News that Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin has been nominated for nine Oscars was met with howls of delight at an Oscars party at McLoughlin’s Bar on Achill Sound.
The success of the film, which scooped three Golden Globes earlier this month, has been closely followed on Achill Island, where much of it was shot. Many locals took part as extras during its filming in the summer of 2021.
“We’re over the moon for them,” said John Sweeney from Achill Sound, who was one of those extras. “It is a fantastic film. For Achill it is stunning. It put us on the world map.”
Chris McCarthy, manager of Achill Tourism, was rubbing his hands with glee. He and his team have been busy accommodating a barrage of media requests in recent weeks that will only intensify after the film received nine Oscar nominations.
“There’s a close emotional attachment on Achill to this film because of all the filming done here. There is hardly a house in Achill that wasn’t touched by this film in some way during filming and since,” he said.
“We’re here on a dreary Tuesday in January and there’s a buzz and excitement around Achill as we watch the bright lights of Hollywood.”
A Banshees of Inisherin Locations Trail has already been launched on the Achill Tourism website. It is now working with Mayo County Council, Fáilte Ireland and the Wild Atlantic Way to provide physical infrastructure at the locations on the trail.
“We’re well placed here to welcome visitors. We’ve been welcoming tourists for 250 years. We’re also very keenly aware that any growth must be sustainable and respectful of Achill’s natural beauty and cultural heritage. That’s what drew Martin McDonagh here and we cannot forget that. We’re only passing through and we have to leave Achill in good shape for the next generation,” said Mr McCarthy.
Waffles and sessions
Celebrity spotting became a popular pastime during filming, with locals and the movie’s stars including Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell mixing freely.
Farrell was often spotted out running on the roads of Achill, and there was a local surge in demand for Birdseye potato waffles after a packet was seen in his basket in the supermarket.
The actor thanked the locals of Inis Mór and Achill, the two locations where the film was shot, during his Golden Globes Best Actor acceptance speech.
“We were just one big family for the betterment of all of our souls on that experience,” he said.
Mr Sweeney can testify to that.
“I had some lovely chats with Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. They were very friendly and open. As Colin said at the Golden Globes, barriers were broken. We were all so relaxed around each other,” he said.
“We had a lovely music session with Brendan Gleeson and Pat Shortt in Mulranny. My son Graham played the guitar and Pat played too. Barry Keoghan was an absolute character. You couldn’t but laugh at him.”
While the Hollywood Oscars haven’t been handed out yet, one has already been presented on Achill Island.
Jackie Memory from McLoughlin’s came out from behind the bar during Tuesday’s party to host an impromptu presentation, giving it to Mr McCarthy ‘for all his work on promoting Achill’. “A neighbour told me that the only Oscar I knew before this was on Sesame Street,” he joked.
Filming for the movie took place at several locations in Achill.
They included Jonjo’s pub at Cloughmore; the harbourside village and O’Riordan’s Post Office at Purteen Harbour; Corrymore Lake, which was the location for Mrs McCormack’s cottage as well as two other prominent scenes in the film; the cottage of Colm Doherty (Brendan Gleeson) at Keem Bay; and the church (St Thomas’s in Dugort) that was used for a Mass scene and Colm’s confessions.
“It was amazing to be involved with a film like this. Never in all my life did I think I’d be there on set seeing all the tricks of the trade of how a film is made,” said Mr Sweeney. “Everything was so precise. If you took a sip from your drink, it was topped up again for the next camera angle.
“I’m in the film in the pub and out on the boat. We were filming on the boat for three days and all for 20 seconds of footage. That shows you the detail they go into,” he added.
Anne Hughes was an extra on the film as well - but may not have been had it not been for Covid.
“I’m a retired teacher. We had been coming down to Achill from Dublin for holidays for 30 years but moved down altogether in 2020 during Covid and only for Covid, I probably wouldn’t have been involved in this. It was so much fun being involved,” she explained.
As it turns out, herself and Mr Sweeney were husband and wife on set, although Mr Sweeney quickly adds that he was a busy man.
“I had six wives during five weeks of filming and some of them were half my age so I pulled well,” he quipped.
Almost as many wives as Oscar nominations for the film.