By Arthur Flynn
‘Into the West’ was one of several top-class films to come from Irish production teams during the 1990s. The other important films included The Crying Game and The Miracle from Neil Jordan, The Boxer, The Commitments, In the Name of the Father, War of the Buttons and The Playboys.
Into the West, about Irish travellers, was a Channel Four production from a script by Jim Sheridan and David Keating and directed by Mike Newell. Jim Sheridan did not intend to write simply for children, although the film mainly follows two young children on the run, as the central characters.
The cinematographer was Newton Thomas Sigel with music by Patrick Doyle and editing by Peter Boyle.
The film had a veritable near all- Irish all-star cast. Gabriel Byrne who played Papa Reilly, King of the Travellers, stated that it was one of the best scripts he had ever read. His leading lady, Ellen Barkin, was also greatly impressed by the script and signed on.
After much searching and interviewing the two boys were cast. They were played by six-year-old Ciarán Fitzgerald as Ossie and eleven-year-old, Rúaidhrí Conroy as Tayto. Gabriel Byrne and Ellen Barkin were married to each other when the film was made.
The other leading members of the cast included David Kelly as Grandfather, Johnny Murphy as Tracker, Colm Meaney as Barreller, John Kavanagh as Hartnett, Brendan Gleeson as Inspector Bolger and Jim Norton as Super O’Mara.
The name of the white horse is Tír na nÓg. This is the Irish for ‘Land of Eternal Youth.’ Some tricks of the trade were employed during filming, with six identical white horses, three Irish and three French, being used as Tír na nÓg.