22 April 2006

Hollywood, Broadway... Belfast?


Lord Attenborough and Pete Postlethwaite on location

It is not every day you get three Academy Award winners in the same street, but it is all the more noteworthy when that street is a terrace row in north Belfast.

A movie about a wartime American airman's lost ring has brought the Hollywood camera crews to Fortwilliam.

And some lucky residents have found the making of the film, Closing The Ring, an enriching experience in more ways than one.

Local children taking part as extras are earning £55 a day.

The friendly invasion, headed by Oscar winner Lord Attenborough, has seen Fortwilliam Parade become 1940s Pound Street, at least for the duration of filming.

Dickie, as he is affectionately known to his cast, is directing the romantic drama inspired by a real-life wartime tragedy on the Cavehill above Fortwilliam.

Fortwilliam Parade temporarily becomes Pound Street

Closing the Ring is said to be costing more than £11m and the star is another Oscar winner, Hollywood legend Shirley MacLaine.

The drama begins in 1942 when an American B-17 bomber crashed into the Cavehill while returning to its Northern Ireland base.

The story centres on a gunner in the plane's dying wish to have a gold ring returned to his girlfriend in America.

The film is set in Belfast and North Carolina.

Ms MacLaine plays the gunner's lover, Ethel, to whom the ring is returned 50 years later.

Lord Attenborough has assembled a top notch cast.

The film concerns a B-17 gunner's dying wish

As well as Shirley MacLaine, the list includes Pete Postlethwaite, Christopher Plummer, Brenda Fricker and Mischa Barton.

Residents watched fascinated as a derelict pharmacy was tranformed into an old-fashioned corner shop.

Others, recruited as extras, played a more active role.

One family returned from holiday to find "blood-stained soldiers" outside their front door.

Far from being put out by the hustle and bustle of film-making, residents say they are enjoying themselves.

"Everybody is just happy because you're getting a film on your doorstep," said one.

One of the children, asked what she was going to do with her £55, said: "I'm getting a bike."

Another said she would buy a DVD player - perhaps to watch Closing the Ring?

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