Sheridan, Jim 1949–
Sheridan, Jim 1949–
PERSONAL: Born February 6, 1949, in Dublin Ireland; married, 1972; children: Naomi, Kirsten. Education: University College, Dublin, received degree; attended New York University film school.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Newmarket Press, 18 East 48th St., New York, NY 10017.
CAREER: Screenwriter, director, and producer. Worked as director and writer at Lyric Theatre, Belfast, Ireland, and Abbey Theatre, Dublin, Ireland; established Children's Theatre Company in Dublin, and operated and wrote plays for Project Arts Center, Dublin, c. 1970s–80s; artistic director of Irish Arts Center, beginning 1982; Hell's Kitchen (film production company), Dublin, currently studio head. Producer of films, including Agnes Brown, 1999, and Catch the Sun, 2000; executive producer of film Borstal Boy, 2000. Director of films, including My Left Foot, 1989, The Field, 1990, In the Name of the Father, 1993, The Boxer, 1997, and In America, 2004; director of videos and commercials.
AWARDS, HONORS: Fringe Award for Best Play, Edinburgh Festival, 1989, for Spike in the First World War; Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay, all Academy of Motion Picture Arts, and Best Film award, New York Film Critics Circle, all 1989, all for My Left Foot; Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay, 1993, for In the Name of the Father; Audience Award, American Film Institute Film Festival, 2003, Best Original Screenplay award, National Board of Review, Kudos Award, Producers Guild of America, Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay, Critics Award, and International Press Academy awards for best drama and best director, all 2004, all for In America; British Academy of Film and Television Arts John Schlesinger Britannia Award for Artistic Excellence, 2004.
Mobile Homes, Irish Writers' Co-Operative (Dublin, Ireland), 1978.
Leave the Fighting to McGuigan: The Official Biography of Barry McGuigan, Viking (New York, NY), 1985.
In America: A Portrait of the Film (screenplay), Newmarket Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Contributor to periodicals, including Time Out, Film-Dienst, and Cineaste.
(With Shane Connaughton; and director) My Left Foot (produced 1989), [London, England], 1989.
(And director) The Field, Avenue Pictures, 1990.
(Coauthor; and director and producer) In the Name of the Father, Universal, 1993.
Into the West, 1993.
(With Terry George; and coproducer) Some Mother's Son, Grove Press (New York, NY), 1996.
(With Terry George; and director and producer) The Boxer, Universal Pictures, 1997.
(With Naomi and Kirsten Sheridan; and director) In America, Fox Searchlight, 2004.
WORK IN PROGRESS: An action-adventure film titled Locked and Loaded; a remake of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa's 1952 film Ikiru; an Irish drama for U.S. television.
SIDELIGHTS: Irish film director and screenwriter Jim Sheridan came into the limelight as the writer and director of the 1989 film My Left Foot, and he more recently garnered numerous awards for the 2004 film In America. Writing on the British Film Institute Web site, Eugene Finn related that Sheridan has "an acceptance, if not affection for, the forms and contents of mainstream genre film-making, and a simultaneous urge to shatter these norms by subtextual examination of specifically Irish issues. In short," the critic continued, Sheridan attempts to strike "a balance between mainstream entertainment and social statement, a use of personalized—often Oedipal—drama to make political critiques."
Sheridan primarily worked in theatre before moving with his family to New York City in 1981, but he returned to Ireland to make his first feature film, My Left Foot, in 1989. Based on the novel by Christy Brown, the movie tells Brown's story as he battles cerebral palsy and continues his life as a painter and author. Writing in Time, Richard Corliss stated, "This Irish film is mostly meat." While noting that at "the end the picture goes soft," Corliss added that "that is no crucial flaw in what is at a heart a love story written in pain." Brian D. Johnson, writing in Maclean's, pointed out a particular restaurant scene in which Brown becomes drunk and unruly. "The audience suddenly finds itself in the embarrassing position of identifying with a restaurant full of patrons desperately anxious that 'the cripple' be removed. Brutally effective, the scene taps the deepest roots of discrimination against the handicapped." National Review contributor John Simon concluded that My Left Foot "is one of those near-documentary treatments of stubborn courage triumphing over immense obstacles; it is told with grim honesty and raffish humor."
