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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 July, 2003, 13:21 GMT 14:21 UK
Hollywood sticks to Guerin story

by James Helm
BBC Dublin correspondent

Cate Blanchett is Vernonica Geurin
Cate Blanchett plays Vernonica Guerin
It is Ireland's movie event of the summer.

The première was glitzy, with its roll call of celebrities on the red carpet in Dublin's O'Connell Street: Bono, actor Colin Farrell, singer Ronan Keating, American director Joel Schumacher, and the star of the show herself, Cate Blanchett.

But also there, to make everyone remember that the story of Veronica Guerin is no work of Hollywood fiction, was the late journalist's mother, husband and young son.

The film Veronica Guerin tells the story of the eponymous crime reporter, who worked for Ireland's Sunday Independent.

In 1996 her work cost her life.

She had ruffled feathers, investigating Dublin's underbelly of criminal gangs and drug barons, determined to expose their activities and the city's hidden problems.

She made enemies, and had been attacked in her home and frequently intimidated.

Who in the world could have played my daughter but Cate Blanchett?
Bernadette Guerin
She was finally shot dead in her car near Dublin in broad daylight in a killing which convulsed a country.

Motivation

People here can tell you where they were when they heard about Veronica Guerin's death.

Her murder sparked public revulsion, marches against drug dealers, and prompted changes in the law to deal with the criminal gangs.

It also produced scrutiny of her work, her motivations, admiration of her courage in the face of such intimidation.

And now, it has also produced a Hollywood tale of her life, and her death.

Jimmy Guerin, Veronica's brother, told said he had been worried that her story might suffer from a Hollywood makeover, but to his relief he is pleased with the end product.

He said it showed her as the "excellent individual she was", and that it was almost "spooky" to see the way Cate Blanchett had portrayed the murdered journalist, right down to the smallest mannerisms he knew so well.

Vernonica Guerin
Guerin was killed in 1996
The actress herself was moved by the accolades she received at the premiere, especially the tribute from Veronica Guerin's mother, Bernadette, who asked: "Who in the world could have played my daughter but Cate Blanchett?".

Flawless accent

She described how she had watched all the TV and radio interviews with the real-life figure, read her articles and met the people who were close to her.

Her Dublin accent is flawless.

She said she had huge respect for Veronica Guerin's courage, such as the toughness required to knock on the doors of known hard men in order to question them.

As a leading actress, she has had her own troubles with journalists banging at her door, but entering into the mind-set of crime reporters was, she says, an eye-opener.

Of Veronica Guerin's death, Blanchett said: "People say should she have known, was she cavalier, was she reckless, was she too ambitious, but then why were people so shocked?

"I really do think that because she was a public figure, people thought she was immune to such danger."

Director Joel Schumacher has made films as varied as Batman Forever and Falling Down with Michael Douglas.

Foolhardy?

He rejects any assertion that this film, shot in and around Dublin, paints rather too positive a picture of changes in Ireland following Veronica Guerin's death.

New laws did follow, giving the authorities the power to strip the financial assets of criminal gangs.

He also objects to claims that, faced with such threats as a result of her work, she may have been foolhardy. No-one would ever say that about a male journalist, he argues.

It is a startling story, and the film successfully evokes Dublin's sordid, dangerous criminal underworld.

Knowing the facts so well, some in Ireland may point to a degree of creativity with the story, but then, as Blanchett points out, it is a film, as opposed to a documentary.

It may well re-awaken some of the raw emotion about Veronica Guerin's death which still lingers.

For all the glamour of the première, it was only too easy to realise this tale of bravery and murder described real people and real events in nearby streets not so very long ago.

Veronica Guerin is in Irish cinemas now, and goes on general release in the UK on 1 August.


SEE ALSO:
Blanchett 'fascinated' by Guerin
09 Jul 03  |  Entertainment
Death of an Irish heroine
15 Mar 01  |  Europe


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