Jim Sheridan is a master story-teller, and an acclaimed film director of few films, but good films nevertheless.
Born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1949, Sheridan moved to America in 1982, meeting a man who invited him to run the Irish Arts Center. He found a place to live in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City, and was low on finances at first. He eventually made his first film, My Left Foot (1989), starring Daniel Day-Lewis, about the Irish artist Christy Brown, who only had control of his left foot.
The film was a surprise success, with both Day-Lewis and co-star Brenda Fricker winning Oscars for their performances. Sheridan received two Oscar nominations for Best Director (he lost to Oliver Stone) and Best Screenplay. It was an amazing debut film, and at age 40, Sheridan was a late bloomer to the film industry. He followed “My Left Foot” with the film The Field (1990). Starring Richard Harris a then-unknown Sean Bean and John Hurt, this film was based on a theatre play by John B. Keane. It earned Harris an Oscar nomination, but was otherwise short of “My Left Foot”‘s success.
Sheridan bounced back three years later with the film In the Name of the Father (1993), once again starring Daniel Day-Lewis. The film concerns four teenagers who are accused of an IRA bombing. Gerry (Day-Lewis) finds that his father (Pete Postlethwaite), aunt, and cousins are also accused as being accomplices. He and his father spend fifteen years in prison together until a lawyer (Emma Thompson) takes their case to court once again. The film was successful critically and commercially, gaining seven Oscar nominations (including three for Sheridan) but did not win anything.
Throughout the 90s, Sheridan did some on-the-side work as an actor and as a writer, and his writing credits include the prison film Some Mother’s Son (1996) in which IRA prisoners went on a hunger strike to protest their treatment as criminals. Sheridan’s next directorial film was the gritty film The Boxer (1997), which was also the third collaboration between Sheridan and Daniel Day-Lewis. The film was about a former IRA associate released from prison after fourteen years. He attempts to put his life back together by starting a boxing club, as well as reconciling with his former love (played by Emily Watson). It was nominated for three Golden Globes, including Best Actor (Day-Lewis) and Best Director (Sheridan).
Sheridan moved slowly between his films; his next film was very personal to his own experiences: the dramatic film In America (2002), starring Paddy Considine, and Samantha Morton. The story is about an Irish family that immigrates illegally to the United States. The father is an actor, attempting to find success, so that he can look after his children. The film received many positive reviews, and earned Sheridan a final Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay.
Sheridan’s next film no doubt surprised many people: the rap film Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (2005) starring famous (or infamous) rapper 50 Cent and Terence Howard. The film was about a drug dealer that pursues his rap dream. The film was hit with many criticisms, but some, like renowned critic Roger Ebert, saw that there was a lot of emotion in the film, as well as showing the consequences of the gangster life.
Sheridan also finished a film Brothers (2009) based on a Danish movie by Susanne Bier. The film stars well known and talented actors Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman and Tobey Maguire, and tells the story of a man whose brother is missing in Afghanistan, leaving him to look after his brother’s family. The film was released late 2009 and was a modest success. Tobey Maguire received a Golden Globe nomination, as did a song written for the movie by U2.
Sheridan is now busy filming Dream House (2011) set to be a thriller involving paranormal activities surrounding a family moving into a new home.
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