Moore takes hit thriller Payne to the max


Michael Dwyeron film

Irish director John Moore rules the roost at the US box office this week with his fourth feature film, Max Payne, which made more than $18 million when it opened there on over 3,300 screens last weekend.

Based on a videogame, Max Paynestars Mark Wahlberg as a disgruntled New York City detective accused of a murder he didn't commit and determined to track down the killers of his wife and child.

Born in Dundalk, Co Louth in 1970, Moore made his mark with the distinctive Irish short films, Jack's Bicycleand He Shoots, He Scores. His Sega Dreamcast commercials attracted the attention of 20th Century Fox, which hired him to direct the Bosnian war drama Behind Enemy Lines, starring Owen Wilson and Gene Hackman.

Max Payneis Moore's fourth film for Fox, following his contemporary remakes of The Flight of the Phoenixand The Omen, parts of which were shot at Herbert Park in Dublin.

The successful opening of Max Payneis especially good news for Wahlberg after the critical and commercial failure of M Night Shyamalan's ponderous The Happening, in which he starred earlier this year.

Wahlberg recently spent $35m on an eight-bedroom Los Angeles mansion, where he now lives with his wife and three young children. Apparently, he needs the extra space when family come to visit.

Bringing 1970s Sligo back to life

Shooting is under way in Sligo on writer-director Conor MacDermottroe's first feature, Occi vs the World, set in 1970s rural Ireland, where a single mother and her son are treated as social pariahs.

Rising Belfast actor Martin McCann (from Closing the Ringand My Boy Jack) plays the young man in search of his father and a place to belong.

Thie German-Irish co-production is based on McDermottroe's play Swansong, and also features Jodie Whitaker, Gerard McSorley, Marcella Plunkett and Brid Brennan.

No go for Oscar no-shows

An Oscar nominee as Best Supporting Actress this year for Atonement, Carlow resident Saoirse Ronan now looks unlikely to be back on the nominations list next January. She had been seen as a possible nominee for her performance as a murdered child in Peter Jackson's film of Alice Sebold's best-seller The Lovely Bones. However, it's now unlikely to go on US release before March and may be delayed till autumn.

Seamus McGarvey, the Armagh cinematographer nominated this year for Atonement, could have been an Oscar contender again next year for The Soloist, which reunites him with Atonementdirector Joe Wright and stars Jamie Foxx as a homeless violinist. It was to open in the US next month, but Paramount has shifted the release to March.

To qualify for Oscar nominations, a film has to open for a week in LA before the end of the calendar year.

Grant lost for 'Words'

Although Hugh Grant forged a successful relationship with Working Title on the romcoms Four Weddings and aFuneral, About a Boyand Love, Actually, he has withdrawn from the UK production company's Lost for Words. Grant may have been lost for words when he cited the traditional euphemism, "creative differences", to explain his departure.

He was to play an English actor falling for the Chinese director (played by Zhang Ziyi) of his next movie.

"Hugh wishes them well," says his spokesman.

Hoffman play closes early

As an Oscar winner for Capote(2005), Philip Seymour Hoffman might have been expected to be a box-office draw as the director of the London stage production of Riflemind. The play, written by Andrew Upton, was due to run until January, but received such negative reviews that it is closing after a month.

Hoffman may very well be consoled with another Oscar nomination for Doubt, in which Meryl Streep plays a nun who suspects his character, a priest, of sexually abusing a student. It opens here in February.

Loss of a visionary

Producer Mark Shivas, who died last week at the age of 70, was a visionary pioneer in the golden age of 1970s British TV drama through such prestigious productions as the Play for Todaystrand, The Glittering Prizesand Alan Parker's The Evacuees. He was producer or executive producer on many notable features, among them Moonlighting, A Private Function, Priest, Regeneration, Judeand a number of Irish productions that included The Snapper, The Vanand I Went Down.

Mark and I stayed at the same hotel in Cannes down the years during the film festival. I will greatly miss his wit and erudition over our many enjoyable breakfasts there.