O’Connor set to helm ‘Dancing’; Streep eyes role

Pat O’Connor, who most recently helmed “Inventing the Abbotts,” is set to direct the screen version of Brian Friel’s Tony-winning Broadway play “Dancing at Lughnasa” for producer Noel Pearson (“My Left Foot”).

Meryl Streep and Billy Crudup are in talks to join Michael Gambon and Brid Brennan in the cast.

Set in Ballybeg, Ireland, in 1936, the story is about the hardscrabble lives of five sisters during Lughnasa — the Celtic name for the first few harvest days of August — when the now-mature narrator was 7 years old. With prospects of love and marriage nearly nonexistent for them, the sisters find occasional joy when they drop propriety and dance to their radio.

Brennan walked off with the Tony gong for best actress in 1992 for her stint as the unhappiest spinster, Agnes, in the $16 million production. (Streep is in talks to play the role of Kate, the prim schoolteacher, which was played on stage by Frances Tomelty and then by Rosaleen Linehan on its move from Dublin’s Abbey Theater to Broadway’s Plymouth in 1991).

Adapted by scribe Frank McGuinness (whose acclaimed “Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me” had a successful Broadway run just after the Friel play), pic will begin shooting Aug. 18, possibly in Donegal, the county where the play is set.

O’Connor’s other credits include “Circle of Friends” and “A Month in the Country.”

“Dancing” is a co-production between Ireland’s Ferndale Films, Britain’s Film Four, France’s Pandora, Irish pubcaster RTE and Bord ScannannahEireann/the Irish Film Board.

O’Connor is repped by Andrew Cannava of the United Talent Agency.

(Paul Power in Dublin contributed to this report.)

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