Dan Ireland, who helped run the annual film festival here for a decade and went on to a Hollywood career, is remembered as a devoted friend and filmmaker who took special pride in discovering new talent.
Dan Ireland, the filmmaker who co-founded the Seattle International Film Festival in 1976, died Thursday, April 14, at his home in Los Angeles. The cause of his death has not yet been disclosed.
“Dan Ireland loved this festival and it loved him,” SIFF artistic director Carl Spence wrote in a statement. “He was a great friend and impresario on all things, whether it be about film or life. I will forever remember his infectious smile, laugh and incredible wit and repartee. There will never be another Dan Ireland in the world.”
Born in Vancouver, B.C., Mr. Ireland came to Seattle with his friend Darryl Macdonald in the mid-1970s, where the two renovated the then-decaying Moore Theatre. The first edition of SIFF took place there: a 14-day, 28-film festival that rapidly grew (it’s now three and a half weeks at multiple venues with hundreds of films). The two later founded the Egyptian Theatre on Capitol Hill.
After co-running the festival for a decade with Macdonald, Mr. Ireland left for California and a new career as a film executive, producer and director. His first feature, the 1996 romance “The Whole Wide World,” introduced Renée Zellweger as a new star. Later films included “The Velocity of Gary,” “Passionada,” “Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont” and 2008’s “Jolene” (starring, in her film debut, Jessica Chastain).
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As a producer, his projects included John Huston’s “The Dead” and several films with British director Ken Russell. At the time of his death, Mr. Ireland was working on the film “Life Briefly,” a fact-based drama about Brian Knapp, a blind youth who played drums, guitar and piano and performed onstage with Johnny Cash several times before dying of leukemia at the age of 14.
“Dan was the most loving, generous and kind man,” Mr. Ireland’s manager Paul Nelson wrote in a statement. “He always put others ahead of himself. Film was his passion and he was brilliant with bringing out the heart and emotion of an actor in his pieces … He was so proud to work in discovering new actors. It’s a devastating loss for me and all his beloved friends and family.”
SIFF wrote that the festival is “saddened at the loss of our festival’s co-founder, film director and producer Dan Ireland. His passion for bringing the fantastic, transformative and beautiful spectrum of the cinematic experience to the world was unwavering.”