Sheridan adapted John B. Keane's play The Field for his film of the same title. The Field tells the story of Bull McCabe, an Irish farmer who has for many years cultivated a desolate field owned by a local landlady; and now faces the horrendous prospect of losing his rights to this work. Writing on the British Film Institute Web site, Finn regarded the film to be "brilliant at times," but he added that it is "marred by shifting the action of the play back to the 1930s, replacing Keane's socialist critique of Ireland's '60s capitalism with a vague articulation of the influence of the Famine on contemporary Ireland."
Sheridan wrote the original screenplay for 1993's Into the West, a story about two young Irish brothers whose love for a white horse named Tir pits them against their neighbors and society as they try to house their horse in their run-down tenement apartment. People critic Leah Rozen called Into the West "an Irish film rich in poignancy and humour," that "will enchant adults as well as kids." In Time, Richard Schickel commented, "In the best sense of the word they [the boys]—and the movie—remain wayward, unpredictable."
Sheridan and Terry George adapted Gerry Gonlon's autobiography Proved Innocent for the film In the Name of the Father. The movie tells Conlon's life story, from his start as a petty thief to his fifteen-year prison sentence for a 1974 terror bombing of a London pub. Conlon was one of the Guildford Four charged with the crime. Eventually, new evidence, suppressed at the first trial, was presented and all were cleared of the charges. In a review in New Statesman, Jonathan Romney commented that "it's doubtful whether Jim Sheridan's film is much of a success." Noting that there is little subtlety to the film, Romney attested that the script "doesn't ask the questions it could have asked," such as what flaws in the British legal system caused this travesty of justice and how similar errors might be prevented in the future. New Republic critic Stanley Kauffmann viewed the film more positively, writing: "Sheridan and colleagues understood their chief problem: not to sustain interest in a story that was well-known in advance, not a large historical subject with its own prestige but a new story now dated. So they concentrated on character and irony." Entertainment Weekly contributor Owen Gleiberman called In the Name of the Father "an anatomy-of-injustice movie so passionately charged it can stand with the finest dramas of its kind."
Sheridan once again collaborated with George in the screenplay for Some Mother's Son. In this film about "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland, the authors relate the true story of Bobby Sands, an Irish Republican Army (IRA) soldier serving prison time who went on a hunger strike in 1981; it also includes the more fictionalized tale of Sands' jailed friends' mothers, who try to keep the prisoners alive. Writing in Time, Corliss complained that instead of clarifying the problems in Northern Ireland, the film "piggybacks its own little story, about the growing respect of the two women, onto the dreadfully edifying drama of the Sands campaign, including his election to Parliament on his deathbed." New Republic contributor Kaufmann observed, "The art of this film, without being exceptional, is reticently competent. The political content, which beforehand might suggest that we have already seen the film, becomes more complex and more immediate as the picture proceeds." Richard Alleva asserted in Commonweal that Some Mother's Son "manages a singular feat of equipoise. It is both angry and human, politically partisan yet emotionally just."
Again focusing on Northern Ireland, Sheridan and George's screenplay The Boxer focuses on Danny Flynn, an ex-boxer and former IRA prisoner who helps give others a chance by running a boxing club in Belfast where both Catholics and Protestants can train. Of this film, Newsweek critic David Ansen felt that there was too much melodrama, adding that the fusion of several "formulas results in some explosive drama, but also a sense of déja vu." New Leader contributor Raphael Shargel, while admittedly not expecting to like the film, conceded that it "succeeds" in that it "forces us to sympathize with the characters on different sides of the political debate, uncovering the human agonies that flare up in an environment of internecine fighting. It is the most sophisticated and moving of the recent IRA films, and one of the outstanding movies of 1997."
