Is 'Fifty Dead Men Walking' really based on truth?

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Martin McGartland, whose memoir forms the basis for 'Fifty Dead Men Walking', talks to Time Out about how he believes he's been inaccurately portrayed in the film

Last week saw the release of the film ‘Fifty Dead Men Walking’, a thriller adapted from the book of the same name by Martin McGartland, a working class Belfast boy who became both a respected member of the IRA and an informer for the British secret service. McGartland has been living in hiding for the past two decades, during which time he has been tracked down and shot twice. So it came as something of a surprise when he contacted the Time Out offices to discuss his reactions to the film which, he asserts, crucially misrepresents some episodes from his life story.

‘The best way I can explain it in basic, blunt terms, is it’s as near to the truth as Earth is to Pluto,’ McGartland insists. ‘If a film is loosely based on someone’s life story, how does the audience know what’s true and what’s fiction?’

McGartland cites various specific incidences where the film strays from his version of the truth. ‘I have never drank in my life, I have never smoked in my life and (actor) Jim Sturgess is in pubs getting pissed all the time and smoking cigarettes. All the stuff about me getting shot in Canada, I’ve never been to Canada in my life except for a brief holiday. I never lived there. And I certainly was not present when a suspected informer was interrogated and murdered. That made me so angry.’

But for McGartland, this isn’t just a case of creative licence. ‘Not only is there sympathy for the Republican movement (in the film), but the director, Kari Skogland, has done some kind of deal with the IRA whereby she has allowed them to be consultants and also, this is on record too, they’ve actually been on set when the film was being made, which is unheard of. How can you make a film about the IRA when they’re standing watching over your shoulder?’

Director Skogland angrily refutes McGartland’s claims, though she admits she did consult ex-IRA members when researching the film, and accepts that ex-Republicans were on set during shooting. ‘But so were the army!’ she argues. ‘They were there at the same time. Everyone was getting along, it was really very important, the army was there, the RUC was there, everyone wanted me to get it right, to have a very authentic view. While I would not want to suggest the IRA had any influence on the film because they didn’t, I certainly had to go to people to make sure that if I’m portraying them I’m not portraying them from some Hollywood, ill-conceived, stereotypical perspective.’

She also asserts that she offered McGartland an advisory role on the film and held numerous conversations with him during shooting. ‘I spent hours talking to him, and recognised that he had quite a distinct agenda. I felt because he had such a passionate perspective, his intention would have been to make it a political document, that was not the intention of the movie. This was not an agenda-oriented film. I listened and I was very respectful but at the same time I couldn’t let his voice change the dynamic of the picture that I knew was a truthful story of what it is to be an informer.’

Whatever the respective merits of their conflicting views, the incident highlights the responsibility filmmakers bear when telling real-life stories, particularly when their subjects are alive and eager to speak out. McGartland is concerned that the film will now be the only way people remember his contribution to what he views as a righteous cause.

‘I’ve been kidnapped by the IRA, jumped out a window to save my own life. I’ve been through the mill and back again and I accept all those consequences as a result of what I do… I didn’t want any control over the film, I just wanted them to do it in a fair way.’

Author: Tom Huddleston



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21 comments
Martin McGuinnesss
Martin McGuinnesss

Fifty dead men walking is a fine book and Mr McGartland is a true hero who stood up to our murderous ways.We were nothing more than terrorists and i am ashamed of what we did.I now stand up when ever the national anthem is played.God save the queen !

Ged
Ged

I always laugh when i hear someone say ' McGartland ratted out his own'.Lets put that in context shall we ? So,if someone you knew said ''Hey i'm going to plant this bomb under this car and murder this guy'' of course you would say (as a decent human being) '' yeah go for it my friend and kill him. Why jeopardise our friendship over murdering someone''.Get the point ? You IRA 'kiss arses' seriously need to engage your brain before you open your mouth and then maybe(only maybe mind you) the world might take you a bit more seriously(i doubt it but hey be my guest)

Ged
Ged

These IRA supporting cronies on here act like Martin McGartland was grassing on his mates like they had been nicking CD's from Tesco.The IRA never did anything honorable in their entire existence.TERRORISTS and nothing more.Martin saved lives and is a true hero and will be remembered as the hero he was.The IRA will be remembered for murder and thats a fact !!

stuart
stuart

Marty McGartland should go missing, shame on him, cant belive these scumbags live on this earth

stuart jones
stuart jones

Marty McGartland should be do us all a favour and go missing. Cheating Scumbag Shame on him

tal
tal

either way he still ratted out his own, scumbag, take the queen's schilling and forget about the 50 dead irishman you could have saved

