The day of celebrating Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day, hits pubs around the world this week (March 17th to be exact). Cinematic representations of the Emerald Isle range dramatically, from the desperately twee (The Quiet Man, Leap Year), to the noble yet gritty (The General, Once). But there’s more to Ireland than just films about the country. One of the many tricks of film-making is portraying a place without having to film in it. This is especially common with films based in mythical lands or in busy cities. Lately Ireland has become incredibly attractive for large-scale productions due to its apt facilities and tempting tax breaks. So to honour the day of getting notoriously drunk, here’s a list of famous films that you didn’t know were filmed in Ireland.
Saving Private Ryan
Steven Spielberg’s award-winning epic story needs no introduction. Set in WWII France, it commences with one of the most memorable sequences in cinema’s history: the invasion of US forces on Omaha Beach (watch it here). The sequence, shot in a handheld style, is brutal, exposing the audience to the horrors of surrounding enemies with bullets flying everywhere. For 30 minutes it takes us deep into the battle and the harrowing world of soldiers under fire.
The entire sequence was filmed in Ireland. For two months Ballinesker Beach in County Wexford was occupied by hundreds of cast and crew. Amongst the 2500 extras (many provided by the Irish Defence Force) were real amputees were hired to realistically portray the loss of limbs from explosions.
The Princess Bride
A cult classic that probably has more fans now that when it came out in cinemas, the Princess Bride marked the peak of 80’s fantasy films. In the film a faithful farmhand strives to rescue the virtuous Princess Buttercup. Rob Reiner’s US studio production was filmed in the UK and Ireland due to the extensive and lush green expanses of both nations. One of the film’s most exciting scenes takes place on top of the Cliffs of Insanity, where the masked man (the farmhand in disguise), fights a bunch of bandits to rescue Buttercup. The Cliffs of Insanity actually exist, but are known as Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher, situated in County Clare in the west of the country. The 700 foot-high, 8 kilometre wide cliffs are one of Ireland’s primary tourist attractions, and are vying for one of the Seven New Wonders of Nature. The Princess Bride also supposedly filmed in the nearby Burren, a barren 250 km-squared stone expanse.
Another Oscar-Winner, Mel Gibson directed and acted in this story of Scotland’s conflict with their oppressors England. The film was noted for its savage battle scenes and for William Wallace’s (Gibson) cries for “freedom”, and also it’s fabrications of real events. And it’s not just the film that was rife with inaccuracies, but also its locations. While some of the earlier scenes were filmed in Scotland and northern England, it was Ireland where most of the film’s outdoor locations were filmed.
The Battle of Stirling Bridge (where Wallace makes his big pre-battle speech) was filmed in the vast Curragh Plains in County Kildare. Hundreds of members of the Irish Army Reserve were used for the sequence, and they doubled up to portray both sides as they rush to clash. See a clip here.Many of the battles scenes of King Arthur also used this location.
The Curragh Plains wasn’t the only Irish location Gibson filmed on. Trim Castle was used for the York Castle, which Wallace storms early in the film, as well as for the King of England’s courtyard. Close to Trim lies the ruins of Bective Abbey, where several scenes set in the King’s castle were shot. Westminister Abbey was recreated in Dunsaney Castle. And the castle grounds of Robert the Bruce, where Wallace is betrayed and ambushed, were filmed in county Dublin’s private Dunsoghly Castle. READ ON »