Monday 20 January 2020

Count of Monte Cristo comes to Duncannon

AS DARKNESS descended on Duncannon on Friday the Hollywood roadshow assembled in the seaside village, briefly transforming it into a movie ...

AS DARKNESS descended on Duncannon on Friday the Hollywood roadshow

assembled in the seaside village, briefly transforming it into a movie making capital. Following weeks of speculation and hushed suggestions, filming for the epic blockbuster, `The Count of Monte Cristo' finally got underway in Duncannon late on Friday evening, continuing through until 5am the following morning. Since early Friday afternoon, trucks of equipment and hundreds of crew had steadily streamed into the village, assembling in numbers on the overlooking hillside near The Star of the Sea Church, before making their way through the village to the 16th Century fort. Formerly a military stronghold, historic Duncannon Fort once more became the centre of history as limousines, jeeps and lorries of specialised lighting equipment slowly trickled over the drawbridge, located at the building's entrance. Just after 3 pm, the Fort, which is a leading tourist attraction, closed to the public, making way for the convoy to arrive. Full of anticipation, locals as well as holiday makers gathered on the nearby strand, the pier as well as outside the Fort gates in an attempt to catch a glimpse of the stars as they arrived. Almost six hours later, as darkness began to shroud the seaside village, the showdown commenced and Hollywood began to works its magic. Boats lined the waters off the pier and using special effects, the specially hired crew created a screen of smoke and fog. The ancient Fort was transformed into a spectacle of light, visible from miles with smoke billowing from its chimneys and lights flickering in the windows. Just after 10 pm, it was time for the cameras to roll and in quick succession, two Mercedes containing none other than the movie's main star, Guy Pearce (`L.A Confidential' and the newly release `Frequency') sped over the Fort's ramps, before departing for the nearby pier, where he boarded a small boat to shoot the film's opening scenes. Besides Guy Pearce, Jim Caviezel (`The Thin Red Line') and Scottish actor, Alex Norton who depicts Napoleon in this latest film version of Alexandre Dumas' classic novel, were also present in Duncannon on Friday. Speaking from inside the fort on Friday night, executive producer, Chris Brigham said he was delighted with the facilities on offer in Duncannon. `There are excellent facilities here and all of us are having a great time in Ireland. We are filming for eight weeks in total with just tonight in Duncannon. The rest is mainly in Ardmore Studios, Brittas Bay, Dublin and Powerscourt,' he said. The scenes shot in Duncannon, he explained, will be used to recreate images of the Napoleonic island of Elba. Guy Pearce who plays Fernand (the best friend of the Count of Monte Cristo) was filmed on board a small boat near Duncannon pier. Apparently, these scenes will depict him coming ashore from a merchant ship seeking help for the vessel's captain, who is suffering from a debilitating fever. The newly appointed Development Manager of the Fort, Marian Cody was also delighted with the night's events and explained the various projects undertaken in the run up to Friday's filming. `We are happy with the way things have turned out. While there is one night of filming only, there has been much activity at the Fort for around eight weeks. `Some of the outside walls were painted with a temporary sand-wash to create a Mediterrean look and the ramparts were covered with a type of sand. Also, special flickering lamps were placed in the windows and chimneys to give a lived-in appearance. `Five weeks ago, we had 200 people including directors, producers and costume people down to inspect the fort and we now hope this film is only the first for Duncannon Fort,' she enthused. Locals also played their part in Friday night's filming with two Community Employment workers at the Fort, Michael Howlin and Richard Dwyer being employed as security personnel on the night. Meanwhile as darkness descended on the waters outside the Fort, 19-year-old John Murphy from Emmet Place in Wexford town was on board the vessel carrying actors Guy Pearce and Jim Caviezal, steering it to shore. Duncannon natives, Walter Foley and Anthony Burke, both of whom are members of Fethard Inshore Lifeboat were also involved in the filming as special effects personnel, dispersing smoke and fog over the waters as well as providing emergency marine safety cover for the actors. `We were both in Brittas Bay for the week before the filming began in Duncannon and we were employed letting off smoke, creating the atmosphere necessary to film as well as providing safety cover. We were also employed during the making of Private Ryan,' Walter explained. `It was brilliant to be involved with this film in Duncannon and the atmosphere down here has been just brilliant. It's a a pity it had to be so short, but it has been great for locals to see how a film was made and to see the attention to detail which the producers and directors require,' he added.

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