Huge news for the Irish film scene as Hollywood stars Mel Gibson and Sean Penn will fly in this month to shoot their new film in Dublin. Titled The Professor and the Madman it will see the Irish capital double for the English city of Oxford, circa 1850.

The film tells the story of the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary and sees Gibson play its author Professor James Murray. Penn plays William Chester Minor, a doctor, but also an inmate, at an asylum for the criminally insane, who penned more than 10,000 entries for the dictionary.

The Professor and the Madman is based on a book of the same name by Simon Winchester, which Gibson acquired the rights almost 20 years ago. Irish based director John Boorman (Excalibur) worked on the original script alongside Todd Komarnicki (Perfect Stranger), with director Farhad Safinia completing the rewrite. Safinia co-wrote Apocalypto with Gibson, who will produce for Icon Productions with partner Bruce Davey. Macdara Kelleher produces for the Irish based Fastnet Films, with international sales being handled by Voltage Pictures.

The film will showcase up-and-coming local Irish talent Rob McCormack, Abigail Coburn, Zoe Moran, Phonsie Wardell, and Nora Cooper, cast from an extensive search as the family of Professor Murray. 

Irish talent on the film includes Costume Designer Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh, who did stunning work for Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship; Production Designer Tom Conroy (Legend); Location Manager Gordon Wycherley (Brooklyn); Make Up & Hair team Lynn Johnson (Apocalypto) and Lorraine Glynn (Brooklyn); and Production Coordinator Jane McCabe (Brooklyn).

Penn is no stranger to Dublin having worked in the city with Italian director Paolo Sorrentino on This Must Be the Place in August 2010. Gibson is also familiar with these shores having filmed much of Braveheart in counties Meath, Dublin, Kildare, and Wicklow.

Dublin has a history of doubling for the UK in film and television period productions, with the most recent examples being Love & Friendship, Ripper Street and Penny Dreadful. Ireland’s Section 481 tax credit and highly-skilled cast and crew also make it an attractive option for foreign filmmakers.

The Professor and the Madman will begin production at the end of the month for eight weeks around Dublin City with creative co-production funding from the Bord Scannán na hÉireann/the Irish Film Board and on the ground locations support from the IFB inward production team.

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