In America is a fictionalized account of the Sheridan family's move from Ireland to the United States in the early 1980s; he wrote it with his two daughters, Naomi and Kirsten. The movie revolves around an Irish couple who sneak across the Canadian border, claiming they are vacationers. They are really looking for a new start after the death of their son, however, and, with their two daughters the couple settle in New York City. The movie chronicles the family's struggles, including the mother's dangerous new pregnancy, their poverty, the terrible living conditions, and the father's attempt at acting. Writing in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Robert Philpot related that the movie "has much of the grittiness and sense of unease that imbues … [the author's] earlier works," while National Catholic Reporter contributor Joseph Cunneen called In America "Sheridan's most personal film to date," adding: "Fortunately, he is never pretentious and keeps sentimentality under control."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Volume 2: Directors, fourth edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2000.
America, February 12, 1994, Richard A. Blake, review of In the Name of the Father, p. 20; February 15, 1997, Richard A. Blake, review of Some Mother's Son, p. 26.
American Heritage, December, 2003, "America Was Where the Irish Grew Up" (interview), p. 63.
American Spectator, March, 1994, James Bowman, review of In the Name of the Father, p. 64.
America's Intelligence Wire, January 14, 2004, "On the Big Screen" (interview).
Asia Africa Intelligence Wire, December 11, 2003, review of In America.
Business Wire, May 3, 1999, "Sheridan/Jordan Partnership Launches New Cable Television Concept for Ireland," p. 1291; December 3, 2003, "'In America' Sweeps Independent Spirit Awards Nominations," p. 5784.
Christian Century, March 9, 1994, James M. Wall, review of In the Name of the Father, p. 243.
Cineaste, October, 1994, Martin McLoone, review of In the Name of the Father, p. 44; summer, 1998, Gary Crowdus and O'Mara Leary, "Getting Past the Violence" (interview), p. 13.
Commentary, April, 1994, Richard Grenier, review of In the Name of the Father, p. 49.
Commonweal, February 25, 1994, Richard Alleva, review of In the Name of the Father, p. 16; February 14, 1997, Richard Alleva, review of Some Mother's Son, p. 16.
Daily Variety, September 18, 2002, Todd McCarthy, review of In America, p. 9; December 19, 2003, Strawberry Saroyan, review of In America, p. A1; November 3, 2004, Jeff Goldsmith, "Jim Sheridan: Helmer Humanizes the Political," p. A4.
Dallas Morning News, December 8, 2003, review of In America.
Detroit Free Press, December 12, 2003, review of In America.
Economist, January 29, 1994, review of In the Name of the Father, p. 90.
Entertainment Weekly, October 1, 1993, Ty Burr, review of Into the West, p. 40; January 21, 1994, Owen Gleiberman, review of In the Name of the Father, p. 34; July 8, 1994, Lawrence O'Toole, review of In the Name of the Father, p. 62; January 17, 1997, Lisa Schwarzbaum, review of Some Mother's Son, p. 44; September 26, 1997, Michael Sauter, review of Some Mother's Son, p. 82; January 30, 1998, Lisa Schwarzbaum, review of The Boxer, p. 46; July 10, 1998, review of The Boxer, p. 82; May 21, 2004, Jennifer Armstrong, review of In America.
Europe, April, 1994, Fintan O'Toole, 'Ireland's Cultural Revolution,' p. 16.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram, January 26, 2004, Robert Philpot, "Sheridan Struggled Ten Years to Craft Movie That Brought Him Home."
Hollywood Reporter, January 8, 2004, review of In America, p. 35.
Maclean's, November 13, 1989, Brian D. Johnson, review of My Left Foot, p. 87.
National Catholic Reporter, October 8, 1993, Joseph Cunneen, review of Into the West, p. 15; December 26, 2003, Joseph Cunneen, review of In America, p. 17.
National Review, February 15, 1990, John Simon, review of My Left Foot, p. 57; March 7, 1994, John Simon, review of In the Name of the Father, p. 71; March 9, 1998, John Simon, review of The Boxer, p. 67.
New Leader, January 26, 1998, Raphael Shargel, review of The Boxer, p. 19.
New Republic, November 27, 1989, review of My Left Foot, p. 24; January 3, 1994, Stanley Kaufmann, review of In the Name of the Father, p. 28; December 20, 1996, Stanley Kauffmann, review of Some Mother's Son, p. 26; February 9, 1998, Stanley Kauffmann, review of The Boxer, p. 27.
