From the iconic Ha’penny Bridge, to that gorgeous Georgian view down Merrion Square, there are plenty of Dublin spots with film star looks. As the Dublin International Film Festival comes to town, we look at some of the places that have been immortalised on the silver screen.
Sitting in a drawing room on Fitzwilliam Square some years ago, just round the corner from the Merrion Hotel, I was astonished and alarmed to see a young man being shot within the confines of the elegant park. I was even more astonished when he got up, and they did it all over again. Relief followed as I realised they were shooting a scene from Neil Jordan’s 1996 film, Michael Collins, starring Liam Neeson and Julia Roberts.
Films including Once, Sing Street, I Went Down, The Dead, and About Adam are proudly set in Dublin, but with so much of the city preserved beautifully intact, Dublin is a favourite spot for filmmakers, and sometimes surprisingly so. Temple Bar was instantly recognisable, even with its streets covered in straw for the unintentionally hilarious Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman film, Far and Away (1992); but it would have taken a true Dubliner to spot Dunsloghly Castle, in the suburb of Finglas, standing in for Edinburgh Castle in Braveheart.
On the other hand, it took Alan Parker’s film of the Roddy Doyle book, The Commitments, to bring some locals to discover different parts of town, as it celebrated the housing estates of Darndale and Kilbarrack, as well as the St Francis Xavier Church on Upper Gardiner Street. The dilapidated rehearsal room the band use is, these days, the far glitzier Palace Nightclub on Camden Street.
Of course, Ireland’s beautiful countryside attracts film makers in their droves. From John Ford’s 1952 The Quiet Man, set in Cong, Co Mayo; to Country Antrim’s Dark Hedges being such a feature of Game of Thrones, Ireland abounds with scenic spots. Star Wars has made a star of the historic and epic Skellig Michael, while Co Wexford’s glorious Curracloe Beach did service as the spot for the D-Day Landings in Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan
Back in the city Kilmainham Gaol closed as a prison in 1924 but it is fascinating to visit as a tourist and, it seems, if you’re a movie director too. It has appeared in the multi-Oscar nominated In the Name of the Father, as well as, way back, in the classic 1969 The Italian Job. Movie buffs will also recognise it from The Wind that Shakes the Barley, and Michael Collins (again).
One spot you think you might recognise from a film is Trinity College’s beautiful Long Room Library. Visitors today admire the eighteenth century splendour of the long, dark wood bookcases, and its gorgeous arching roof; but if you think it bears an uncanny resemblance to the Jedi archives in Star Wars Episode II, you’d be both right – but wrong, though the wonderful building has its own claims to fame, for its rich history and the objects it houses.
And if all that film-buffing has made you thirsty, you can refresh yourself in some film star bars. Try Mulligans for My Left Foot, Whelan’s of Wexford Street for PS I Love You, and the Stag’s Head for Educating Rita. Toners of Baggot Street is just a street away from The Merrion and, believe it or not, it appears (briefly) in Sergio Leone’s classic A Fistful of Dynamite, when the film’s star James Coburn utters the legendary line “Duck, you sucker!” there. Finally, the world may have forgotten Laurence Olivier’s 1961 film, Term of Trial, but you can still have a pint where the school teacher he played propped up the bar: in Cleary’s of Amiens Street.
The Dublin International Film Festival runs from February 26 to March 8. www.diff.ie