If you've read about or heard of the film 'An Everlasting Piece' the chances are that it's for all the wrong reasons. Filmed in Ireland and directed by the Academy Award winning Barry Levinson ('Rain Man', 'Good Morning Vietnam'), the quirky comedy is now the subject of a $10 million lawsuit in the United States. The action has taken by the film's producer, Cork-born Jerome O'Connor, against the production company DreamWorks. The suit contends that DreamWorks suppressed the film "not because of any artistic or commercial reason but rather because of political pressure".
According to O'Connor, the film, which follows a Catholic and Protestant wig salesmen as they attempt to make ends meet in 80's Belfast, was considered by DreamWorks to depict the RUC and British Army in a less than positive light. He says, fearing that the film would embarrass newly-knighted DreamWorks supremo Steven Spielberg, and sour relations between his company and the British government (which had seen the $130m series 'Band of Brothers' filmed in the UK), DreamWorks then asked for scenes to be cut. Levinson refused and O'Connor alleges that the film was "killed", opening on seven screens across the US when it had been set to open on 800. "It's another example," he says angrily from his New York home, "of a studio taking a small movie that they shouldn't go near and then not understanding it". I think somebody misinformed DreamWorks that this was going to be a very controversial movie and they got afraid. It's not siding with anybody, it's not a controversial movie.
DreamWorks for their part have said that the film performed poorly in test screenings, received a higher profile on TV shows than an independent film could hope to achieve and that the lawsuit is "patently ludicrous". O'Connor counters by saying that the film met with approval amongst critics, was not targeted at its core audience of Irish-Americans and that it should have opened in Ireland first. The film will now be distributed in Europe by another company, Columbia Tristar. "I have a lot of hope," he says referring to how he thinks the film will be received in Ireland. "If it does well that's the test of the movie and that's where it should have opened first. It (the lawsuit) was not something I wanted to do but I felt if I didn't nobody would ever have heard of the movie."
In a Dublin hotel, the star and scriptwriter of 'An Everlasting Piece', Barry McEvoy, is relieved that the film will be seen on Irish screens and delighted at the opportunity to publicise it. "Our saving grace," he says, "was that DreamWorks had sold the film prior to its release in America to Columbia Tristar in Europe. If it doesn't do well I'll be disappointed but at least it will get a shot."
A native of Belfast, McEvoy's family emigrated to the US in the 1980's and he wrote the screenplay in between stints of acting, bar and construction work. Talking he seems more puzzled than angry about the film's fate in America. "With the reviews that we got we should still be playing in America right now," he sighs. As he readies himself for another round of interviews he says that the experience has put him off working with a major studio again. "These are big machines set up for opening weekend and if you're not Brad Pitt you're not going to pull the big numbers on the first weekend. A big machine like that are finished with their promotion by the first weekend but with a little film that's when you start. The machine is not set up for little films."