New Statesman, December 11, 1992, Jonathan Romney, review of Into the West, p. 34; February 11, 1994, Jonathan Romney, review of In the Name of the Father, p. 35.
Newsweek, January 12, 1998, David Ansen, review of The Boxer, p. 61
Orlando Sentinel, December 15, 2003, review of In America.
People, September 27, 1993, Leah Rozen, review of Into the West, p. 18; January 10, 1994, Ralph Novak, review of In the Name of the Father, p. 20; January 19, 1998, Leah Rozen, review of The Boxer, p. 17.
Sarasota Herald Tribune, December 16, 2003, Amanda Schurr, review of In America, p. 19.
Seattle Times, December 4, 2003, review of In America.
Time, November 6, 1989, Richard Corliss, review of My Left Foot, p. 84; September 27, 1993, Richard Schickel, review of Into the West, p. 86; December 20, 1996, Richard Corliss, review of Some Mother's Son, p. 148; January 12, 1998, Richard Corliss, review of The Boxer, p. 84.
Vanity Fair, March, 2004, "The Irish Eye; Jim Sheridan, Filmmaker," p. 380.
Variety, December 22, 1997, Todd McCarthy, review of The Boxer, p. 59.
World Press Review, July, 1993, Michael Dwyer, "A Question of Innocence," p. 49.
British Film Institute Web site, http://screenonline.org.uk/ (January 25, 2005).
IndieWire.com, http://www.indiewire.com/ (February 25, 2005), "Jim Sheridan Gets Personal with 'In America.'"
Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com/ (January 25, 2005).
Nationality: Irish. Born: Dublin, 6 February 1949. Education: Graduated from University College in Dublin; attended the New York University film school. Career: Worked as director-writer at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast and Abbey Theatre in Dublin, originated Children's Theatre Company in Dublin, and operated and wrote plays for the Project Arts Center, a Dublin alternative theater, 1970s-early 1980s; came to New York and became artistic director of the Irish Arts Center, 1982; made screen directorial debut with My Left Foot, 1989. Awards: Fringe Award for Best Play, Edinburgh Festival, 1983, for Spike in the First World War; Academy Award nominations, Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay, and Best
Film, New York Film Critics Circle, 1989, for My Left Foot; Academy Award nominations, Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay, 1993, for In the Name of the Father.
Films as Director and Screenwriter:
My Left Foot (co-sc)
In the Name of the Father (co-sc, + pr)
The Boxer (co-sc, + pr)
Into the West (Newell) (sc)
Some Mother's Son (co-sc, co-pr)
Agnes Brown (Huston) (pr)
Borstal Boy (Peter Sheridan) (exec pr); Catch the Sun (Carney) (pr)
By SHERIDAN: books—
My Left Foot, with Shane Connaughton, London, 1989.
Some Mother's Son: The Screenplay, with Terry George, New York, 1997.
By SHERIDAN: articles—
"The Rage of Innocence," an interview with Steve Grant, in TimeOut (London), 2 February 1994.
"Ohne Gewalt siegen," an interview with Margret Köhler, in Film-Dienst (Cologne), 29 March 1994.
"Getting Past the Violence: An Interview with Jim Sheridan," with Gary Crowdus and O'Mara Leary, in Cineaste (New York), April 1998.
On SHERIDAN: articles—
Mueller, Matt, "Paternal Affairs," in Premiere (New York), December 1993.
Boynton, Graham, "London Burning," in Vanity Fair (New York), January 1994.
Giles, Jeff, "Fathers, Sons, and the IRA," in Newsweek (New York), 31 January 1994.
George, Terry, "Terry George on Jim Sheridan," in New Yorker, 21 March 1994.
Bland, E. L., "In the Name of the Truth," in Time (New York), 21 March 1994.
Grenier, Richard, "In the Name of the IRA," in Commentary (New York), April 1994.
O'Brien, C., "Patriot Games: The Distortions of In the Name of theFather," in New Republic (Washington, D.C.), 9 May 1994.
