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"James Joyce and 'Ulysses'" (2004)

Commentary No. 13 – Department of the Taoiseach file on the filming of Ulysses (1967)


Joseph Strick’s Ulysses, released in 1967, was the first attempt to film a book many people thought impossible to render in cinematic form. Strick, who had previously adapted and filmed Jean Genet’s The Balcony (1963), and who went on to direct Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1977), assembled a wonderful cast: Milo O’Shea as Bloom, Barbara Jefford as Molly, Maurice Roëves as Stephen, Martin Dempsey as Simon Dedalus, TP McKenna as Buck Mulligan, Anna Manahan as Bella Cohen and Fionnuala Flanagan as Gerty MacDowell. The film got a mixed critical reception, but Strick got an Academy Award nomination for best adapted screenplay.

Ulysses was filmed in Dublin, and the production company requested permission from the Office of Public Works to use the State Apartments at Dublin Castle as a location. The documents reproduced here, from a Department of the Taoiseach file, outline the conditions which apply to such access, including a fee of £100 per day, and a press cutting from the Evening Herald of 18 August 1966, showing Milo O’Shea and Barbara Jefford in a scene from the Circe episode, part of which was filmed in the State Apartments. Officials in the Department of the Taoiseach are annoyed that press photographers were allowed into the State Apartments, and express a belated interest in the content of the film: ‘We might also ask to see the script.’ This was prescient, as the film was immediately banned in Ireland, and did not achieve general release until 2000, 33 years after its release.

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