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7 ‘deadly’ things you may not know about The Commitments

While we wait for tickets to go on sale to the reunion gigs of The Commitments stars, TheJournal.ie has been occupying itself with identifying famous nipples, name changes and cardboard cutouts in the original film.

THE REUNION OF the stars of Alan Parker’s 1991 film, The Commitments, for a series of concerts next March has made us very nostalgic here at TheJournal.ie If you’re spending as much time as we are reminiscing about the hardest-working band in the world, you might like to drop these bits of trivia into the conversation….

1. PARKER POINTERS: Director Alan Parker showed he was happy to poke fun at himself with several fleeting references to his previous work throughout The Commitments. He has one character mockingly sing the title song from ‘Fame’ (1980, dir. Alan Parker). Jimmy Rabbitte Jnr is asked if he has brought ‘Mississippi Burning’ (1988, dir. Alan Parker) with him on the train and at another point, Jimmy references a newspaper article in which Bob Geldof is mentioned. Geldof had previously starred in ‘Pink Floyd’s The Wall’ (1982, dir. Alan Parker).

In a scene in a video shop, a poster of ‘Birdy’ (1984, dir. Alan Parker) can be seen on the wall and videos of his other films on the shelves. There is also a cardboard cutout of Parker in the background. Near the end of the film, Parker has a cameo as a record producer.

2. OF CORRS IT’S THEM: Most people know that Andrea Corr had a minor (non-singing) role in the film as Jimmy Rabbitte Jnr’s little sister. The other three also appeared in the film – Caroline in the audience during the performance of ‘I Never Loved A Man’, Jim in the Avant-Garde-A-Clue band and Sharon on the violin in a country and western band that Bernie joins at the end of the film.

Off the set, though, was where the life-changing stuff was happening for Andrea and her siblings. When musician John Hughes was asked to organise 100 bands for the audition scene of The Commitments, one of those he called up was Jim Corr whom he knew from playing the keyboards in a previous band of Hughes’s. “Jim said, ‘Can I bring my three sisters’,” recalled Hughes in an interview in 2001.  He saw the “gorgeous” girls, became the band’s manager and the rest is multi-million-record-selling history.

3. NOT BLOWING HIS OWN TRUMPET: Alan Parker originally wanted Van Morrison to play Joey ‘The Lips’ Fagan. In the end he hired Johnny Murphy, an experienced stage actor but one with no experience of playing the trumpet. Murphy was the only member of the cast who didn’t do his own playing. We here at TheJournal.ie are very impressed by the fact that he had a role in a two-part episode of Remington Steele four years before The Commitments. Slick, Johnny, slick.

4. MADONNA’S NIPPLE: Speaking of Fagan, one of the most memorable scenes of  The Commitments involved Joey ‘The Lips’ teaching his protege Dean Fay to play the saxaphone. To help him, er, commit to the instrument’s mouthpiece, Joey tells him to imagine it’s the nipple of a woman he fancies. In the Roddy Doyle book The Commitments, Dean settles on Madonna’s nipple. In the film, he decides on Kim Basinger’s. Thanks to @BrianGreene on Twitter – and Paul Cunnane in the comments – for being especially au fait with this scene…

5. LIKELY LADS: Roddy Doyle’s book was adapted for the screen version of The Commitments by Ian La Fresnais and Dick Clement, the writing duo behind the rather more English television series The Likely Lads, Porridge, Lovejoy and Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. They have since moved to the US and have been script doctors on the movies Never Say Never Again, The Rock and Bad Boys 2. When Jimmy Rabbitte is trying to come up with a name for the band that will become The Commitments, one suggestion made is The Likely Lads.

6. WHAT’S IN A NAME? The surname of the Rabbitte family at the centre of Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown trilogy of books had to be changed to Curley in the film of The Snapper because 20th Century Fox had the rights to the Rabbitte name on film after they made the movie version of The Commitments. Colm Meaney still plays the dad of the central clan in all three films. Where he is Jimmy Rabbitte Snr in the books and The Commitments film, he is Dessie Curley in 1993 film The Snapper and just referred to as ‘Larry’ in the movie version of The Van (1996).

7. SKATER ‘BOY’: The extras list of The Commitments read like a ‘who’s who’ of Dublin characters of the time. One of these, the kid on the skateboard outside Jimmy Rabbitte Jnr’s window when he’s auditioning musicians, had already a claim to fame as the boy whose face appeared on the cover art of U2′s ‘Boy’ (1980) and ‘War’ (1983) albums. (He was the younger brother of Guggi – aka Derek Rowan – artist pal of Bono.) Peter Rowan was a national skating champion at the time of The Commitments.

…..AND, THE BONUS TRACK: The word ‘fuck’ appears 145 times in the 113-minute running time of The Commitments. We didn’t count them – IMDB.com did. Here’s a little taster of how The Commitments used that Olde Anglo-Saxon word as expletive, verb, adjective and noun… (WARNING: There will be swearing in the video below.)

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