* * *
The cinema of Jim Sheridan is at once deeply personal, humanistic, and politically committed. His scenarios (taken from real-life as well as fiction) are heartrending, and his characters, all vividly realized, are individuals determined to triumph over seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Sheridan's films are rooted in the culture, history, and politics of his native Ireland and, commercially as well as creatively, he has been at the vanguard of his country's film industry. In 1990, The Field, which he directed and scripted, was the number one box-office champion in Ireland—the initial instance where an Irish film bested all foreign competition.
Perhaps Sheridan's best film to date is his first, My Left Foot, which movingly charts the triumph of an extraordinary individual. At his death in 1981, Christy Brown (played by Daniel Day-Lewis) was one of Ireland's foremost artistic and literary figures. Yet for Brown, it was no small achievement just to master the mundane. He was born with cerebral palsy, and he titled his autobiography My Left Foot because it was with this limb that he painted his pictures and wrote his stories. Sheridan's telling of Brown's life is so effective because he avoids mawkishness: by no means is Brown a cardboard cripple, a stereotypical figure to be pitied or feared. He is a complex character, with the wants, needs, and contradictions of any other man.
Like Sheridan's other heroes, Christy Brown is a man of the working class; his father was a Dublin bricklayer. My Left Foot reflects the importance of the familial bond as, without doubt, the love and support Brown receives from his family are crucial in enabling him to flourish as an artist.
If My Left Foot is the story of a man who transcends his physical limitations, The Field and In the Name of the Father tell of ordinary souls thrust into extraordinary situations. The Field, based on a play by John B. Keane, spotlights the plight of Bull McCabe (Richard Harris), an aging, charismatic peasant who has rented a field and devoted his life to developing it into a top-quality parcel of land. Even though he does not legally own the field, he has nurtured it as one would his own child. Then, he must contend with the news that the wealthy widow who owns the land plans to sell it at auction. The scenario pointedly reflects on Ireland's history and culture: it is set during the 1930s, with the memory of famine lingering in the minds of all the citizenry; and it offers a vivid portrait of traditional Irish village life. Furthermore, a focal point of the story is McCabe's conviction that he has come to own the land. This belief is distilled from Irish tribal laws which, to his mind, transcend contemporary law.
In the Name of the Father, based on Gerry Conlon's autobiographical book Proved Innocent, is an even more straightforward saga of blind injustice. It is the story of Conlon (Daniel Day-Lewis), an unfocused young Belfast man who, along with others (including several of his equally guiltless family members), is arrested by the British authorities and falsely charged with the 1974 terrorist bombing of a London pub. Conlon and three others, who came to be known as the Guildford Four, spent over fifteen years in prison until their convictions were reversed. In the Name of the Father is provocative in its anti-British feel, as Conlon and company clearly are innocents who are railroaded by an unfeeling power structure which is unconcerned with smoking out the true culprits—and which withholds decisive evidence that would have exonerated the accused. The scenario reflects on the Irish-British conflict regarding the plight of Northern Ireland, while focusing on the manner in which the dissension adversely and tragically affects one Irish family. Beyond the politics of In the Name of the Father, the film is motivated by humanistic and familial concern. For years, Conlon shares a jail cell with his father, Giuseppe. Previously, the son had no admiration for his father, but as time passes they become united, resulting in a solid and poignant bond.
Like The Field, In the Name of the Father spotlights the individual's thirst for fairness. Gerry Conlon, like Bull McCabe, is keenly aware that he is a victim of injustice. In both cases, each man stubbornly persists in a single-minded pursuit of truth—just as Christy Brown perseveres in his determination to be viewed as a man without an affliction.
Sheridan's films are uniformly well acted. Daniel Day-Lewis and Brenda Fricker (cast as Christy Brown's ever-supportive mother) won Oscars for their performances in My Left Foot. Richard Harris was nominated for The Field, while Day-Lewis, Pete Postlethwaite (as Giuseppe Conlon), and Emma Thompson (as the lawyer who uncovers the chicanery on the part of the Crown) were cited for In the Name of the Father.
