The Fighting Irish

Will Irish eyes be smiling when a crop of Irish-American-themed pictures arrive at movie theaters in the next year or so? A handful of titles that touch on NYC dockside gangs and Irish Republican Army gun-running are currently in development or preproduction, not necessarily casting those of Irish ancestry in the most positive light.

* First up is Orion’s “State of Grace,” to film in June, with Sean Penn as an undercover cop infiltrating Irish gangs of NYC’s Hell’s Kitchen. Dennis McIntire wrote the script, which Phil Joanou directs.

* Falcon Films’ “The Westies,” focusing on the notorious NYC gang, has Mickey Rourke attached. The fact-based project deals not only with Irish but also other ethnic gangs, said producer Joseph Vecchio.

* At Warner Bros., Guber-Peters is developing “Valhalla’s Wake,” the story of an American involved with the IRA in Boston. Another project at the studio, “The Mick,” described as a fish-out-of-water story, is being developed by producers Richard Donner and Joel Silver.


* Guber-Peters has also secured the rights to Peter Maas’ best seller “Father and Son,” about a man who discovers that his dead son was involved in gun-running to Ireland. Maas, who’ll co-produce, said that his book is “more interested in the Irish sensibility than its politics.”

John Concannon, an official with Irish American Who’s Who, a lobbying group, claims that no matter how fair or sympathetic a film dealing with Irish gangs or the IRA might be, it ultimately promotes stereotypes.

“The Irish community has been very sensitive to the way movies have portrayed them,” Concannon said, “but haven’t historically been terribly effective in getting that image changed.”