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Having been a successful theater director and journeyman actor in his native Ireland, feature director Jim Sheridan emigrated to the United States in 1981 with less than a hundred dollars in his pocket. Sheridan spent the next several years struggling to make ends meet until he directed first feature, "My Left Foot" (1989), which marked the first of several successful collaborations with actor and fellow Irishman Daniel Day-Lewis, while earning Academy Award nominations for Best Director and Best Picture. "My Left Foot" announced Sheridan as a talented filmmaker capable of balancing the drab life of a drunken artist suffering from cerebral palsy with the rousing heroic tale of a man with limited capabilities triumphing over all odds. He returned to working with Day-Lewis for his third film, "In the Name of the Father" (1993), which established the young actor as a bona fide star, while confirming that Sheridan was a powerful force behind the camera. Though their third feature together, "The Boxer" (1996), failed to live up to their previous work, both Sheridan and Day-Lewis had established themselves as a potent team that rivaled the likes of Scorsese-De Niro and Burton-Depp. Meanwhile, Sheridan...
Having been a successful theater director and journeyman actor in his native Ireland, feature director Jim Sheridan emigrated to the United States in 1981 with less than a hundred dollars in his pocket. Sheridan spent the next several years struggling to make ends meet until he directed first feature, "My Left Foot" (1989), which marked the first of several successful collaborations with actor and fellow Irishman Daniel Day-Lewis, while earning Academy Award nominations for Best Director and Best Picture. "My Left Foot" announced Sheridan as a talented filmmaker capable of balancing the drab life of a drunken artist suffering from cerebral palsy with the rousing heroic tale of a man with limited capabilities triumphing over all odds. He returned to working with Day-Lewis for his third film, "In the Name of the Father" (1993), which established the young actor as a bona fide star, while confirming that Sheridan was a powerful force behind the camera. Though their third feature together, "The Boxer" (1996), failed to live up to their previous work, both Sheridan and Day-Lewis had established themselves as a potent team that rivaled the likes of Scorsese-De Niro and Burton-Depp. Meanwhile, Sheridan continued to churn out exemplary films, including the heartwarming and semiautobiographical "In America" (2002), making him a true rags-to-riches story that he occasionally depicted in his films.
Born on Feb. 6, 1949 in Dublin, Ireland, Sheridan was raised the oldest child in a large Irish brood of seven by his father, Pete, a railroad worker who also ran an amateur theatre company, and his mother, Anna. Growing up in Savile Place, a notoriously crime-ridden part of the city in the 1960s, Sheridan had dealt with his share of tough living. But when he was 11 years old, tragedy struck the family when his younger brother, Frankie, fell down the stairs and later died from a tumor that developed from his head injuries. The event marked what Sheridan called a seminal moment in the family's history. Meanwhile, he began following his father's footsteps into the theater while attending University College in Dublin, where he studied acting. After graduating, Sheridan formed the Children's T Company with director Neil Jordan, though at the time he was primarily focusing on becoming an actor who occasionally directed productions on the side. In 1976, he formed the Project Arts Centre in Dublin and served as its artistic director, where he partnered with his brother, Peter, who wrote several plays that Sheridan directed. Having formed another theatre company with such soon-to-be stars Liam Neeson and Gabriel Byrne, Sheridan found himself at a crossroads with the Project Arts Centre after a dispute over a gay-themed play he had produced. Frustrated with Dublin, Sheridan uprooted his young family in 1981, moving first to Canada, then to New York City, where he struggled to make his way as a cab driver. Eventually, he resumed directing theater at the Irish Arts Centre while still driving a cab to make ends meet, as well as putting on off-off-Broadway productions by Irish playwrights, including Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot." He left the theater in 1987 to concentrate on becoming a filmmaker, enrolling for an eight-week course at New York University in 1988.
With only two months of training under his belt, Sheridan commenced on making his first feature film, "My Left Foot" (1989), a stark, but ultimately rousing biography about Irish poet, painter and writer Christy Brown (Daniel Day-Lewis), who suffered from severe cerebral palsy. But instead of traveling the well-worn path of a sympathetic hero conquering impossible odds, Sheridan instead decided to depict the adult Brown in all his destructive alcoholic glory. The result was a stunningly realistic and all-too-human portrayal of a man who did manage to triumph over all with only one appendage. While the film's star, Daniel Day-Lewis, earned heaps of publicity and acclaim - not to mention an Academy Award for Best Actor - Sheridan received his share of the praise, as well as Oscar nods for directing and writing. He next directed "The Field" (1990), a bleak and gritty film about a rugged farmer (Richard Harris) who has devoted himself for years to cultivating a rented field, only to find himself forced into fiercely defending the land from an American (Tom Berenger) trying to buy the property from its widowed owner. Though small in scope and scale, the low budget drama was noted for its exemplary performance by Harris, who earned nominations at both the Golden Globes and Academy Awards.
