Byline: EAMONN O'HANLON
FIREBRAND actor Gabriel Byrne has accused Hollywood of squeezing the life out of the Irish film industry.
He claims the big American studios have such a tight grip on movie distribution that they are able to lay down the law to film makers around the world.
"In order to say you have a film industry you must have an infrastructure which supports a home-grown industry, he said.
"I just don't think that's possible with the way American films have a stranglehold on the distribution systems.
"People absorb the values and the morality of these films and they contribute in no small way to the US influence on culture."
Dubliner Gabriel, who has starred in such hit films as The Usual Suspects, End of Days and Stigmata, spoke out in after wrapping up his latest movie in Australia.
He has just spent three months in Queensland filming The Ghost Ship, an $80 million supernatural thriller about an abandoned ship that is left adrift for 50 years.
The movie is the latest in a series of Hollywood blockbusters to be shot in Australia, including The Matrix and the next Star Wars episode.
Gabriel said Australia and Ireland had a lot in common when it came to the movies.
Both countries provided studio facilities for American projects, but got little in return in the way of support for their own independent film industries.
''All I know is that people who talk about an Australian film industry are deluded,'' he said.
"The danger is that countries like Australia will become a cheap studio for Hollywood.
"If the Hollywood studios found somewhere else where there was similar light and conditions they would be there."
Gabriel's comments echo the recent row over the Irish black comedy Everlasting Piece, starring Billy Connolly and Anna Friel.
The movie, which poked fun at the British army in Belfast, was bankrolled by Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks studio, but flopped in the US after opening at just 13 cinemas across the country. …