EXCLUSIVE: Jimmy’s Hall, which has begun shooting in Ireland, is likely to be Ken Loach’s last narrative feature - but he will continue to direct documentaries.

Ken Loach’s upcoming drama, Jimmy’s Hall, will likely be his last, according to regular producer Rebecca O’Brien.

“This is probably the last narrative feature for Ken,” O’Brien told ScreenDaily. “There are a few documentary ideas kicking around, and that will probably be the way to go, but this is a serious period-drama with a lot of moving parts so it’s a big thing to put together. I think we should go out while we’re on top.”

O’Brien, who has produced more than a dozen features with Loach since 1990, said that the 77 year-old director is likely to continue to make documentaries and TV work but that he is “unlikely” to make another narrative feature.

“It’s such a huge operation and Ken doesn’t sit in a director’s chair, telling people what to do; he runs around. It requires a lot of physical and mental stamina,” she said. “Realistically, I’d be very surprised if we made another feature after this one.”

O’Brien, who will continue to produce with and without Loach, said she had mixed feelings about the decision but added: “We’ve had a very good innings and it’s probably a good idea not go downhill while we’re still capable of making good work. But he’s not hanging up his boots.”

O’Brien co-runs production company Sixteen Films with Loach and writer Paul Laverty.

Fifty years of film-making

Loach, one of film industry’s most revered and decorated filmmakers, began his TV career in 1964 and made his first feature, Poor Cow, in 1967. But it was with Kes, in 1969, that Loach made his first major impact on cinema.

In a career spanning almost 50 years and 30 feature films to date, Loach has garnered acclaim from all major film festivals, winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2006 for The Wind that Shakes the Barley.

Loach’s films have featured in competition at Cannes a total of 11 times. He received a career Golden Lion at Venice in 1994.

The famously politicised director turned down an OBE in 1977.

Jimmy’s Hall shooting

The revelation comes on the same day that fresh details have emerged on the plot and cast of Loach’s next film, Jimmy’s Hall, which has begun shooting in counties Leitrim and Sligo, Ireland.

The cast features Barry Ward in the title role while Simone Kirby plays the female lead. The ensemble includes Jim Norton (Water for Elephants), Brían O’Byrne (Mildred Pierce) and Andrew Scott, who played Moriarty in BBC series Sherlock.

Ward is best known for theatre work such as The Plough and the Stars; Translations, both performed at The Abbey Theatre, Dublin. Simone Kirby is known for her Irish television appearances on RTE’s Pure Mule as well as her London and Off-Broadway theatre performances in Dancing at Lughnasa and Molly Sweeney.

As previously announced by Screen, Wild Bunch handles sales. eOne will release in the UK.

Set in 1932, the film follows Irish communist leader James Gralton who returns from a decade in New York to re-open the dance hall he built in 1921. The film will “celebrate the spirit of the free thinkers who went to learn, argue, dream and have fun” in the dance hall.

It is a Sixteen Films, Element Pictures, Why Not Productions and Wild Bunch production made with support of the BFI, Film4, Bord Scannán na hÉireann/Irish Film Board.

Around £50,000 development backing for the film came through the BFI’s locked box scheme, which sees producers recoup BFI money earned on previous films backed by the producer and the BFI - in this case, the Angels’ Share.

Feature Filmography

Poor Cow (1967)
Kes (1969)
The Save the Children Fund Film (1971)
Family Life (1971)
Black Jack (1979)
Looks and Smiles (1981)
Fatherland (1986)
Hidden Agenda (1990)
Riff-Raff (1991)
Raining Stones (1993)
Ladybird Ladybird (1994)
Land and Freedom (1995)
A Contemporary Case for Common Ownership (1995)
Carla’s Song (1996)
The Flickering Flame (1997)
My Name Is Joe (1998)
Bread and Roses (2000)
The Navigators (2001)
Sweet Sixteen (2002)
11’09”01 September 11 (segment “United Kingdom”) (2002)
Ae Fond Kiss… (2004)
Tickets (2005), along with Ermanno Olmi and Abbas Kiarostami
The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006)
It’s a Free World… (2007)
Looking for Eric (2009)
Route Irish (2010)
The Angels’ Share (2012)
The Spirit of ‘45 (2013)