The Irish Film & Television Academy is delighted to announce that acclaimed director/writer/producer Jim Sheridan will be honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 12th annual IFTA Awards taking place in the Round Room at the Mansion House, Dublin on Sunday.
Jim Sheridan follows in the footsteps of IFTA Academy Lifetime recipients such as Maureen O’Hara, David Kelly, George Morrison, Morgan O’Sullivan, John Boorman, Gay Byrne, Neil Jordan, Fionnula Flanagan and President Michel D. Higgins.
Born in Dublin on February, 6th 1949 to Anna and Peter Sheridan, Jim Sheridan’s illustrious and highly decorated film career has revealed him to be a master storyteller with an innate knack for unearthing the finest possible performances from his actors. With a penchant for making films with deeply complex characters and layered personal and political stories, Jim has had a pivotal influence on Irish cinema, with distinguished US critic Roger Ebert labelling him “a leading figure in the renaissance of Irish cinema”.
IFTA CEO Áine Moriarty, “The Academy is honoured to pay tribute to the great Irish filmmaker Jim Sheridan. He is a master storyteller, bold and brilliant, whose skill and vision continues to inspire so many, and his constant support and nurturing of Irish creative talent is part of his ongoing legacy."
Jim’s talents were honed through a very early interest in the theatre, developed in no small part because of Peter Sheridan, his stage director father. After leaving University College Dublin with a degree in English and Philosophy, Jim and his brother, also called Peter, took over Dublin’s Projects Arts Centre, turning it into the focal point of alternative theatre in Ireland.
As artistic director of the company, Sheridan wrote, produced and directed many plays. Never one to shirk away from hard-hitting material, his early 1970s plays included the controversial Journey Of A Hole (co-written with Neil Jordan), which told the story of institutional abuse in Ireland’s industrial schools. Other plays included Women at Work, Mobile Homes (both 1976) and The Ha’Penny Place (1979).
A major turning point in Sheridan’s career came in 1982 when he and his family emigrated to New York City, with their experiences later shaping the acclaimed 2002 semi-biographical drama In America.
Once settled in the US, Sheridan took over as artistic director of the New York Irish Arts Center and enrolled in a filmmaking course at the prestigious New York University. His prolific theatre work brought him to the attention of Dublin-based producer Noel Pearson, who was interested in adapting the life of Dubliner Christy Brown, a sufferer of cerebral palsy who overcame his disability to become a celebrated novelist, poet and painter.
My Left Foot was released in 1989, Sheridan’s debut film being universally lauded, with critics stating that this newcomer’s direction ‘pulses with unbridled emotion and humour’, whilst the script (which Sheridan co-wrote with Shane Connaughton) received praise for not turning the challenging subject matter of Brown’s life into ‘Hollywood treacle’.
Unsurprisingly, Hollywood fell in love with the feature, and My Left Foot was nominated for five Academy Awards in 1990, including Best Film. Sheridan himself was nominated for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, with the wins for actors Daniel Day Lewis and Brenda Fricker establishing Sheridan’s intrinsic flair for working with actors.
“This film and working with Jim Sheridan changed my life. I doubt I will have a happier experience. Not just because the film had a kind of success that we certainly didn't expect, but more really because of the way we made the film.”
Daniel Day Lewis on making My Left Foot
Despite attention from Tinseltown, Sheridan stayed in Ireland for his next film venture, an adaptation of The Field, one of John B. Keane’s most celebrated plays. Released in 1990, The Field was a critical and commercial success, and once again demonstrated Sheridan’s ability to draw out fantastic performances from his actors. Thanks to a career-reviving turn as Bull McCabe, Richard Harris garnered both Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, whilst the film itself became an instant and oft-quoted classic of Irish cinema.
“I actually created my own audition, I really had to convince Jim. He understood that I had the passion for it, the commitment. You see, my career was dead.”
Richard Harris on making The Field
In 1992, Sheridan wrote the script for Into The West, a magical realist film about Irish travellers that was directed by Mike Newell (Four Weddings & A Funeral, Donnie Brasco). Sheridan’s script was praised by the film’s actors Gabriel Byrne and Ellen Barkin, with the former proclaiming it as one of the best scripts he had ever read and the latter commenting that it was an extraordinary piece of film writing.
The 1993 biographical courtroom drama In The Name Of The Father displayed Sheridan’s versatility further and cemented his eminent standing on the world stage. Reuniting with Daniel Day Lewis, the film (which Sheridan directed, co-produced and co-wrote) told the true-life story of Gerry Conlon, one of the Guildford Four, who were wrongly convicted of the 1974 IRA pub bombings in the Surrey town, which killed four off-duty British soldiers and a civilian.
