acting on a personal vendetta. so he could be safely disowned by the IRA hierarchy.
The Deli/'3' ()wn is the latest blockbuster to get caught up in the controversy. Harrison Ford plays a good-hearted New York cop who opens his family home to a young Irishman Brad Pitt. not suspecting that his new friend is an embittered terrorist who saw his innocent fisherman father shot down in cold blood by the Brits. Well. that‘s all right then: why get into centuries of political wrangles when an easy motivation can be manufactured before the opening credits are over?
Pitt obviously had a moment of doubt late last year when he told
vaswr'r’k that this was ‘the most irresponsible hit of
filmmaking — if you can even call it that — that I‘ve ever scen‘. claiming to have been threatened with a $63 million lawsuit if he pulled out of the production. The actor recanted a few days later. however. and issued an I-was-misinterpretcd statement.
In the official promotional material for the film. Pitt recognises the limitations facing an actor stepping in these waters. ‘I did all the research I could.‘ he admits. ‘Unfortunately the troubles in
When Hollywood dabbles in Ireland’s political troubles then, unlike the Murphy’s, a lot of British film-goers are bitter.
Irish eyes aren't smiling: Harrison Ford in The Devil's Own
Ireland have gone on for 3()() years and I don‘t think there’s any way to completely understand them if you haven‘t grown up in them. but I travelled there several times. I read all the books and met with several people who had been involved in the struggle first hand.‘
hyieanwhile on set. rumours abounded of script rewrites. reshoots. weather difficulties and tensions between the stars. Ford. however. in a recent Internet interview. was rather forgiving over Pitt‘s Nannvweek outburst. ‘I think he just forgot for a minute that he was talking to someone who was paid to write this shit down.‘ is the excuse he gives for his younger co- star. emphasising that he too was concerned in the early stages of the production. but is happy with the finished work. "l‘hey weren’t going to abandon this project. they were too far into it and I
knew we were going to have to work our way out of
'l‘oday. the film has barely made back half of its $80 million budget at the American box office. That said. The Devil's ()wn may not be an apology for terrorism. but surely we‘ve every right to be concerned when life-or-death issues on our very doorstep are simplified in the name of entertainment.
The Devil’s Own goes on general release on Fri 20 Jun. See review on page 24.
preview FILM Rough Cuts
The column that peeks behind the cameras.
J.G. BALLARD's screen life doesn't end with Cronenberg's Crash. His novel High Rise is about to become a Hollywood movie, produced by Edinburgh-based Bob Last — formerly of independent punk label Fast Product and manager of The Human League — and with Scotland's Jim Gillespie attached to direct. Last has also acquired the film rights to Kate Atkinson's Whitbred Prize-winning novel Behind The Scenes At The Museum.
T IN THE PARK isn't all about music — the call is out for ’quirky, unusual and entertaining' 16mm shorts to screen at the festival's film tent. Entries should be under ten minutes long, and those accepted will win their makers a free pass to the event (which takes place on the 12/13 July, so get films in fast). The selection is being organised by the Kino Film Club in Manchester, whose own short film festival, Kinofilm 97, takes place in late October. Submissions for this bash — drama, documentary, animation, experimental, music promos — must have been produced within the last eighteen months and be no longer than 30 minutes. Last year's strong response from the Scottish sector has encouraged the organisers to hold a special Celtic weekend as part of the overall festival. The deadline is Friday 8 August, so send an sae to Kino Film Club, 48 Princess Street, Manchester, M1 6HR or phone 0161 288 2494 now.
THE NAME HAS been changed to protect . . . well, whatever. Scotland's leading film event is undergoing yet another name change as it marries a new sponsor. With Drambuie withdrawing from the spotlight, this August will now see the Scottish Screen Edinburgh International Film Festival unveiling a clumsy but no doubt necessary moniker to reflect the new film agency's funding to the tune of £120,000. Highlights already announced for the Film Festival include the world premiere of Mike Leigh's new feature, Career Girls; Gary Oldman's searing directorial debut, Nil By Mouth; and the UK premiere of Lost Highway, the latest by David Lynch, who hopefully will be in town.
High road: David Lynch's lost Highway premieres at Edinburgh
13—26 Jun 1997 THE LIST23