Ardmore Studios, located in Bray, County Wicklow, is Ireland's only four wall studio. Opened in 1958 under the management of Emmet Dalton by then Minister for Industry and Commerce Seán Lemass, the studio has evolved through many management changes, finally consolidating in the 1990s. It has been the base for many successful Irish and international productions, from The Spy Who Came in from the Cold to Braveheart, My Left Foot and Veronica Guerin.
After the lapse of its initial business plan in the early 1970s, the studio became the government-backed National Film Studios of Ireland, under the management of Sheamus Smith. During Smith's tenure, notable movies based there included Michael Crichton's The First Great Train Robbery, starring Sean Connery. When government funding was withdrawn in the early 1980s, a consortium led by Tara Productions (Ireland) Limited, among whose partners were producer Morgan O'Sullivan and writer Michael Feeney Callan, and MTM Hollywood acquired the studios in November 1986. O'Sullivan then spearheaded a campaign to attract major international films to Ireland – a strategy Dalton and his partner, the entrepreneur Louis Elliman, had pioneered in the 1950s – and succeeded in securing important co-production investment which revived the studios during the 1990s.
O'Sullivan's successor as managing director of the renamed Ardmore Studios was the accountant Kevin Moriarity. Despite the successes produced at the studio – some of which were Oscar-winning or nominated Irish works – in July 2008 Moriarty criticised Irish movies saying that: "there is an absence of a core structure, a surface (even superficial) storyline that allows the audience to navigate its way."
- 1 History
- 2 Facilities based at Ardmore
- 3 Films made, or based, at Ardmore Studios
- 4 Music albums recorded at Ardmore
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Irish Film before Ardmore Studios
Ambitious Irish-based filmmaking began when producer-director Sidney Olcott made his first visit to Ireland in 1910. Prior to this time most Irish fimmaking consisted of newsreels. Olcott's first movie based in Ireland was The Lad from Old Ireland, produced by Kalem. His follow-up was Rory O'Moore, based on the events of the Irish Rebellion of 1798, which earned the disapproval of both the British Home Office and the Irish Catholic Church. Olcott continued Irish filmmaking, with most of his films shot in County Kerry, specifically in the towns of Beaufort, Dunloe and Killarney. To facilitate year-round filming, Olcott planned the building of a serviced studio based in Beaufort. The outbreak of World War I derailed this plan. Irish filmmaking continued, with native-born directors initiating their own work, but through the 1920s and 1930s and 1940s, no purpose-built studio facilitated year-round filmmaking in Ireland.
Early years of Ardmore Studios
Finally, in the middle 1950s, a business consortium part-funded from the United States, started building a Hollywood-style studio south of Dublin city. Ardmore Studios first opened its doors in May 1958. Situated on a ten acre site 12 miles south of Dublin, the studio offered the first opportunity for Irish filmmakers to shoot indoors all year round.
The first production to emerge from Ardmore Studios was an adaptation of Walter Macken's play, Home Is The Hero, starring Macken and directed by Emmy-award winning Fielder Cooke. Renowned British director George Pollock shot the next two productions at the studio, Sally's Irish Rogue and The Big Birthday, both based on popular Abbey theatre comedies.
In the late 1950s, managing director Emmet Dalton and entrepreneur Louis Elliman travelled to the US to promote the studios and to acquire foreign investment. The studios accordingly landed its first major foreign booking with 1959's Shake Hands with the Devil, starring Oscar winner James Cagney and Dana Wynter. A year later progress was consolidated when Robert Mitchum appeared in Tay Garnett's "A Terrible Beauty". In 1961, Ardmore Studios hosted the controversial "The Mark", directed by Guy Green, which was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and earned its star, Stuart Whitman, an Oscar nomination. Other films produced at this time include Don Chaffey's The Webster Boys and "Johnny Nobody" with Cyril Cusack. Hammer Films also utilised the studios as a base for their production, The Viking Queen.
The National Film Studios of Ireland and MTM Ardmore Studios era
In 1975 Sheamus Smith became managing director of the studios and film director John Boorman assumed the role of chairman. The studios were renovated and renamed as The National Film Studios of Ireland, and subsequently hosted several major movies including "The Purple Taxi", starring Fred Astaire and "The Great Train Robbery" starring Sean Connery.
