Family & Companions
Like many Irishmen before him, Pat O'Connor left his homeland as a young man to seek his fame and fortune. Immigrating first to London and then the USA, he eventually attended UCLA as an undergraduate and then went on to graduate work in film at Toronto's Ryerson Polytech. After nearly decade away from Ireland, O'Connor returned, armed with his degrees, and began his career in earnest as a trainee with Radio Telefis Eirann (RTE). Graduating first to producing and directing documentaries, he segued to dramatic programs before heading to London and a job with the BBC. In 1981, O'Connor produced and directed the award-winning TV drama "The Ballroom of Romance." Subsequently, he turned his attentions to the big screen with the uncompromising political romance/thriller "Cal" (1984) set against the backdrop of the "troubles" in Northern Ireland. The film featured strong lead performances (from John Lynch in the title role and particularly Helen Mirren as the Italian widow of the British officer he has killed) which have come to be a hallmark of O'Connor's work. "A Month in the Country" (1987) proved to be a studied, atmospheric drama about a WWI veteran who finds himself falling in love with a rector's wife. Again, the director elicited strong central portrayals from Colin Firth (as the soldier), Kenneth Branagh (as the cleric) and Natasha Richardson (as the cleric's wife).
Despite the fine acting of the ensembles, O'Connor's next three features proved disappointing. "Stars and Bars" (1988), a fish-out-of-water story with Daniel Day-Lewis as a art expert who encounters a clan of Southern Gothics, proved not as amusing as it could have been. "The January Man" (1989) was a Hollywood comedy thriller that lost the backing of its studio. While it had a strong cast (Kevin Kline, Susan Sarandon, Harvey Keitel, Rod Steiger and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), the final version veered between offbeat romance and cop thriller and proved a critical and commercial disappointment. "Fools of Fortune" (1990) teamed Mastrantonio (whom O'Connor married) and Julie Christie in a period drama set during the Irish war of independence and again failed to spark much interest. The director bounced back at the helm of the hit "Circle of Friends" (1995), an ensemble drama about a group of Irish university students that was dominated by a star-making turn by Minnie Driver. "Inventing the Abbotts" (1997), although little more than a superior soap opera exploring the power of gossip in a small community, featured strong acting from a group of rising stars (e.g., Billy Crudup, Joanna Going, Liv Tyler, Joaquin Phoenix). Returning to his Irish roots, O'Connor scored again with the film adaptation of Brian Friel's award-winning play "Dancing at Lughnasa" (1998). The story of five unmarried sisters in rural Eire, the film functioned as a mood piece, examining the hopes and failures of the women. Meticulously directed, it was a triumph for both the director and his powerhouse cast which included Meryl Streep (adding a brogue to her accents), Kathy Burke, Catherine McCormack, Sophie Thompson and Brid Brennan, recreating her stage role.
Director (Feature Film)
Cast (Feature Film)
Art Director (Feature Film)
Art Department (Feature Film)
Immigrated to London and later to the USA
Became trainee producer-director with Radio Telefis Eirann (RTE) in Ireland; began making documentaries before moving into dramatic programs
Returned to Ireland after studying at UCLA and Ryerson Institute (date approximate)
Breakthrough TV program, the award-winning "The Ballroom of Romance"
Feature directorial debut, "Cal" starring Helen Mirren and John Lynch
Made second feature, "A Month in the Country", with Kenneth Branagh, Colin Firth and Natasha Richardson
First US film, the comedy "Stars and Bars", starring Daniel Day-Lewis; film abandoned by studio
Helmed the thriller "The January Man"
Returned to London; directed "Fools of Fortune"
Had critical and box office success with "Circle of Friends", starring Minnie Driver
Directed the well-received "Inventing the Abbots"
Helmed the screen adaptation of the hit stage play "Dancing at Lughnasa"
Directed the remake of "Sweet November"