Com­pass is point­ing nowhere

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - News -

US dis­trib­u­tor New Line Cin­ema hoped that The Golden Com­pass would sig­nal the start of a new fran­chise that could come close to match­ing the com­pany’s mas­sive suc­cess with the Lord of the Rings tril­ogy.

But while The Golden Com­pass had strong open­ings in Europe, earn­ing $92 mil­lion (¤64 mil­lion) in 12 days, it has fallen short of ex­pec­ta­tions in the cru­cial US mar­ket, open­ing be­low tar­get fig­ures and suf­fer­ing a steep 65 per cent drop in tak­ings on its sec­ond week­end.

By last Sun­day, the lav­ish pro­duc­tion had taken just $40 mil­lion (¤28 mil­lion) af­ter 10 days on US re­lease – less than the $44 mil­lion (¤30 mil­lion) made by Alvin and the Chip­munks in its first three days, and well be­low the $77 mil­lion (¤53 mil­lion) taken by I Am Leg­end last week­end. The prospects look bleak for fur­ther films based on the Philip Pull­man tril­ogy, His Dark Ma­te­ri­als, which be­gan with The Golden Com­pass.

Mean­while, New Line and di­rec­tor Peter Jack­son have set­tled all lit­i­ga­tion re­gard­ing the Lord of the Rings tril­ogy. New Line and MGM have agreed to co-pro­duce Tolkien’s The Hob­bit and its se­quel, with Jack­son on board as ex­ec­u­tive-pro­ducer – shoot­ing is ten­ta­tively sched­uled for 2009.

Cel­e­brat­ing Ó Cad­hain

Screened at the Dublin, Gal­way, Bos­ton and Shang­hai fes­ti­vals this year, the film ver­sion of Máirtín Ó Cad­hain’s novel Cré na Cille will have its world TV pre­miere on TG4 at 9.30pm on St Stephen’s Day.

Di­rected by Robert Quinn ( Dead Bod­ies) and pro­duced by Ciarán Ó Co­faigh, the darkly hu­mor­ous film takes place above and be­low ground in a Con­nemara ceme­tery.

In a spir­ited per­for­mance, Bríd Ní Neach­tain heads the cast, which in­cludes Mac­dara Ó Fatharta (who wrote the screen­play adap­ta­tion with Quinn) and Peadar Lamb.

The film, which is in Ir­ish with English sub­ti­tles, will be pre­ceded on TG4 by an hour-long doc­u­men­tary on Ó Cad­hain to mark the cen­te­nary of his birth.

State of de­lay

Fol­low­ing Brad Pitt’s abrupt de­par­ture from the US re­make of BBC se­ries State of Play, and the con­se­quent shift of shoot­ing from

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mid-Novem­ber to early Jan­uary, Ed­ward Nor­ton has with­drawn be­cause of sched­ul­ing con­flicts with his next project, play­ing the dual lead­ing roles in Leaves of Grass for writer- di­rec­tor Tim Blake Nelson.

Ben Af­fleck will re­place Nor­ton as a politi­cian caught up in a mur­der con­spir­acy, and Rus­sell Crowe will take Pitt’s part as a jour­nal­ist on the case in the thriller di­rected by Kevin Macdon­ald ( The Last King of Scot­land).

The de­layed start means that the pro­duc­ers have to ac­com­mo­date He­len Mir­ren, who plays Crowe’s ed­i­tor in the film and is set to join Joe Pesci in Love Ranch, di­rected by Mir­ren’s hus­band Tay­lor Hack­ford, and due to shoot early next year.

Iran’s ar­chit-ac­tor

How to get into movies with­out re­ally try­ing: Ho­may­oun Er­shadi was work­ing as an ar­chi­tect in Tehran in 1996 and sit­ting in his car at a junc­tion one day when he heard a knock­ing on the win­dow.

It was the lead­ing Ira­nian film di­rec­tor, Ab­bas Kiarostami, who in­tro­duced him­self and said, “I want to do a film and I want you in it.” Kiarostami or­gan­ised a screen test and cast him in the lead­ing role of Palme d’Or-win­ning A Taste of Cherry, in which Er­shadi spends most of his time driv­ing.

And Er­shadi, who was 50 at the time, be­gan a sec­ond ca­reer as an ac­tor. He has a key role in Marc Forster’s film of The Kite Run­ner, which opens here on Wed­nes­day.

“The thing that is so amaz­ing about him is that he’s so nat­u­ral,” says Forster. “A lot of ac­tors rely on their tech­nique, and he only re­lies on his heart.”

Wilde about Fion­nula

Fion­nula Flana­gan, the Dublin-born ac­tress who has fea­tured in more than 100 movies and TV shows as well as many no­table stage pro­duc­tions, will re­ceive a ca­reer achieve­ment award at the an­nual “Os­car Wilde: Hon­our­ing the Ir­ish in Film” party to be held in Los An­ge­les on Fe­bru­ary 21st.

Di­rec­tor James L Brooks, who won three Academy Awards for Terms of En­dear­ment, and Cork-born ac­tress Fiona Shaw will also be hon­oured at the party, or­gan­ised by the US-Ire­land Al­liance.

A won­der­ful Christ­mas

There isn’t a Christ­mas movie to match Frank Capra’s It’s a Won­der­ful Life, and Belfast au­di­ences can savour it in the shared ex­pe­ri­ence of a cin­ema at Queen’s Film Theatre this week­end. John Hus­ton’s swan­song, The Dead is also screen­ing there this week­end, as is Vin­cente Minnelli’s en­dur­ing sea­sonal mu­si­cal, Meet Me in St Louis, star­ring Judy Gar­land. www.Queens­FilmThe­atre.com Happy Christ­mas.

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