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Angela's Ashes

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In 1935, when it was more common for Irish families to leave their famine-stricken country for America, the impoverished McCourt family does the reverse. Angela and her alcoholic husband Malachi set sail from New York Harbour to Cork with their four children, Frank, Malachy Jr. and twins Eugene and Oliver to a land which a mystified young Frank had only heard of as 'where there was no work and people were dying of the starvation and the damp'.

A cold greeting awaits them in Limerick by Angela's Catholic family. Grandma lends them money for a small place but any hope of their luck changing soon disappears with Dad not being able to find employment, and Oliver and Eugene dying from malnourishment and the damp. Dad's spirits sink lower and he drowns his sorrows in alcohol.

Edinburgh Film Festival - nbx write up:

As soon as he finished reading Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes, the devastating portrayal of a child growing up in Ireland, British film-maker Alan Parker tried to option the film rights. Although they had already been acquired by US producers David Brown and Scott Rudin, Parker soon signed on as director, taking a production credit via his London-based Dirty Hands Productions. The director then updated the first draft of the script written by Australian writer Laura Jones.

"Adapting any famous literary work is problematic in that, in the compression to a manageable cinematic shape, inevitably, certain characters and situations will be excluded," Parker said.

At that time in 1998, Dirty Hands had a first-look deal with PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, now known as Universal Pictures International (UPI). UPI agreed to back the project along with Paramount Pictures. With two-times Academy Award nominee Emily Watson and Robert Carlyle in place as the leads, and three boys cast for the three ages of Frank, production began in September 1998. "Our film had the advantage of being financed by two studios and so we had the luxury of moving this huge travelling circus around Ireland," says Parker.

The team decided to shoot in Dublin and Cork as well as Limerick, the western Irish town where the majority of the book is set. "It was obvious that a patchwork quilt, a mosaic of different places, would have to be put together to accurately replicate the Limerick of 50-odd years ago," says Parker.

Angela's Ashes wrapped in December 1998 after a 75-day shoot. It was released in the US in December 1999.


Type of film
Running Time
2 hrs 24 mins
35mm Kodak
Alan Parker
Adam Schroeder, Eric Steel
Gerry Hambling ACE
Laura Jones, Alan Parker
Director of Photography
Michael Seresin
Ken Weston AMPS
John Williams
Principal Cast
Emily Watson, Robert Carlyle

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Last updated 19th February 2010

Production Company

Dirty Hands Productions
2nd Floor, 6-10 Lexington Street
London W1R 3HS

T +44 (0)20 7287 7410


45 Beadon Road
London W6 0EG

T +44 (0)20 8741 9041