People to watch in 2016: Film and TV
Ireland's film and TV industries continue their ascent this year, and these five actors and directors are set for big things in 2016
L-R: Jordanne Jones, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Charlie Kelly, Stephen Fingelton. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Ferdia Walsh-Peelo was always likely to become famous. Born and raised in Co Wicklow, the good-looking, sleek 16-year-old has been performing throughout his short life. “It was music,” he says. “I was busking. I was a boy soprano. Then I was on the Late Late Toy Show in, I think, 2012, singing O Holy Night.” Acting wasn’t on his radar, but he was intrigued by an open audition at FilmBase in Temple Bar for an upcoming musical.
“Then the queue was enormous. I was tempted to go away. I had to queue for six hours, but it seemed to go well.” The film was John Carney’s hugely anticipated Sing Street and Walsh-Peelo ended up with the lead role. Carney, director of Once and sometime bass player with The Frames, has confirmed that Sing Street is essentially his own story. “There’s some of that,” Ferdia laughs. “But he gets to do all things John dreamed of doing as a kid.”
It was recently announced that Sing Street will play at the hugely influential Sundance Film Festival and will open the Dublin Film Festival. “Yeah! John told me a few days ago we’re all going to Sundance. That’s going to be amazing!”
In 2016 you will discover Charlie Kelly. A rugged, committed actor, Kelly has smaller roles in Jim Sheridan’s The Secret Scripture and the upcoming 1916 series Rebellion, but he is most excited about his major turn opposite Jamie Dornan in the historical drama Jadotville.
Richie Smyth’s picture finally tells the true story of the Irish UN soldiers who fought in the Congo during the 1960 Katanga disturbances. “The story has been forgotten about,” he says with great passion. “There were 150 Irish guys against 3,000 Belgian and French mercenaries. They were being led by this guy called Pat Quinlan, played by Jamie Dornan in the film. He is a smart clever man. He’s an unsung hero. They are all unsung heroes.”
Raised in Dublin, Charlie studied drama at UCC . “I did things slightly backwards,” he says. “I wanted to get out of Dublin. I thought I’d be more focussed if I lived independently. There’s a great theatre scene there.” He learnt still more watching Jim Sheridan on The Secret Scripture. “He has a fearlessness,” Charlie says. “If my scene is cut I don’t care. I just want to learn from people like that. That was great.”
“I was just saying this to my mam the other day,” Jordanne Jones says. “When I was 11 I was always putting on plays. I’d rehearse everyone. I always wanted to be an actor. So bad. They promised they’d get me into acting school.”
Jones, who still lives in Tallaght, ended up taking a different route into the profession. Her mother, the admirable Lynn Ruane (Students Union president at TCD), spotted a message on Facebook and put her forward for Frank Berry’s socio-realist drama I Used to Live Here.
The performance received rave reviews, Jones was signed up by the Lisa Richards theatrical agency and, a few weeks ago, she finished runner-up to Michael Fassbender (no less) in this newspaper’s poll to find the best movie performance of 2015. Later this year, this brilliant young actor, still just 15, will appear in the RTÉ series Rebellion. “Well, I’m a prostitute in it,” she says with an embarrassed laugh. “It was so awkward to watch it with me ma. It’s the 1916 rising and she lives with a poor family who are struggling. It was sad making it, seeing what happens to her.”
The 2016 Sundance Film Festival will be an unusually Irish affair. An unprecedented six domestic films will play at the Utah event later this month. Rebecca Daly’s Mammal, starring Rachel Griffiths as a bereaved woman who befriends a young boy in contemporary Dublin, is among the most eagerly anticipated premieres.
“It’s a great launch for us. And because Rachel is so well known it is a very important thing,” Daly tells us. How did she get the great Australian actor on board? “She just liked the script. It was important that the character was a fish out of water in Dublin.” Though Daly is still a young director, she counts as a veteran of major film festivals. Back in 2011, her debut feature, the spooky The Other Side of Sleep, played at the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes. Rebecca was born in Sussex to an Irish family who moved back to Naas when she was nine. That has remained the home base ever since. Rebecca is already deep into work on her third feature – “a project about faith in Ireland” – and is confident that the wheels will soon begin moving on the production.
Shortly after the triumphant premiere of Stephen Fingleton’s The Survivalist at the Tribeca Film Festival, the Northern Irish director managed to put himself beside Robert De Niro, that event’s founder.
“I got a snap of him essentially for my dad. At the end he asked me if I was Scottish,” he laughs.
Starring Martin McCann as a near-lone survivor of an apocalypse, the gripping The Survivalist, which opens here in February, went on to win The Douglas Hickox Award for best debut director at The British Independent Film Awards. Shot on a modest budget, the film feels like a pocket epic. “Well, Shakespeare depicted the biggest battles in history on a tiny stage,” Fingleton comments.
“If you can find dramatic moments in a small space it can really resonate.”
Born in Derry, raised in Warren Point and Enniskillen, Stephen studied English at University College London, before moving into short films.
Last year, SLR, a taut thriller, made the long list of 10 for the short film Oscar. He is now addressing the big time. “I am developing a very big budget science fiction film that I hope will be in every cinema in Ireland, ” he says. “Unlike The Survivalist. Which will not be in every cinema. Ha ha!”