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By Mark Hilliard

DROGHEDA’S future is shaping up to be a glamourous one and could well entail red carpets and awards speeches with a whole generation of hopefuls making serious inroads in the glitzy world of film and television.

Two local actors have recently been nominated for major honours at this year’s Irish Film and Television Network (IFTN) Awards which will be held at Dublin’s Burlington Court Hotel and hosted by Cold Feet’s James Nesbitt next month.

22-year-old Colin O’Donoghue from Beaubec was surprised to find himself among the six nominees for Best New Talent for his performance in last year’s RTE drama Home For Christmas.

The up and coming stage and screen actor will be joined on the night by Drogheda veteran actress and comedian Deirdre O’Kane for her impressive performance in John Crowley’s magnificent Intermission, still playing in Irish cinemas nearly two months after its initial release took the country by storm.

However, these most recent examples of local acting talent are merely a reminder of the years of achievement and ability to have come from Drogheda in the field of dramatic production.

Arriving as the latest emerging talent in the area, Colin O’Donoghue completed his formal training in the Gaiety School of Acting two years ago and has since gone on to star in both stage and screen projects.

It was, however, the Icebox Films’ production of Home For Christmas that will attract the most spotlight attention the aspiring talent has had to date.

In something of a double personal coup, the son of well known auctioneer Con O’Donoghue is the youngest nominee in 16 individual categories with around 80 people hoping to lift the biggest award in the Irish television and film.

Home For Christmas, a dark comedy in which an American mormon is reluctantly persuaded to pose as the boyfriend of an unsuspecting Irish family one festive season, received a total of five awards although Colin will face stiff competition from two other actors and three directors nominated against him.

The good news came in the form of a text message one evening in Galway from a friend congratulating him on his nomination.

‘I thought they were joking but they weren’t and it turned out to be a bit of a shock. I was put forward for a nomination but I didn’t expect to get it. I will be nervous. I really haven’t thought about it but when it comes closer I know I will be a nervous wreck although the main thing is to just enjoy it,’ he said.

Colin’s interest in acting was sparked by Drogheda’s Youth Theatre which brought him abroad to perform and he later joined the Calipo Theatre Company.

Now he has another few projects in the pipe line for next year but his own modesty prevents him from getting too far ahead of himself at this stage. ‘I don’t know if I will be the next Colin Farrell, he’s very good but it would be a great position to be in.’

This year’s award ceremony received a high number of entries into all 27 of its categories and the eventual nominations were selected by a jury of 100 people, all recognised for their contributions to the industry.

Amongst them are Chris Menges, winner of two cinematography Oscars for his work on The Mission and The Killing Fields, Fionnuala Flanagan who starred in The Others and Dead Bodies director Robert Quinn.

This year’s nominations are also strong with much competition throughout the categories. Nominated in various areas alongside the Drogheda hopefuls are Colin Farrell for Intermission and SWAT (due out soon in Ireland) Aidan Quinn in Song For A Raggy Boy, Cillian Murphy for 28 Days Later and Brenda Fricker for her work on Veronica Guerin.

Deirdre O’Kane is herself nominated for her supporting role in Intermission in which she worked with both Farrell and director John Crowley who recently won the coveted director’s prize at the recent UIP Awards, hailed by many as the most important honour to be secured by an Irish film maker.

Both nominees help remind us of the extent of local achievement in the dramatic field over the years.

Local film maker Ciaran McCabe recently completed his second short movie, Strange Brew, one of the first to examine the theme of racism in Ireland amongst the new wave of political refugees and asylum seekers.

Filmed on location at various spots throughout the area, including the famed Thatch Pub, Ciaran’s complete and impressive nine minute short is now on its way into the national festival circuit.

His previous five minute student short entitled Electrickery, about an old man who gets power in his country home for the first time, won him both the TV3 Homes Competition and the later O2 Student Film of the Year. Its success was such that BBC1, UTV, TnaG, RTE1 and Network 2 all screened it.

Fiona Ashe has also flown the flag for local film making. The former Highfield resident and Sacred Heart student has made two short films, one set in New York about a female private investigator going against the system. A sort of female take on Serpico, Shades of Gray followed Fiona’s debut short Look My Way which she shot in 1995.

New York-based, but Drogheda-born, Brendan Fay has also had success within the film industry; his documentary Remembering Robert received praise for its treatment of AIDS and homophobia.

Other local talent to have hit the big time in recent years include Termonfeckin’s Arthur Matthews, one half of the comic duo behind Channel 4’s extremely successful Father Ted series while Drogheda’s Paddy Gilligan also became a successful television writer with episodes of Glenroe. Paddy’s own creation, the 1970’s The Spike, was controversially pulled off the air following negative and somewhat over-the-top reactions to scenes with nudity.

Local actor Alan Pentony from Oaklawns starred alongside Matt Dillon and fellow Irish actor Gabriel Byrne in Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s Frankie Starlight in 1995.

Further film accomplishments fell to local talent Andrew Gallagher who landed a starring role in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, playing the younger version of Leonardo Di Caprio’s character.

The current filming of mega-budget King Arthur in Kildare includes local boy Shane Murray-Corcoran from Grangebellew who achieved prior success in Alan Parker’s Angela’s Ashes. The 10-year-old star in the making landed the role of the young King Arthur following auditions for the major Disney film which retells one of the most familiar stories of all time.

Clogherhead’s JJ Harrington has made two short films, her second of which, Swan Story, won Film Base funding in 2002 and later featured in the Galway Film Festival in 2003. JJ is currently lecturing at DBS and Trinity in film studies.

Other opportunities have come to the area, most memorably in the production of Last September in which at least three local buses were employed to transport local extras to and from the set.

Paddy Breathnach, director of the acclaimed Ailsa and the more commercially successful I Went Down was also in the locality lately looking for extras for his current project.

Wherever you look these days, somebody is either behind or in front of the camera, and while much emphasis is placed on its economic and infrastructural development, Drogheda can do well to remember its impressive list of dramatic talent. Who knows, maybe someday Oscar might even stop off in town.

This year’s Irish Film and Television Award ceremony will be screened on RTEs Prime Time.

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Colin O’Donoghue is an Irish actor/musician. He was born in Drogheda, County Louth, Ireland on January 26th, 1981. He is best known for his role as Captain Hook in Once Upon a Time and his role as Michael Kovak in the Rite.

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'Once Upon a Time' tells the story of a new world, one in which fairy tales and modern-day life collide.

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After the loss of her family, a young woman struggles to survive in a world long-since destroyed by disease; but when a lonely traveler offers her a place in his community, she must decide if the promise of a better life is worth the risk of trusting him.
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