HISTORY OF FILM ON DINGLE PENINSULA
David Lean received the AFI Lifetime Award in 1990 and is known for his many masterpieces including LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962) and BRIEF ENCOUNTER (1945). It has been said of the man that he had “celluloid instead of blood in his veins”. His official entry into direction was with Noel Coward on IN WHICH WE SERVE and his first transatlantic co-production was SUMMERTIME, starring Katharine Hepburn. His many big budget epics were with Sam Spiegel and Columbia and he then worked with Carlo Ponti and MGM.
In 1958 he received the Best Director Oscar for THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, presented on the night by Sophia Loren and in 1963 he again won Best Director Oscar for LAWRENCE OF ARABIA .
Omar Sharif characterised Lean as a divided soul, “a human being as Anglo-Saxon as they come and as romantically oriental as ever I have known”. The director John Boorman referred to him as “a very emotional man”, while Robert Mitchum said that “Working with David Lean is like constructing the Taj Mahal out of toothpicks”.
Lean made a number of films with preeminent female protagonists including; BRIEF ENCOUNTER (1945), THE PASSIONATE FRIENDS (1947), MADELEINE (1950), SUMMERTIME (1955), A PASSAGE TO INDIA (1984) but none so more than RYAN’S DAUGHTER (1970).
RYAN’S DAUGHTER 1970
Sicily and Sardinia had been considered but, in October 1968, after David Lean had seen the entire Wild Atlantic Way on foot, in a Land Rover, and by helicopter, he found himself on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry, overlooking The Great Blasket Islands and made the incredible decision to build right there his village Kirrary for his latest epic feature film Ryan’s Daughter.
The circus came to town in November 1968, “his Crew of Dedicated Maniacs”, over 200 workers built 40 structures with traditional materials – slate, granite and thatch – in terrible winter conditions. Electrics and plumbing were included in some of the buildings and the Pub and Shop were fully fitted out with 1916 fittings and stock. Filming began in March 1969 and ended in February 1970 and Dingle was transformed forever. Originally a 3 month shoot, it went on for 14 months. The budget rose from £9M to £14M and this at a time when the studio MGM were not doing so well financially.
There were so many location set ups on The Dingle Peninsula including: THE VILLAGE (KIRRARY) and THE SCHOOL HOUSE in Dúin Chaoin, THE BUS STOP and THE BARRACKS at Clogher, Ceann Sréithe; and Coumeenole Beach, where the famous storm scene was shot, (Bridges of Ross, Co. Clare, also used for the storm scene).
Considered The Last Epic and shot on 70mm film, it received very mixed reviews on it’s release but earned the 4th highest profit of that year at the box office and went on to win 2 Oscars – Best Cinematography for Freddie Young and Best Supporting Actor for John Mills, (the only ever Oscar for a non speaking role in the history of film).
Adapted from Madame Bovary, the original script was written by Robert Bolt for his wife Sarah Miles. It had two other titles, ‘Michael’s Day’ and ‘Coming of Age’ before the producer, Havelock Allen suggested ‘Ryan’s Daughter’. Havelock Allen also wanted Gregory Peck to play the school master. Gregory Peck’s Great Grandmother, Catherine Ashe came from Minard just outside Dingle. Peck withdrew his interest when he heard Michum was being considered.
Marlon Brando was to play the soldier with Peter O’Toole, Richard Harris and Richard Burton also being considered before Christopher Jones was cast by Lean without an audition. Alec Guinness turned down the role of Father Collins before it was offered to Trevor Howard.
far and away 1992
Directed by Ron Howard, Far and Away starred the recently married couple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, who had got together on DAYS OF THUNDER. It is interesting to note that the opening aerial shot of the film, flies over The School House from Ryan’s Daughter. Kidman, who played Shannon in the film, has ancestors from Dingle Peninsula, The Finns family. There is much talk of Cruise’s voice work as Joseph in the film, interestingly he was using new tech for the time with an electronic voice-enhancer to achieve the accent.
At this point Ron Howard had done really well with films WILLOW and PARENTHOOD and his film BACKDRAFT was just being released when he began filming in Dingle in the summer of 1991. This film was a dream project for him. The film was inspired by Chieftain songs, set in the 1890s, a romantic historical piece with a score by John Williams and The Chieftains.
Amazingly the film was shot on 70mm, only the second film in 22 years since Ryan’s Daughter. Filmed in Montana, the cameraman Mikhail Solomon, used Panavision, Arriflex Camera and shot at 100 FPS to achieve the spectacular slow motion scene with the 800 riders and 900 horses depicting the Oklahoma Land Rush.
