Some of Northern Ireland’s favourite actors have landed plum roles in a multimillion-pound US fantasy epic being filmed in Belfast.
The US broadcaster HBO begins work in the city next week on its spectacular mini-series, Game Of Thrones, which is expected to be one of the largest television series to be shot in Europe.
Political leaders at the Assembly played their part in wooing US movie-makers to use locations in the region, but now local acting talent is set to perform alongside stars such as Sean Bean.
Northern Ireland Screen, which promotes the TV and film industry, welcomed news that homegrown actors including Conleth Hill, Ian McElhinney and Derek Halligan will join the star-studded cast list of a production which is based on George RR Martin's best-selling novels.
“We are delighted that HBO has signed up some of our best on-screen and off-screen talent for Game Of Thrones,” said chief executive of Northern Ireland Screen Richard Williams.
“We have always sought to |nurture local talent and support our indigenous film-makers. Game Of Thrones will provide a great deal of experience for many local cast and crew.
“The decision by HBO to base the series here further cements our reputation as a leading centre for film and television production and it is estimated that £20m will be delivered into the local economy.”
Yesterday's announcement follows confirmation that Coleraine actress Michelle Fairley has landed a lead role opposite Sean Bean and that Armagh man Brian Kirk has been lined up to direct two episodes of the 10-part series.
Northern Ireland's Mark Huffam is producing the series, in which hundreds of extras and crew will be employed.
Principal photography for the series begins next Monday in Belfast.
Northern Ireland Screen recounted the storyline of the epic novels: “In a world where summers span decades and winters can last a lifetime, the Westeros crown comes with a price.”
Game Of Thrones has received funding from Northern Ireland Screen supported by Invest NI and part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.
It will shoot in the Paint Hall studio, Belfast, as well as various locations in Northern Ireland.