Max
Max

The Film Fifty Dead Men Walking is total Crap. The old lady who made it was buttered up by the terrorists. I just read the books - much better than that shit film. The filmmakers took everyone who went to see it for a ride. It is nothing more than Terrorist PR. Between the age of 17 and 21 years of age Martin McGartland had saved the lives of more than 50 people. Read his true life story – available now on Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Fifty-Dead-Men-Walking-ebook/dp/B004FN1U9I UK edition: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Fifty-Dead-Men-Walking-ebook/dp/B004FN1U9I “One of the most extraordinary stories to have emerged from Northern Ireland’s troubles� The Spectator. Read more here; www.martinmcgartland.co.uk

Sarah Taylor (U.S)
Sarah Taylor (U.S)

The film is poor whem comparred to the book of same name. The film is 99% fiction and is nothing like the true story as told in the book. http://www.scribd.com/doc/50616601/Sunday-World-also-Gagged-by-Northumbria-Police-Top-Cops-Gag-Newspaper-What-the-hell-have-have-Chief-Superintendent-Chris-Thomson-Temporary Sunday World also 'Gagged' by Northumbria Police. Top Cops Gag Newspaper: What the hell have Chief Superintendent Chris Thomson - Temporary Chief Constable, Sue Sim and Northumbria Police got to hide in the Martin McGartland attempted murder case. Show your Support By Joining Marty's Cause Page; http://www.causes.com/causes/548596?m=d452f59d Website; www.martinmcgartland.co.uk Marty's book can be downloaded now; http://www.amazon.co.uk/Fifty-Dead-MenWalking/dp/B004FN1U9I/ref=kinw_dp_ke?ie=UTF8&m=A3TVV12T0I6NSM

Kaza2010
Kaza2010

I loved the book, couldn't put it down. Watched the film last night and dear god what a load of crap! What gets me though, is why on earth he doesn't just keep his head down and disappear properly into anonymity? A quick google search throws up all kinds of "Martin McGartland makes a statement", "gives an interview", "sued such and such newspaper". In all fairness he is just as responsible for his new identity being compromised in the first place as what Northumbria Police are. And why, after being shot outside his home, he didn't just keep shut and let the world think he was dead, is beyond me! As I said, book was brilliant, but he seems to care more about being portrayed correctly than he does about his own safety. And no, i'm not an IRA sympathiser, i'm just puzzled as to why he seems to enjoy the danger of potential discovery again.

Kim
Kim

Don't listen to these other reviews. I can not understand why the film was not true to Martin McGartland life story. I can't believe what these other reviews are saying about this book. To my mind Martin McGartland is a man who was responsible for saving a lot of inoccent peoples lives. Anyone who undertakes infiltration of the IRA purely to gather intelligence for the British government deserves the Victoria cross. This guy sacrificed his life and family for what he saw was the greater good, at times he is naive in his actions, but he is forthright and honest enough to admit this. He was not 'apparently a supergrass' as a previous reviewer wrote, he was a British agent, a supergrass is an out and out IRA member who sings like a sparrow to save his own skin,whilst pointing the finger at all his associates, He/they are not someone who tries to save lives and prevent bombings,shootings etc. I don't see this book as a money making excercise either, it is a remarkable story and since being uncovered as a British agent and sent into a life of false names and various addresses the story has become more intriguing. The way the Northumbria police force treat him is shocking, trying to expose him at every turn and so on, for some strange reason. If you had an organisation like the IRA after you, I'm sure if you caught sight of a car tailing you, you would put the foot to the floor to get away. Ask Salman Rushdie for his opinion on this, or even Sean O'Callaghan (someone in a similar boat). Also I would like to say that McGartlands hatred for Belfast has nothing to do with the people but everything to do with the IRA and sinn fein. His hatred was not borne out of a punishment beating his brother got either, that happened long after he had been rumbled (His brother was beaten for being a relation of a so called 'IRA Traitor'). The man's life is not about self-promotion, it's about self preservation. Pure and simple. His book is a fascinating insight into the IRA and the special branch, who have really scored an own goal for any future spies out there, You need only look at how they abandoned the author when he needed them most, think twice before you consider that career path. This is not a tiresome read from a tiresome man but an intriguing read ...God bless Martin McGartland and those like him who put the survival of others before their own safety. A great, honest and forthright read.