Other locations filmed in Ireland include, Temple Bar and Market Lane in Dublin city and Killruddery House just outside Bray. Irish actors, Colm Meaney and Brendan Gleeson, Niall Toibin (who also appears in Ryan’s Daughter) also star in the film.
STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI 2017
Directed by Rian Johnson, this iconic movie shot key scenes on Ceann Sibéal and Dunmore Head on The Dingle Peninsula. The Dingle landscape represents the planet Ach-to and a Monastic Settlement where Rey (Daisy Ridley) comes to find Luke (Mark Hamill). Rian is also known as directing the best ever and worst ever episodes of Breaking Bad. He broke through with BRICK and really made his name with the brilliant LOOPER. His KNIVES OUT will soon have it’s sequel released.
Luke Skywalker’s peaceful and solitary existence gets upended when he encounters Rey, a young woman who shows strong signs of the Force. Her desire to learn the ways of the Jedi forces Luke to make a decision that changes their lives forever. Meanwhile, Kylo Ren and General Hux lead the First Order in an all-out assault against Leia and the Resistance for supremacy of the galaxy. The film also stars; Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac.
SONG OF THE SEA 2015
The inspiration of this animated feature occurred on Ventry Beach as the director Tomm Moore (The Secret of Kells, Wolfwalkers) watched his son building sandcastles. Sound recordings were also made from a boat out on Dingle Harbour.
Song of the Sea tells the story of Ben and his little sister Saoirse (the last Seal-child) who embark on a fantastic journey across a fading world of ancient legend and magic in an attempt to return to their home by the sea. The film takes inspiration from the mythological Selkies of Irish folklore, who live as seals in the sea but become humans on land.
Voices are iconic names in Irish film and music with Brendan Gleeson, Fionnula Flanagan, David Rawle, Lisa Hannigan, Pat Shortt and Jon Kenny. Music is by composer Bruno Coulais and Irish band Kíla.
THE VILLAGE 1968
This is a fascinating look at Dingle Peninsula just before David Lean came and changed things forever more. At the time of filming in 1967, the village consisted of only 180 people. It is a documentary by American anthropologist Paul Hockings and Mark McCarthy about the effects of modernisation on the inhabitants of Dunquin and the outlying Blasket Islands. They chart how the fishermen’s lives were changed forever by the introduction of commercial trawlers, the destruction of the family unit due to emigration, and how reliance on the tourist industry contributed to the decline of the traditional culture it celebrates.
The Village is pure ethnographic cinema. Both informative and entertaining, it features a cast of colourful local characters and visitors, including the postmistress, who dispenses sweets, gossip, and pensions; the innkeeper Muiris O’Caomhanaigh, otherwise known as ‘Kruger Kavanagh’, a returned migrant who had reputedly worked as a Hollywood agent and became de Valera’s bodyguard. The film was produced by the UCLA Ethnographic Film Programme and features a score by Sean O’Riada. The film was digitally remastered in 2020.
PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD 1962
Shot entirely on Inch Beach in 1962 and with the cast from The Abbey Theatre, The Playboy of the Western World is a 1962 film version of the 1907 play written by John Millington Synge. It was directed and co-written by Brian Desmond Hurst, best known for his adaptation of A Christmas Carol. The film stars Gary Raymond and Siobhán McKenna.
Pegeen Mike (daughter of the barman) was based on the King’s daughter from The Blasket Island. Pegeen falls in love with Christy Mahon (who brags he has killed his father).
John Millington Synge visited the island in 1905, and was one of the first visitors.
WEST OF KERRY 1938
Filmed out on The Great Blasket Islands, the film tells of a young medical student who visits the Blasket Islands, off the coast of Kerry, during the holidays and becomes charmed with the place and its people. He falls in love with a local girl, who is betrothed to a local man. The two men meet and become fast friends, and the student realises the hopelessness in his love for the girl of his friend. He leaves but, after his graduation from Trinity College, he returns to cast his lot with these simple fishermen.
the phoenix cinema
What an extraordinary place, a place that brought so many people together to enjoy cinema for over 100 years. That incredible feeling we have of coming together in a dark space and watching a great story unfold in front of us, I feel it’s similar to when fire first brought us together as a community and we began to share stories. The Phoenix Cinema was a special place to come together. I was fortunate enough to be able to bring film to the cinema for over 20 years with the Kerry Film Festival, Dingle Film Festival and Animation Dingle.
