Ireland - A Silver Screen Star
James Joyce opened Ireland's first cinema, the Volta Cinematograph, on Mary Street in Dublin in 1909. The famed writer ran the 420-seat venue for seven months before handing over the reins and, unfortunately, the cinema eventually closed in 1948. Unlike the Volta though, the Irish film industry had a much brighter future ahead.
The picturesque Irish landscape first drew film crews here in 1910 for an American production, The Lad from Old Ireland. It was the first-ever movie made on location outside the United States, filmed in counties Cork and Kerry, and was a huge success with homesick Irish emigrants in America.
Since then, Ireland has had quite the recurring role in many television and film productions over the decades.
In recent years, HBO fantasy series Game of Thrones has made Northern Ireland home to ferocious dragons and feuding families, creating a mini-industry fuelled by visiting fans seeking the exact sites of its many plot twists. The History Channel's gritty and theatrical Vikings is largely made in County Wicklow, a lush, green corner of the country lauded for its mountains, lakes and dramatic scenery. Other TV heavy hitters shot on our idyllic landscapes and cobbled streetscapes have included Showtime’s The Tudors and Penny Dreadful as well as BBC’s Ripper Street.
Mel Gibson's Braveheart, although set in Scotland, was mainly filmed in Ireland. The epic D-Day battle scenes in Steven Spielberg's war epic Saving Private Ryan were filmed on Curracloe Strand in County Wexford, while the much-loved Michael Collins starring Liam Neeson was one of the most expensive Irish productions ever made.
The Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, one of the country's most popular and visually impressive natural tourist attractions, played its part in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and also doubled as the Cliffs of Insanity in the cult 1980s fantasy adventure The Princess Bride. The untamed beauty of the west of Ireland was showcased to stunning effect in John Ford's The Quiet Man, the 1952 picture starring the iconic John Wayne and Irish screen legend Maureen O'Hara.
The rugged and wild Atlantic coastline has also featured as a supporting character in several films. John Huston filmed the 1956 adaptation of Moby Dick in Youghal, County Cork, the local pub being renamed in honour of the great whale.
In 2015, Skellig Michael became Luke Skywalker's home in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This craggy monastic island off the coast of Kerry needed no space-age make-overs however, with its otherworldly charm just right for a Jedi Master’s abode.
Away from the country air, the streets of Dublin have formed the backdrop of many witty, urban tales, including Alan Parker’s screen adaptation of Roddy Doyle's soulful novel The Commitments and salt of the earth comedy classic The Snapper. Singer-actor Glen Hansard, who played a memorable role in The Commitments, went on to star in the 2007 Oscar-winning musical love story Once, set around his old Dublin busking ground.