Sheridan, Jim: Director Profile

Natalie Portman plays Grace Cahill in "Brothers," starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire. The film, which is directed by Jim Sheridan, is being released December 4 by Lionsgate.

Writer, director and producer Jim Sheridan’s (Director) films have achieved popular and critical acclaim throughout the world and have garnered two Academy Awards, 16 Academy Award nominations, and numerous prestigious international awards. Sheridan has personally received 6 Oscar nominations, 2 as Best Director for My Left Foot and In The Name of the Father and 3 for Best Screenplay for In America (Best Original Screenplay), My Left Foot and In The Name of the Father (both Best Adapted Screenplay). Additionally, he received an Oscar nomination as producer when In The Name of the Father was nominated for Best Picture in 1993.

Sheridan’s last film, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, was a vibrant autobiographical story of 50 Cent’s journey from a youthful life of crime to his rise as one of the world’s best known rappers. This compelling and dynamic infusion of both drama and music represented the screen debut of Curtis Jackson (AKA 50 Cent) and featured an impressive supporting cast including Oscar nominees Terrence Howard and Viola Davis and Joy Bryant.

Prior to that, Sheridan collaborated with his daughters Naomi and Kirsten on the critically acclaimed In America, a magical and personal tale of a family finding its soul. Based on his own experiences coming to New York as a flat-broke immigrant, as well as remembrances of a devastating family tragedy, the film starred Samantha Morton, Paddy Considine, Djimon Hounsou and sisters Sarah Bolger and Emma Bolger. The film garnered three 2004 Academy Award nominations including Best Screenplay Written Directly For The Screen, and nominations for both Morton (Best Actress) and Hounsou (Best Supporting Actor). The film also received two Golden Globe nominations for Best Screenplay and Best Original Song.

In addition to its Oscar nominations, In America was also honored with Best Original Screenplay of the Year by both the National Board of Review and The Broadcast Film Critics and is listed on over 120 Top Ten Lists. The film received 6 nominations from the IFP Spirit Awards, Best Ensemble from The Screen Actor’s Guild and Sheridan was presented with the prestigious Stanley Kramer Award by the Producer’s Guild of America.

Embraced by international audiences, Jim Sheridan has nevertheless remained quintessentially Irish.  He first drew worldwide attention in 1989 for his debut feature film, My Left Foot, which was based on the uplifting life of the Irish writer/painter Christy Brown, a man with such severe cerebral palsy he could only move his left foot.  The film’s critical and box-office success kick-started a renaissance of Irish filmmaking and earned an amazing five Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay for Sheridan.  Daniel Day Lewis was propelled to global stardom and the film marked the beginning of a fruitful collaboration between Lewis and Sheridan. My Left Foot went on to earn both Lewis and Brenda Fricker Academy Awards (for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress).  The film also won the Donatello (Italian Oscar equivalent) for Best Foreign Film, among many other international awards and earned Sheridan a Writer’s Guild of America nomination.

Despite numerous offers from Hollywood, Sheridan decided to remain in Ireland to direct his next feature, The Field, featuring an Oscar-nominated performance from Richard Harris as a farmer who vigilantly defends his land from real-estate developers. Sheridan also wrote the screenplay for the critically acclaimed modern fairy tale Into The West, directed by Mike Newell, which introduced the world to his more magical side with a story of the Irish traveling community (gypsies) and their enchanted white horse that seamlessly merged reality with fantasy. 

In 1993, Sheridan wrote, produced and directed In The Name of the Father, a powerful drama that recounts the struggle of Gerry Conlon, a man wrongly prosecuted and imprisoned for an IRA bombing, starring Daniel Day Lewis and Emma Thompson.  Drawing both controversy and praise for its searing realism, the film went on to receive numerous Academy Award nominations, including those for Sheridan as Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture.  In The Name of the Father also brought Sheridan a second Donatello for Best Foreign Film, the Golden Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival and another WGA Award nomination.  His next film, which Sheridan wrote, produced and directed, The Boxer, reunited the director for the third time with actor Daniel Day Lewis in a love story set against the explosive atmosphere of Northern Ireland.  The Boxer received the Best Foreign Film at Spain’s Goya Awards and earned Sheridan a Golden Globe nomination as Best Director.

Sheridan also wrote and produced Some Mother’s Son, directed by Terry George and produced Agnes Browne, which was directed by and starred Anjelica Huston.

Under his Hell’s Kitchen banner, Sheridan has executive produced three distinctive Irish films:  Borstal Boy about Irish writer Brendan Behan and directed by Sheridan’s brother Peter Sheridan; John Carney’s teen drama On The Edge; and most recently, the award-winning docu-drama  Bloody Sunday, directed by Paul Greengrass, which garnered the coveted Audience Award at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival and two British Independent Film Awards, among other accolades. 

The son of a theater director, Sheridan grew up in Ireland, where his brother Frankie died of a brain tumor, one of the real-life events woven into In America.

Later, he began his career on stage, co-founding Dublin’s “alternative theater,” The Project Art Centre which launched such stars as Gabriel Byrne.  He had numerous plays produced in Ireland, including the highly regarded “Spike in the First World War,” based on Jaroslev Hasek’s novel The Good Soldier Schweik. He was awarded the Macauley Fellowship for writers, and was at that time only the second playwright to ever receive that honor. 

In 1981, Sheridan journeyed to America, (via Canada) to attempt to make it on the New York stage, with his wife and two daughters in tow (a third daughter was born in New York) – events which inspired the story of In America. While in New York, Sheridan received his only formal training in film, enrolling in NYU Film School for six weeks.  He ended up serving as artistic director of the Irish Arts Center, where his creative leadership helped to win the theatre a 1987 Obie Award for “sustained excellence.” Two decades after he first came to America, Sheridan came full circle, returning to New York to shoot In America. 

His next film, Dream House, a thriller starring Daniel Craig, will go into production in January 2010 for Morgan Creek Productions.