In 1981, Boorman filmed his $11.5 million dollar epic Excalibur, starring a then-unknown Liam Neeson, Gabriel Byrne and Ciarán Hinds, at the studios and in the local hills of Wicklow. Also produced at this time was John Huston's celebrated "The Dead", based on the short story by James Joyce and starring Huston's daughter, Angelica Huston.
The withdrawal of government funding effectively closed the studios in the early 1980s. For several years the lot fell into disrepair but the studio was reactivated by an initiative led by an Irish independent company, Tara Productions, in partnership with MTM Hollywood and the Irish National Enterprise Authority. Thereafter, the renamed MTM Ardmore Studios made its mark again on the global scene with the success of "My Left Foot", directed by Jim Sheridan, which earned Oscars for Daniel Day-Lewis for his portrayal of the paraplegic Christy Brown and for Brenda Fricker, for her portrayal of Brown's mother. In 1994, Ardmore Studios and the Wicklow countryside were transformed into the Scottish Highlands for Mel Gibson's Oscar winning "Braveheart".
Ardmore Studios today
Since 2006 Ardmore Studios has primarily been home to two television series – The Tudors, which was filmed between 2006 and 2010 at a cost of over €90 million, and "Camelot", filmed in 2010, starring Joseph Fiennes and Eva Green.
In 2008, Ardmore Studios celebrated its 50th anniversary.
Facilities based at Ardmore
During its MTM incarnation in the 1980s, Ardmore extended its facilities and built new sound stages. Today it offers 5 stages, including a water tank facility. In the early 1980s a handful of service provider companies, most notably special effects maestro Gerry Johnston's company, were located on the lot. Under O'Sullivan's management, the range of Ardmore-based service and facility companies increased to include other specialised related businesses. These include:
- Digital Sound Facilities
- Lighting Facilities
- Art Departments
- Workshops and prop stores
- Production offices
- Make-up, hair and wardrobe department.
Companies located at Ardmore studios include:
- World 2000 Entertainment
Films made, or based, at Ardmore Studios
- This Other Eden (1958)
- Shake Hands with the Devil (1959)
- Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960)
- The Mark (1961)
- The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965)
- The Blue Max (1966)
- The Viking Queen (1967)
- The Lion in Winter (1968)
- Images (1972)
- Zardoz (1974)
- The Last Remake of Beau Geste (1977)
- Excalibur (1981)
- Angel (1982)
- My Left Foot (1989)
- Fools of Fortune (1990)
- The Commitments (1991)
- Rock-a-Doodle (1991)
- In the Name of the Father (1993)
- Braveheart (1995)
- Space Truckers (1996)
- The Tailor of Panama (2001)
- Evelyn (2002)
- King Arthur (2004)
- Breakfast on Pluto (2005)
- Becoming Jane (2007)
- The Tudors (TV series) (2006–2010)
- Camelot (TV series) (2010)
- The Last Furlong (2011)
- Byzantium (2012)
Music albums recorded at Ardmore
- "The History of Ardmore Studios Ireland". Ardmore Studios. 2011 [last update]. Retrieved 2 March 2012.
- Moriarty, Kevin (13 July 2008). "Ardmore Studios boss says Irish films are flops". London: The Sunday Times. Retrieved 19 July 2008.
- Flynn, Arthur (2005). The Story of Irish Film. Dublin, Ireland: Currach Press. ISBN 1-85607-914-7.
- Cottrell, Peter (19 August 2008). The Irish Civil War 1922–23. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. p. 63. ISBN 1-84603-270-9.
- "The History of Ardmore Studios Ireland". Ardmore Studios. 2011 [last update]. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
- Fogerty, Mary (26 January 2011). "Boorman's 'Excalibur' sees 30th anniversary". Wicklow People. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
- "Studios & Facilities". Ardmore Studios. 2011 [last update]. Retrieved 2 March 2012.
- "Productions Services at Ardmore Studios". Ardmore Studios. 2011 [last update]. Retrieved 2 March 2012.
- Farley, Fidelma (2001). This Other Eden. Cork: Cork University Press. p. 12. ISBN 1-85918-289-5.
- Ardmore Studios at IMDb
- Ardmore Studios official website
- Dáil Éireann Parliamentary Debate, December 1993 Irish Film Board (Amendment) Bill, 1993