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The Madness of The Professor and the Madman

The Madness of The Professor and the Madman –  In this article, Shane Adlum describes the rather eccentric story of the production of ‘The Madness of The Professor and The Madman’ due for release this year

Back in 2016 Mel Gibson and Sean Penn arrived in Dublin to shoot ‘The Professor and the Madman’; a film based on the Simon Winchester bestseller ‘The Surgeon of Crowthorne’.  The film had all the hallmarks to be a success, an all star cast, Oscar winners in the lead roles, spectacular facial hair, it’s based on a bestselling book and is a true story that is almost too crazy to believe.

The Professor and the Madman is the unbelievable story of Professor James Murray (Gibson) as he begins to compile words for the Oxford English Dictionary. Over 10,000 entries were submitted by Dr. William Minor (Penn), who, unbeknownst to Murray, was a patient at Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum.

Various locations around Dublin were used as 19th century England including Rialto and Trinity College, which was used in place of Oxford University. Some locals even landed parts as extras but it looks like they might not get to see themselves on the big screen.

Something about this film seemed doomed from day one. This was a passion project for Mel Gibson and he spent two decades adapting the book. At one stage the author, Simon Winchester said “I was a young man when people started saying to me ‘this would be a great movie’, I sometimes think I’ll be in my grave before it gets made.”  Originally Gibson was set to direct as well as star but he eventually stepped out of the director’s chair and was replaced with Farhad Safinia, although the movies director is now officially listed as P.B. Shemran.

In 2017 Gibson tried to stop the release of the film when he and his production company Icon Productions sued Voltage Pictures over the fact they were refused final cut privileges and were also refused an additional five days of production in Oxford. Gibson lost his case and Voltage Pictures were able to sell the distribution rights to Vertical Entertainment. That doesn’t however mean it will get a worldwide release. It seems the film will have a limited release in some countries but there is no release date for Ireland. Even if it got a global release it would be unlikely to be a great commercial success with the stars of the film refusing to promote it.

It is a shame this film won’t be released to rapturous applause with a big star studded premier. Instead you will be more likely to see it online or on television at 2am some night when you’re too tired to actually watch it. Ireland has been the setting for many TV shows and films in recent years and every time something gets filmed here it is another opportunity to showcase the beautiful scenery, amazing architecture and the incredible acting talent we have. Whilst ‘The Professor and the Madman’ may not go down as a classic it will certainly go down as a missed opportunity for the Irish film industry.


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