If this region, despite its picturesque qualities, has not attracted many film makers over the years, but this is changing. Planning permission has been sought for a major fifty million pound development at Magheramorne, a harbour village which will include a film and television production studio.
Two local people have attained international prominence on the silver screen. Liam Neeson, born in Ballymena in 1952, has become one of Hollywood’s leading stars. He began his acting career at Belfast’s Lyric Theatre, and then moved to the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, where he was spotted by the director John Boorman, who cast him as Gawain in his Arthurian epic Excalibur. His performance in Schindler’s List, as Oscar Schindler, who saved thousands of Jews from the Nazis, won him an Oscar nomination. His more recent leading roles include Rob Roy, Michael Collins, and the American sexologist Alfred Kinsey. He was awarded the O.B.E. in 1999. He is connected by marriage with England’s leading acting family, since his wife, Natasha Richardson, is the daughter of Vanessa Redgrave, who was herself the daughter of Sir Michael Redgrave, one of the greatest stars of the English theatre.
Stephen Boyd, who was born William Millar in Glengormley in 1931, had a less consistent career, but appeared in more than fifty films before his early death in California in 1977. He was particularly associated with films set in Ancient Rome. He played the leading role in the 1964 epic, Fall of the Roman Empire, cast as Livius, a good general trying to save the Empire from destruction. He is best remembered, however, for his portrayal of the villainous Messala in Ben Hur, 1959. The chariot race between Messala and Ben Hur, played by Charlton Heston, has become one of the most famous of movie spectacles.
James Nesbitt, who comes from Coleraine and grew up in Broughshane, has been very successful as a television actor, most notably in the series Cold Feet and Murphy’s Law. He has also featured in the cinema, and has recently completed shooting the latest Woody Allen film, Scoop.