Sheridan, Jim 1949–
SHERIDAN, Jim 1949–
Born February 6, 1949, in Dublin, Ireland; emigrated to Canada then New York City, 1981; son of Peter (railroad worker and actor) and Anna Sheridan; married Fran; children: Naomi, Kristen, Tess. Education: Attended the National University of Ireland, University College, Dublin, Ireland, and New York University's Institute of Film and Television.
Addresses: Office— Hell's Kitchen, Inc., 92 Merion Rd., Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, Ireland. Agent— Creative Artists Agency, 9830 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212.
Career: Director, producer, writer, and actor. Hell's Kitchen Productions (a production company), partner, 1989. Project Arts Theatre, Dublin, Ireland, director, 1976–80; New York Irish Arts Center, New York City, artistic director, 1982–87; Children's Theatre Company, Dublin, Ireland, founder; worked at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast, Northern Ireland, the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, Ireland, and the English 7:84 Company; Mr. Pussy's Cafe de Luxe, Dublin, Ireland, cofounder (with singers Bono and Gavin Friday), 1994; previously worked as a cab driver and club manager.
Awards, Honors: Fringe Award, best play, Edinburgh Festival, 1983, for Spike in the First World War; Academy Award nominations, best adapted screenplay (with Shane Connaughton) and best director, Writers Guild of America Screen Award nomination (with Connaughton), best screenplay based on material from another medium, Prize of the Ecumenical Jury—Special Mention, Montreal World Film Festival, 1989, Independent Spirit Award, best foreign film, Film Award nominations, best film (with Noel Pearson) and best adapted screenplay (with Connaughton), British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Audience Award, feature, Angers European First Film Festival, 1990, Guild Film Award—Silver, foreign film, 1991, all for My Left Foot; Academy Award nominations, best director, best picture, and best adapted screenplay (with Terry George), Writers Guild of America Screen Award nomination (with George), best screenplay based on material previously produced or published, 1993, Golden Berlin Bear, Berlin International Film Festival, Film Award nomination (with George), best adapted screenplay, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, 1994, Evening Standard British Film Award, best film, 1995, all for In the Name of the Father; Reader Jury Award, Berlin Morgenpost, Golden Berlin Bear nomination, Golden Globe Award nomination, best director of a motion picture, 1998, Goya Award, best European film, 1999, all for The Boxer.
Director, My Left Foot (also known as My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown ), Miramax, 1989.
Director and (with Noel Pearson) producer, The Field, Avenue Pictures, 1990.
Producer and director, In the Name of the Father, Universal, 1993.
Producer, Some Mother's Son, Columbia, 1996.
Producer and director, The Boxer, Universal, 1997.
Producer, Agnes Browne (also known as The Mammy ), October Films, 1999.
Executive producer, Borstal Boy, Strand Releasing, 2000.
Producer, On the Edge, Universal, 2000.
Executive producer, Bloody Sunday, Paramount Classics, 2002.
Director and producer, In America, Twentieth Century–Fox, 2002.
C.P.A.D. leader, The General (also known as I Once Had a Life ), Sony Pictures Classics, 1998.
Director, Shadow of a Gunman, Abbey Theatre, Dublin, Ireland, 1981, then Actors Playhouse, New York Irish Arts Center, New York City, 1984.
Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:
Presenter, The 66th Annual Academy Awards Presentation, ABC, 1994.
(With Shane Connaughton) My Left Foot (also known as My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown; based on the writings of Christy Brown), Miramax, 1989.
(With Noel Pearson) The Field (based on a play by J. B. Keane), Avenue Pictures, 1990.
Into the West, Miramax, 1992.
(With Terry George) In the Name of the Father, Universal, 1993.
Some Mother's Son, Columbia, 1996.
The Boxer, Universal, 1997.
In America, Twentieth Century–Fox, 2002.
Mobile Homes, produced at Project Arts Center, Dublin, Ireland, published by Co–Op Books, 1978.
Spike in the First World War, produced 1983.
Also wrote other plays.
International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Volume 2: Directors, St. James Press, 1996.
Cineaste, summer, 1998, p. 13.
Entertainment Weekly, March, 1994, p. 100.
New Yorker, March 21, 1994, p. 218.