Sally Burns {BELFAST}
Sally Burns {BELFAST}

Martin McGartland walked the walk! Ever wondered how it is that IRA bombs were sometimes miraculously discovered and defused before they went off? Or even how the RUC (later PSNI) knew to warn certain people that they are terrorist targets? Or how the Army occasionally uncovers large quantities of explosives, hidden in terrorist arms dumps, safe-houses... It doesn't happen by accident, but by intelligence. Hundreds of people are alive in the sunshine today thanks to the people who work in the shadows. They are called police agents, spies, or informers. They are people such as Martin McGartland who worked side by side with the very brave men and women of the RUC Special Branch. All those comments written by supporters of IRA terrorist shoud be ignored.

Kari Skogland did deal with devil and her film fif
Kari Skogland did deal with devil and her film fif

Kari Skogland did deal with devil and her film fifty dead men walking was still crap. Why did Kari Skogland not tell the true story of Marty McGartland? Everyone is asking that same question. I read the book and could not wait to see the film. The film was pure crap, a BIG let down. I see from some reports that her crew were all partying with IRA killers and that IRA had final say on how the movie was made. Seem to me that Kari Skogland sold her soul to the devil, for what? If you are going to see the film, DON'T waste your $$$$. But the book. I bet another film is made which will tell the true Martin McGartland's. I for one can not wait.

Gerry Adams Likes Kids
Gerry Adams Likes Kids

Marty McGartland saved so many lives, a great deal more than 50. He helped close the IRA scum down. Now we know that the IRA, Gerry Adams and his family was abusing youg kids, their own kids. The IRA were protecting Adams and the Child abusers. The PSNI, British Government are now covering it up. They are trying to keep adams on side. I often wondered why Gerry Adams got the IRA to serender. It was because the brits told him they would expose the child abuse. Dirty Adams Family, dirty Sinn Fein, IRA they are all at it.

Marty McGartland Took The Piss right of the IRA
Marty McGartland Took The Piss right of the IRA

Marty McGartland Took The Piss right of the IRA. The IRA sold out. Sinn Fein Sold Out. The IRA and Sinn Fein are now taking the queens pounds. Gerry Adams and his IRA killers, friends are now british crown servants. Marty McGartland and the RUC Special Branch did untold damage to the IRA. We must thank Martin McGartland. Loved the book fifty dead men walking, film was a big let down.

sally burgon
sally burgon

best book ever and very sad story. the security service sold martin mcgartland out. northumbria police have never arrested or charged the ira thugs who shot martin. martin is a true hero to the british people. dont take notice of the above comments by ira loving scum.

O must not have a brain
O must not have a brain

Remembering you would not have anything to write about, if bad /good films were made and regardless where is your film? I thought this film was great.

anonymous yank
anonymous yank

McGartland sounds like an arrogant uncooperative ass. He should be grateful someone actually took interest in putting his story on screen oh BTW Martin they always alter the facts in films based on true stories. I don't think it matters though, the film looks like a flop anyway, I mean I love Rose McGowan but even I can't keep a straight face at the thought of her as an IRA guerilla.

STEVE
STEVE

Say the film today and it was poor. I read the book in 1997 and could not put it down.

Sam
Sam

Francis Hughes ??? He was a convicted killer, murder (see wikipedia). He was a turn coat a member of the Official Irish Republican Army, then crossed over to PIRA. He also surrendered to British troops after an armbush were the IRA, as always, came out second best. He then killed himself after he went on hunger strike, its now been confirmed that IRA/Sinn Fein sold out the hunger strikers. He was no Freedom Fighter, he, like all of the others, was a callous cowardly terrorist. A film about hughes would be the most boring film ever, no thanks. As McGartland has stated again and again the film is as near to the truth as earth is to pluto. Get over it.

luke mcfadden
luke mcfadden

McGartland is just another sneak, a two-faced double dealer rightly hated by the people he betrayed and by his new friends in the security services. He's pathetic and his story is pathetic. Why they need to make a film about him is incredible. Are they that badly in need of fresh material? Why not make a film about Francis Hughes, one of the greatest freedom fighters of this age. Or about Oliver Kearney from the peace movement who perservered right through the troubles. There are literally thousands of fascinating characters whose lives were illuminated by the troubles in Ireland and who warrant some celluloid attention. Why McGartland? Film-makers are just plain stupid, that's obvious to see. They wouldn't recognise a meritorious source for a film if it bit them continually on the butt for the duration of the Cannes Film Festival. Nobody wants to watch this tosh. But if it's on general release with an action-packed poster advertising it people will show up. It's all lies anyhow. McGartland has never told the truth in his life and his books are sheer fabrication. Dear oh dear, what a world we inhabit.



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