Neil Jordan donates ‘vast’ archive to National Library of Ireland

Donation comes with €2.2m tax break for film director who made Michael Collins

Irish screenwriter, director and producer Neil Jordan has donated his archive, including scripts, storyboards, notebooks and personal correspondence with actors and filmmakers, to the National Library of Ireland.

 

As an aspiring writer before he became a film director, Neil Jordan haunted the National Library of Ireland’s reading room in Kildare Street, Dublin.

He wrote most of his first book of short stories, Night in Tunisia, in the library and what was to be a failed adaption for the big screen of Brian Friel’s play Translation.

“When you start out writing you are kind of lost, almost homeless. A library provides a home. This is a very special place and a private place,” he said at the presentation of his archive to the National Library of Ireland.

He described his archives as a “vast, inchoate mass of material” compromising of voluminous correspondence with a who’s who in the film industry , various drafts of film scripts, novel scripts, story boards and still photographs.

He confessed that there is so much material that he has not been able to look through it all. One still photograph from the Michael Collins film set brought back memories of a cast member being almost shot by a dummy machine gun.

The donation comes with a generous tax break of €2.2 million courtesy of Section 1003 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997.

However, Jordan did donate other material to the National Library in 1993 when there was no financial incentive to do so.

His 1996 film Michael Collins remains his most enduring work from an Irish perspective.

The cast of thousands who made the film possible will be interested in the posters looking for extras to participate in various scenes including one where would-be participants are warned not to wear “jeans, t-shirts, runners, watches or other modern conveniences”.

There’s also a shooting script for the film which shows that even at that late stage, the finished movie changed.

A poster looking for extras to participate in various scenes of Michael Collins. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins
A poster looking for extras to participate in various scenes of Michael Collins. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

An opening scene which showed the 10-year-old Michael Collins witnessing an eviction was left on the cutting room floor.

The film was well received at the time. The future Northern Ireland secretary of state Mo Mowlan wrote: “Everyone was bowled over by the film and thought it was wonderful!”.

Another letter in the collection from the actor Christian Slater thanks Jordan for casting him as the character Malloy in the 1994 film Interview with the Vampire.

“I wish the circumstances under which I was cast could have been different,” he writes referring to the death of the actor River Phoenix who died four weeks before shooting began.

There is also correspondence with the disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein who was involved with Jordan in the making of several movies.

The material will be digitised for future film scholars and those interested in Irish culture.

National Library of Ireland director Dr Sandra Collins said the tax breaks for archive donations are vital in ensuring that such material is kept in Ireland.

She described them as “particularly important as there is so much international interest in acquiring Irish archives”.