After forming Hell's Kitchen Films with producing partner Arthur Lappin, Sheridan directed what many considered his finest film, "In the Name of the Father" (1993), which saw the director reunite with Day-Lewis. Returning to biopic territory, Sheridan crafted the tale of Irishman Gerry Conlon (Day-Lewis), who was wrongly imprisoned for taking part in an IRA bombing in England in 1974 after he gave a false confession while being tortured. After being sentenced to prison, his disapproving father, Giuseppe (Pete Postelthwaite), is found guilty of being an accomplice and sent to prison alongside his son, where the two mend their broken relationship before the elder Conlon passes on. Both politically relevant and emotionally honest, "In the Name of the Father" earned critical kudos and award nominations, including seven at the Academy Awards, only to be blindsided by "Schindler's List" (1993). Still, the film remained one of Sheridan's most enduring achievements, despite being criticized for certain minor historical inaccuracies. Also that year, he wrote the script to "Into the West" (1993), an endearing children's fantasy about a widower and his two sons whose lives are transformed by the appearance of a magical horse from Irish legends.
Turning to his first love, acting, Sheridan had minor parts in "Words Upon the Window Pane" (1995) and "Moll Flanders" (1996) before returning to the business of being a filmmaker. He wrote and produced "Some Mother's Son" (1996), which depicted the true events of the 1981 hunger strike in a Belfast prison by focusing on the struggle of a grieving mother (Helen Mirren) struggling to come to terms with her son's violent involvement in the Irish Republican Army. Stepping behind the camera once more, Sheridan directed "The Boxer" (1996), another searing portrait of loss and redemption starring Day-Lewis. The actor played a former boxer and IRA member released after 14 years of prison who tries to restart his fighting career while rekindling a romance with a former flame (Emily Watson). Though not as revered or financially successful as his previous two outings with Day-Lewis, "The Boxer" nonetheless earned several award nominations, including three Golden Globes. For almost the next decade, Sheridan settled into the role of producer while taking the occasional small role in films like "This Is the Sea" (1997) and "The General" (1998). He also helped shepherd "Agnes Browne" (1999) to the big screen, which starred Anjelica Huston as a feisty Dublin woman who learns to cope with the sudden death of her husband while trying to raise seven children.
After producing two Irish-made films, "Borstal Boy" (2002) and "Bloody Sunday" (2002), which depicted the civilian massacre in Northern Ireland by the British Army in 1972, Sheridan returned to directing after a long absence. With "In America" (2002), he collaborated with daughters Naomi and Kirsten to tell the semi-autobiographical tale of a young Irish immigrant family in pursuit of the American dream while struggling to overcome the untimely loss of the parent's toddler son. Both personal and universally endearing, "In America" was another critical hit for the director, who shared an Oscar nomination with his daughters for their original screenplay. Taking a bit of a left turn, he directed "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" (2005), a loose biography of rapper 50 Cent's rise from crack dealing thug to multi-platinum-selling recording artist. Following a portrayal of King Philip V of Spain in "The Bridge of San Luis Rey" (2005), Sheridan turned to directing a less-personal studio film, "Brothers" (2009), a remake of the Danish film "Brodre" (2005), which focused on a decorated Marine (Tobey Maguire) who goes missing overseas while his black sheep brother (Jake Gyllenhaal) cares for his wife and children at home.
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"Hollywood is like being at a party where, while I'm telling you a story, you're looking over my shoulder. People here are always playing to somebody else out there--a mass, consensus. Even actors here don't talk to the person in the scene with them--they want the mass endorsement as the validation."--Sheridan's take on the Hollywood system (from "Movieline", 12/93)
"I'm totally aware that sometimes a lack of humor in a movie gives you the feeling that you're trapped in a bar with a guy who's ranting on and on while you're going, 'Jesus, take a break so I can go to the toilet', It comes out of an urgency to tell the story. I am kind of extreme. But there's so many people in the film world being so well-rewarded for always giving audiences what they want."--Sheridan on his type of films as opposed to Hollywood (from "Movieline", 12/93)
"It's a kind of symbiotic relationship. I almost feel that I'm writing what he's feeling. I have to concede to him a small degree of madness when I'm directing him, because, after all, he's the inspiration for a bit of it in me."--Sheridan on his relationship with Daniel Day-Lewis, (from "The Daily News", 12/28/93)
Sheridan opened a restaurant in Dublin with singers Bono and Gavin Friday called Mr. Pussy's Cafe de Luxe in 1994.
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