First Colin, then Cillian ... and now it's the cailíní
The cinema-loving public would just love an Irish girl to emerge from Hollywood. Susan Daly takes a look at the leading contenders
By Susan Daly
Monday September 07 2009
Ireland has no problem pumping out the Hollywood heart-throbs. Liam Neeson, Gabriel Byrne and Daniel Day-Lewis (yes, we've decided he's Irish) are still producing high-profile work in the States.
The next generation of male A-listers already have their feet under the Tinseltown table: Colin Farrell, Cillian Murphy and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers are all box-list names to a varying degree. And they are budging up to make room for Kerry's finest Michael Fassbender, currently seen stealing of one of the finest scenes in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds.
But the cinema-loving Irish public are desperate for a female Hollywood A-lister to call their own. We still hark back to the glory days of Alison Doody as the love interest in Indiana Jones, or Brenda Fricker's Oscar-winning turn in My Left Foot. Every time a household name in Ireland shows a flicker of interest in an acting career -- most recently, Caroline Morahan and Rosanna Davison -- the bookies start offering odds on the chances of them winning an Oscar by 2015.
If we were only to look in less obvious quarters, we would see there are a number of fine young Irish actresses emerging from the shadow of the Colins and the Cillians. Ireland has a proud theatrical tradition in which brilliant actors like Ger Ryan, Dearbhla Molloy, Derbhla Crotty, Fiona O'Shaughnessy, Aisling O'Sullivan, Eileen Walsh and Ali White continue to move audiences.
It is always a matter of speculation to wonder if Ireland, with its relatively small population, will produce another star as well-known as Maureen O'Hara. For a while it seemed like actresses like Ruth Negga (Breakfast On Pluto), Flora Montgomery (When Brendan Met Trudy) and Eva Birthistle (Ae Fond Kiss) were on the brink of international fame. But the dream doesn't seem to have quite materialised for them.
However, there are a number of other young female actors whose early CVs are already bearing Hollywood credits. The attitude appears to have changed too, with the realisation that Irish actresses don't just have to be big fish in a small pond.
Sarah Bolger, the 18-year-old Dublin star of The Spiderwick Chronicles, The Tudors and In America embodies this 'can-do' confidence.
She told me in an interview earlier this year: "I feel like the last couple of years it has been Colin, Cillian and Jonathan. The last Irish woman I can think of is Brenda Fricker. Irish women have to get up there and say: Move over, gentlemen!"
Nicely said, Ms Bolger.
KEY CV: Atonement, Death Defying Acts, The Lovely Bones, The Way Back
WHY SHE'S HOT: The youngest of our Hollywood-bound bunch is incidentally the most successful so far. Carlow girl Saoirse was nominated for an Oscar for her supporting role in Atonement opposite Keira Knightley and James McAvoy in 2007. Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson has reportedly delayed the release of The Lovely Bones -- in which she has the starring role as a murdered girl -- until later this year so that it will be eligible for next year's Academy Awards.
Could Ireland be looking forward to getting its youngest Oscar-winner ever? There is a distinct possibility.
And she already has another major Hollywood film in the bag, Soviet gulag drama The Way Back, co-starring Colin Farrell and Ed Harris, and due out next year.
KEY CV: Angela's Ashes, Ned Kelly, Intermission, Rome, The Last Station
WHY SHE'S HOT: Tipperary girl Kerry already has two outstanding visual scenes on her CV that audiences will immediately remember -- she's the beautiful café waitress who Colin Farrell headbutts at the start of Intermission, and she famously stripped for her role in the HBO/BBC series Rome.
But she has thankfully not been pigeonholed -- she could be on the brink of real recognition for her role as Masha in The Last Station, based on the life of novelist Leo Tolstoy, due to be released early next year. She acts in an impeccable line-up of stars: Helen Mirren, Christopher Plummer, Paul Giamatti and James McAvoy.
The lead role she had in a pilot TV show in the US called Anatomy of Hope could also be significant -- while it wasn't picked up, it does mean that she has registered on the radar of its very influential creator, one JJ Abrams (he of Alias, Lost, Mission Impossible III and Star Trek fame).
KEY CV: In America, Stormbreaker, The Spiderwick Chronicles, The Tudors
WHY SHE'S HOT: Named a Shooting Star in Berlin this year (an accolade previously garnered by the likes of Ewan McGregor, Rachel Weisz and Daniel Craig), Bolger has just finished her Leaving Cert and is going full steam ahead in following her dreams to Hollywood.
Her consistently high-profile work since the age of 10 is a sign of a great career to come: she stole every scene as young Christy in Jim Sheridan's Oscar-nominated In America, became a tween idol in The Spiderwick Chronicles and the exposure to TV audiences here and Stateside as Princess Mary in The Tudors for the past three seasons have cemented her profile.
Next up is her starring role as Polish girl Kashka in World War II drama Iron Cross, to be released next year, opposite the late Roy 'Jaws' Scheider in his final film role.
KEY CV: Moon, Raw, upcoming Leap Year
WHY SHE'S HOT: A raving beauty, McElligott certainly has the looks to take her to A-list roles. Even better, she evidently has the hunger for it. She took a chance by not reprising her popular role on RTé drama Raw, heading instead to South Africa to film a new NBC series called The Philanthropist.
Sadly, her part in the show was written out at the last minute but the cancellation meant she was then free to take a pivotal role in Leap Year, the Hollywood movie filmed in Ireland this year with Oscar nominee Amy Adams and Matthew Goode.
In fact, she may have just got her big break -- her role as an astronaut's wife in Moon, the well-received debut by David Bowie's son Duncan Jones, saw her cast alongside Kevin Spacey and Sam Rockwell.
KEY CV: Dorothy, Day of the Triffids
WHY SHE'S HOT: Belfast-born Jenn grew up watching Jason Priestley on Beverly Hills 90210 -- now she's acting opposite him in a star-studded two-part TV version of the classic post-apocalyptic tale, The Day of The Triffids (Joely Richardson, Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Cox and Dougray Scott also appear in it).
Jenn's big break came in the lead role of Irish horror movie, Dorothy. Her debut feature film performance, as a teenager suffering from multiple split personalities, was likened by Screen International magazine to the breakout role of Ed Norton in Primal Fear.
KEY CV: Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince (and two more Harry Potter films in the pipeline!)
WHY SHE'S HOT: Two words: Harry Potter. The film franchise has made global stars of its three main stars, Daniel Radcliffe, Emily Watson and Rupert Grint. But auxiliary performers have also been using the films to springboard their future careers -- Robert Pattison, the hugely popular star of the Twilight teen vampire film, graduated from a Harry Potter film. By the time filming wraps on the final installment of HP, Evanna from Co Louth will have played one of the most noteworthy supporting characters, Luna Lovegood, in four films.
She attends the Centre for Talented Youth in Ireland in her summers -- the girl might just have the extraordinary talent to build on her magic early success.
KEY CV: Felicia's Journey, Disco Pigs, The Ghost Squad, Uncle Adolf, Harper's Island
WHY SHE'S HOT: Elaine has been knocking on the door of A-list fame for some time now, having been hailed as one to watch 10 years ago in her starring role as a pregnant teen opposite Bob Hoskins in Felicia's Journey, and two years later in Disco Pigs opposite the now-stellar Cillian Murphy.
In fact, it is the small screen that looks likely to bring Elaine fame. Four years ago, she began landing big TV roles -- Hitler's niece in Uncle Adolf and as Det Amy Harris in Channel 4's The Ghost Squad.
Currently she's showcasing an impeccable American accent in the lead role of Abby Mills in the outrageously plotted Harper's Island TV series for CBS.