New study shows we're disgusted at thought of home-grown actors in passionate embraces, writes Larissa Nolan
Sunday January 13 2008
Irish people still feel deeply sexually inadequate as a nation, according to those behind the first ever survey of sex and cinema in Ireland.
FilmIreland magazine carried out a comprehensive study on our attitudes to sex in Irish film, asking such questions as whether there should be more or less sexual content in home-grown productions, and to list the country's sexiest actors and movies.
But the results show that the Irish have yet to become sexually confident, according to actor and playwright Mark O'Halloran, who was behind the survey as guest editor of the magazine.
He said many of the respondents' comments showed that we do not believe it's possible to be both sexy and Irish.
Some respondents even felt disgusted at the thought of watching Irish actors in passionate embraces. And many struggle to name even one sexy Irish female actress, sometimes claiming there are none.
O'Halloran told the Sunday Independent: "It boils down to the nation's sense of sexual inadequacy. We still have not got over it! That was a bit of a shock.
"When we asked for comments about whether or not there should be more action in Irish cinema, some people actually said: 'I don't want to see Irish sex.' They were very keen on foreign films and found actors from other countries very sexy. But it was as if once an actor is from Ireland, they could not have any sex appeal."
O'Halloran said Irish directors were yet to venture into the sexual arena -- and hopes to do it himself when he finishes his raunchy film Laid Out, which features a homosexual sex scene at a funeral.
"It's strange, the lack of sex in film, as we have plenty of it in our literature, from James Joyce to JP Donleavy, to Beckett and Kavanagh. There was always some book being burned or banned.
"When we do, the films tend to belong to what I call the Sex Catastrophe Movie. In this exclusively Irish genre, sex is visited upon some poor unfortunate young woman."
He said that Neil Jordan has approached it in his movies The Crying Game and Breakfast on Pluto, which featured transgenders and transvestites respectively, but Jordan is more interested in trying to tap into sexual unease in men than anything else.
"So I ask: Where's the fun? Is there room here for someone who penetrates deep into the fun and frolics of our sexual identities?"
Unfairly, it is the Irish film censor, John Kelleher -- probably the most lenient censor in our history and a man who prefers to refer to his job as that of a film classifier -- who gets the blame for the lack of sex in movies, with 57 per cent of those polled believing there is too much censorship of films in this country.
In an interview in the magazine, Kelleher comments on how Ireland has shied away from making sexual movies, unlike other Catholic nations such as France and Spain, which have embraced the subject.
"I would imagine that's some class of residual reflection on how we are. We haven't quite come to terms with it in the same way as we have other things. It might be sexual guilt. It's quite odd."
Senator Eoghan Harris, a screenwriter and film lecturer, said Irish actors are too familiar to us.
"A certain anonymity is necessary for good screen sex. It's bad enough to see actors on Grafton Street without having to watch them get their boxers off.
"We know it's just the ride and it always looks ridiculous. I cannot imagine Irish people putting up with the longeurs of French cinema which gets its rocks off on adultery, whereas in Ireland that would be just messing in Majorca."
He said politics and property turn on Irish people much more than sex.
"The sexiest scene would be a Government Minister politician having sex with a female estate agent in a house he was thinking of buying in Ailesbury Road."
The online poll, carried out with readers of FilmIreland, revealed Colin Farrell and Breakfast on Pluto star Ruth Negga topped the lists of sexy Irish actors and actresses.
Farrell, who picked up 27 per cent of the vote, was followed by Cillian Murphy (25 per cent), Jonathan Rhys Meyers (24 per cent), Liam Neeson (14 per cent) and Gabriel Byrne (10 per cent).
Ruth Negga, who is half Irish and half Ethiopian, took nearly half of the total vote, with up and coming actresses Elaine Cassidy (15 per cent), Laura Way (12 per cent) and Emma-Eliza Regan coming in behind her. Eva Birthistle and Susan Lynch tied for the last place in the top five, with 9 per cent apiece.
Readers voted Nora -- which tells of the steamy love affair between James Joyce and Nora Barnacle -- as their sexiest Irish film ever, with Ryan's Daughter, Goldfish Memory, The Crying Game and In America making up the rest of the list.
Nora won the vote, due to its "nudity and old-style passion" according to one reader and because it is "pretty, kinky and frank" according to another.
Bizarrely, when asked to list their fantasy Irish on-screen coupling, most readers voted for male on male action.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers in a clinch with Colin Farrell was top fantasy, with Cillian Murphy and Colin Farrell in second place and Rhys Meyers and Murphy in third.
Grainne Seoige was the sexiest TV personality, followed by Caroline Morahan, Miriam O'Callaghan and Sharon Ni Bheolain.
The survey appears in FilmIreland magazine.