The film was released to global acclaim, with critics labelling it an ‘absorbing personal and political drama’, and would go on to be nominated for seven Academy Awards in 1994. Sheridan himself was nominated for three Oscars for the film in the categories of Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film. Daniel Day Lewis garnered another Oscar nomination for Best Actor with supporting stars Emma Thompson and Pete Postlethwaite picking up nominations also.
After co-writing and producing Terry George’s acclaimed Troubles drama Some Mother’s Son (1996), Sheridan then teamed up with Daniel Day Lewis once again, for the 1997 drama The Boxer. The script (co-written with Terry George) centres on the life of a boxer and former Provisional IRA volunteer who is trying to go straight after his release from prison. The film was released to acclaim, garnering three Golden Globe nominations, with the New York Times stating that it was a ‘fine, galvinising film’.
A string of producing duties followed for noted filmmakers such as Anjelica Huston (Agnes Browne), John Carney (On The Edge), Paul Greengrass (Bloody Sunday) and Jim’s brother Peter Sheridan (Borstal Boy), all movies, unsurprisingly, with strong political messages.
Jim entered the new millennium with his most personal film to date. A semi-autobiographical tale which draws from the Sheridan family’s own experiences as struggling Irish immigrants in New York, In America was co-written with Jim’s daughters Naomi and Kirsten, and starred Paddy Considine, Samantha Morton, Sarah Bolger and Djimon Hounsou. The film received exceptionally positive reviews when it was released in 2002, with The New York Times labelling it as a movie with a ‘supernatural glow that you can practically warm your hands by’.
Along with his daughters, Jim received his sixth Academy Award nomination in 2003 in the category of Best Original Script, with Samantha Morton and Djimon Hounsou also receiving Oscar nods for their engaging performances.
“I remember the actual actor standing aside while Jim rehearsed their part with me. I remember Jim stripping down to the waist, pinning me up against a wall and pretending to mug me, and I thought, This guy's ****ing nuts! I've never been with a director who's had that actual emotional involvement.”
Paddy Considine on the making of In America
Get Rich Or Die Tryin’, the 2005 hip-hop biopic about and starring multi-platinum-selling rap artist Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson again showed Jim’s innate versatility as a filmmaker. Unlike any other film he had made previously and with a headlining star that had never acted before, the film was praised upon release with one critic stating that it was ‘a film with a rich and convincing texture, a drama with power and anger’, whilst praise was also heaped upon leading man Jackson, today a big-screen regular, soon to be seen in Paul Feig’s latest blockbuster comedy, Spy.
The psychological war drama Brothers was released in 2009. Dealing with the aftermath of war on a contemporary American family, Brothers starred Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman and Jake Gyllenhall. Sheridan’s direction was warmly received for shirking the usual clichés attached to war dramas, critic Richard Roeper hailing Brothers as ‘the best movie of 2009’. It would also give Tobey Maguire his first Golden Globe nomination.
“He walked up to me in the beginning of this movie, and he said 'Jake, I just want you to know, you're playing my little brother in the movie, so I'm going to have to hate you most of the time.' Honestly, he was like, 'I hate you!' But clearly the process worked.”
Jake Gyllenhaal on making Brothers
The 2011 thriller Dream House followed, led by Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz, and highlighting Jim’s adaptability to different genres, this ‘mind-bending suspense ride’ brought the Irish filmmaker into the horror genre.
“Jim Sheridan is a force of nature and truly unique, he is a most worthy recipient of the IFTA ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’. Having had the great privilege of working with Jim on his extraordinarily wonderful movies; My Left Foot, The Field, In the Name of The Father, The Boxer, In America and most recently The Secret Scripture we can absolutely say that Jim is that rare being; a true genius of cinema. His worldwide standing has been abundantly acknowledged through the many international awards and nominations that he has received over the years – and although this is a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ we know that there’s a lot more to come.”
Nuala and Frank Moiselle, casting directors
Sheridan’s next film, The Secret Scripture, sees the legendary filmmaker return to Ireland. Based on Sebastian Barry’s award-winning novel, this period drama about a 100-year old woman attempting to piece together her life will star Rooney Mara, Theo James and the legendary Vanessa Redgrave alongside Irish actors Jack Reynor and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor. This highly-anticipated drama is currently in post-production, and should hit Irish screens later this year.
To celebrate this Lifetime Achievement Award, Mr. Sheridan will be joined at the IFTA ceremony on 24 May by family, friends and colleagues from the world of film and drama.
The IFTA Film & Drama Awards will take place at the Round Room of the Mansion House, Dublin on Sunday, May 24. TV3 will be bringing Irish viewers and the home audience all the excitement from Ceremony and the Red Carpet in a one hour IFTA Awards Special with all the highlights and interviews with nominees and winners, stars of the screen, guest presenters, Lifetime and special guests.