After 2 fires in 1918 and 1921, two brothers John & James Houlihan built the cinema in 1938 and this is the cinema that rose from the ashes, (hence its name) and which stands on Dyke Lane today. They burned peat (turf) out the back, to create electricity to power the 2 Italian projectors in the cinema and they later sold the power up the town, electrifying Dingle in the late 30’s.
The cinema doubled up as a dance venue, with a superb maple floor and played host to regular dances at festive times such as Easter and Christmas. Show bands came and played in the cinema.
Vin Houlihan said ‘it was cheaper to go to the cinema and be warm than put a fire down at home’.
John Moore owned the cinema from the 1950’s until 1979 when he sold it to Micheal O’ Sullivan.
Micheal had spent his childhood going to The Phoenix Cinema and he adored film. He fully refurbished the cinema and opened on Sunday July 13th 1980 with Kramer Vs Kramer and The Empire Strikes Back. How ironic then, that Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi was to be shot in Dingle so many years later.
A cinema club ran in the cinema for years and Michael’s Tuesday night film introductions, holding up the poster of next week’s film under a single lightbulb on a stand, were legendary.
An adjacent video shop as part of the whole cinema experience existed for many years; what a great idea!
We'll always have dingle 2010
Directed by the Grammy Award winning Director, Geoff Wonfor, who is known for directing THE BEATLES ANTHOLOGY, this feature documentary is about me and tells my story and ambition in setting up a film festival here in Dingle! I invited Geoff to Dingle after receiving permission from Apple to screen in full the 10 hour Beatles documentary in a tent. After a little time with Geoff, he asked “has anyone made a documentary on you”, to which I answered “no”, Geoff responded, “I will”! And indeed to my astonishment he did!
Geoff returned to Dingle the following year with DOP Eugene O’ Connor (who also shot my documentary on Pauline Bewick and The Beatles Anthology) to make the film which was produced by Diane Namm and features: Cillian Murphy (Peaky Blinders); director, Stephen Frears (The Queen, The Snapper), Jools Holland and Irish singer songwriter, Mary Coughlan.
A DOLPHIN'S GIFT 1991
How the love of a dolphin named Fungi transformed the people of Dingle
A Film by Kim Kindersley
Narration by John Hurt (Harry Potter, 1984, Midnight Express, Alien, The Elephant Man)
This wonderful film was produced by my very good friend, Tor Cotton.
This is the story of Fungie, a lone bottle-nose dolphin, who came to live in Dingle Bay.
There are many magical encounters with people, moments that are both spectacular and moving. Shot in the autumn of 1990, it remains timeless and compelling viewing. Fungie changed Dingle forever. After several decades of play and fun with Fungie in Dingle Bay, sadly Fungie is no longer with us.
The crest 2017
Directed by Mark Covino this beautifully shot and heart warming film documents the story of two descendants of The King of The Blasket Island as they journey to where he once presided-not to reclaim the land, but to surf the waves.
Run and jump 2013
My own son Rí had a starring role in the film playing the friend of the main protagonist in the film. The film is directed by Oscar nominated Steph Green and tells the story of an American doctor who travels to Ireland to study the Casey family after 38-year-old Conor suffers a stroke which changes his personality, leaving dynamo wife and mother Vanetia to run the show.
IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA 2021
A two-part special, The Gang goes to Ireand and The Gang Still in Ireland, was filmed in Dingle, Slea Head, Ballyferriter and Lispole. Now in it’s 15th season, it is the longest running live action sitcom in US history.
Top Gear 2016
Viewed by over over 2.5 million people when broadcast in 2016, Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc, the show’s hosts, visited the Kingdom in April for a shoot featuring a Rolls Royce Dawn and a 1976 Corniche. “Best road I’ve ever driven on,” Evans tweeted from Dingle’s Slea Head during filming. “Had no idea it existed. A great, great day.” “Looks like an awesome drive,” LeBlanc added.
Intimate live performances and interviews with some of the biggest names in music, featuring both Irish and international artists filmed in St. James’ Church here in Dingle and many other wonderful locations on the peninsula.
The show is produced by Philip King and his partner, Emmy Award winning Nuala O’ Connor.
A League of Their Own: Dingle to Dover
Freddie Flintoff and Jamie Redknapp are back for another mad-cap roadtrip, this time beginning in Dingle, Ireland, and making their way over to the white cliffs of Dover. The lads travelled to Dingle last September, staying in the Dingle Skellig while exploring beautiful West Kerry! The show begins with the lads meeting on Dunquin Pier (Cé Dhún Chaoin), this is where the red carpet photo on my home page was taken by the talented photographer Barry Murphy.