Mel Gibson and Sean Penn to star in film shot in Dublin

Eight-week shoot in capital for film about dictionary editor and eccentric contributor

It has been confirmed that Mel Gibson and Sean Penn will be in Dublin this month to begin work on a film adaptation of Simon Winchester's 1998 bestseller The Surgeon of Crowthorne. Gibson has already been spotted on the streets of the capital.

Taking its title from the US edition of the book, The Professor and the Madman, tells the unlikely story of Sir James Murray, early editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, and his interactions with an eccentric contributor, Dr WC Minor.

Gibson plays Murray. Penn plays Minor, a retired army surgeon who made more than 10,000 contributions while in Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, as it was then called.

Gibson acquired the rights to the book nearly 20 years ago. Todd Komarnicki and the long-time Wicklow resident John Boorman penned the original script. Farhad Safinia, who co-wrote Gibson's epic Apocalypto, has redrafted that screenplay and will direct The Professor and the Madman for Icon Productions and the Irish company Fastnet Films.


The film, which will shoot around Dublin for eight weeks, has received creative co-production funding from the Irish Film Board and "on the ground" locations support from the board's inward production team. Rob McCormack, Abigail Coburn and Zoe Moran are among the local actors taking roles. Gibson is credited as producer.

Irish blood

Gibson, proud of his Irish blood, famously shot


, his popular Scottish epic, in Ireland and made creative use of the Army Reserve in the battle sequences. That film went on to win the Oscar for best picture in 1996. Since then, his career has experienced many ups and downs.

The Passion of the Christ, Gibson's retelling of the crucifixion, was a huge financial success. In 2006, when he was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, he said to the arresting officer: "The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world. Are you a Jew?"

In 2010 he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanour battery charge in relation to an incident involving his then girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva.

This looks like the year he attempts a full-scale rehabilitation. Gibson's Hacksaw Ridge, starring Andrew Garfield as pacifist US Army medic Desmond Doss, recently premiered to positive reviews at the Venice Film Festival.

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist