HOLLYWOOD legend Martin Sheen sought the help of a Professor from NUI Maynooth on how to be a convincing priest for his latest film ‘Stella Days’ which premiered on Saturday night at the Riverbank Arts Centre.
Stella Days, starring Martin Sheen, is a story of a man whose love is the church and whose passion is the cinema, and is set in the rural community of Borrisokane in the mid 1950’s.
“I was religious advisor for the film,” said Salvador Ryan Theology Professor.
“I was working with Martin teaching him how to say Mass.
“The film is about a priest in 1950s Ireland setting up a cinema called Stella and based on the true live of Canon Patrick Cahill.”
Described as an insight into a ‘world on the cusp of the modern era, a time stimulating both excitement and apprehension,’ the film was based on the memoir Stella Days: The Life and Times of a Rural Irish Cinema by Michael Doorley.
In addition to Martin Sheen, who has family ties to the area as it was the birthplace of his mother, as Father Barry, Stella Days stars Stephen Rea as Brendan McSweeney and Tom Hickey as Bishop Hegerty. Trystan Gravelle plays Tim, Marcella Plunkett plays Molly and Amy Huberman plays Eileen while the local parish choir Bóthar-na-Naomh perform in the film.
“In November 2010, Martin visited Maynooth College for a crash course in donning pre-Vatican II vestments and pronouncing the words of the Latin Mass in addition to all the gestures that accompanied this,” he added.
“Throughout, Martin was the most wonderful company – ever patient and willing to chat and pose for photos with the choir and other parishioners who happened to be at Mass the same morning – a true gentleman.
“In between shooting the choir scenes and also the liturgical ceremonies at which the choir were expected to sing, Martin spent his time regaling cast and crew with stories and anecdotes and, in general, putting everyone at ease.
“When the shooting had ‘wrapped’, each member of the Bóthar-na-Naomh choir realised that they had experienced something very special.”
Last Saturday week, members of the choir and many of their family and friends hired a bus from Thurles to travel to the Riverbank Arts Theatre to finally see their work on the big screen.”