Awards season has now left us, and with the all-encompassing buzz around Leonardo DiCaprio winning an Oscar it is easy to forget that there are other categories and nominees. We previously discussed the screenplay categories within the Oscars, and now with the red carpets behind us we take a look at the impact of British and Irish writers and directors on the world of cinema and, in particular, on those films talked about during awards season.
When we look at the biggest award, the Oscars, which British or Irish talent jumps out? Danny Boyle for the biopic Steve Jobs perhaps? Or author and screenwriter Nick Hornby for Brooklyn? Both of these talents have graced the world of film with a number of memorable projects such as Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire, and to a lesser extent, yet just as impressive, 127 Hours. Nick Hornby may well be better known for his novels that have been adapted into films (About A Boy, High Fidelity, A Long Way Down) yet he also penned the screenplays for Fever Pitch, An Education and Wild before bringing Brooklyn to the big screen.
These may be the two most well-known names, yet there is a variety of writer and director talent present at the awards that you may not realise has its basis in the United Kingdom. For example, the stylish period drama Brooklyn was not only adapted into a screenplay by Nick Hornby, but it was directed by John Crowley. The brit director is also an award winning stage director with further screen credits including the Michael Caine film Is Anybody There? and the Andrew Garfield drama Boy A.
There was another period drama that took the awards by storm in the form of the semi fictitious Danish Girl starring Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander. British director Tom Hooper brought the story of reportedly the first gender reassignment operation to the silver screen, having previously been responsible for the musical epic Les Miserables, the inspiring The Kings Speech and Michael Sheen football drama The Damned United. For The Danish Girl he teamed up with British writer Lucinda Coxon known for The Heart of Me with Helena Bonham Carter and Wild Target with Emily Blunt.
Period dramas are a rather ‘British’ speciality (Downton Abbey anyone?) yet this was not the only genre that British talent had a hand in within last year’s awards. The critically acclaimed science fiction film Ex Machina not only starred British talent in the form of Domhall Gleeson (did you know he played a Weasley in Harry Potter?), but was also directed and written by Brit Alex Garland. Garland has worked on 28 Days Later as a writer (alongside director Danny Boyle) as well as penning the novel The Beach, on which the film was based.
One of the most surprising and atmospheric films of the awards season was the seemingly simple yet exquisitely written and extremely well executed Room. Whilst the film is set in America, the director Lenny Abrahamson is of Irish blood, having been born in Dublin. Prior to directing Room he became known for the quirky 2014 film Frank, starring Ex Machina star Domhall Gleeson and Michael Fassbender. Room is based on the novel of the same name by Irish-born writer Emma Donoghue who also adapted the screenplay which was nominated for an Oscar.
British acting talent Charlotte Rampling was also nominated for an Oscar for her role in the drama 45 Years which tells the story of a married couple coming to terms with some earth-shattering news. British director Andrew Haigh adapted the screenplay from a short story and also directed the film having previously directed the 2011 film Weekend and his debut feature Greek Pete.
Fiction is not the only category that features British talent. Renowned documentary film maker Asif Kapadia won the Best Documentary Oscar for his emotional film Amy, chronicling the life of troubled singer Amy Winehouse. Having made his name with the 2010 documentary Senna about the Formula 1 racing driver Ayrton Senna he is now on board to create a documentary about legendary footballer Maradona. More awards on the documentary horizon?
The wealth of UK talent on display behind the scenes during award season demonstrates the impact the small nation has on the world of cinema. The current slate of films due to be released continues the tradition and promises that there will be just as strong a representation at next year’s awards ceremonies with films such as the heart-warming Eddie the Eagle from British director Dexter Fletcher, the visually stunning and socially poignant High Rise from Ben Wheatley and writer Amy Jump to the tension filled Eye in the Sky from British writer Guy Hibbert.
Never underestimate the presence of the British and Irish; there are more of us behind the scenes than you may think.