When film director John Boorman walked past Adam for auctions on the Monday morning of 1969, he quickly found himself inside bidding for what was to become his home for half a century. It was noted at that time that he said: “What am I going to tell my wife?”
“I was here in post-production for a movie, and I saw The Hills at Wicklow, and those images are still in my dreams today,” says Bormann, who will celebrate his 90th birthday in January.
Now five decades later, three wives and seven children after that, the director is spending time at his home in the countryside of Co Wyclough. Since his childhood in a suburb of London with trips to the US to shoot and Oscar ceremonies for his five nominations — twice for Best Director, Best Director and for Hope and Glory — he’s still going strong, having been awarded a knighthood in January of this year.
“Yes, I was on the Queen’s Honor List this year, but I was at odds with her [Prince, now King] Charles in the past. While I was on the board of the British Film Institute, we raised a lot of money to build a museum dedicated to the moving picture [MoMI]. We asked Charles to open it up and he chose the occasion to criticize violence in the film, which he said encourages violence in the community. Well, his timing wasn’t great, and we were all pissed off.”
His home in Glebe in Annamoe, a magical place against the backdrop of the Wicklow Hills, is now too big for him on his own, and he is moving to Surrey to stay with his son Charley while looking for a nearby place to live.
As the Avonmore River meanders, its trail meander next to it, flanked by some mature specimen trees, to include birch, aspen, oak, and rare species such as Sequoiadendron giganteum – from the family of the largest trees on earth. The cultivation of these important trees began in the early 20th century with Reverend Samuel Singh – brother of playwright J.M. Singh – who lived on The Gleb in the early 20th century.
Thirty-five years ago, Bormann added to the plantings and wrote poems about these trees in his memoirs, Conclusions, which he penned during lockdown. There’s a great 11-minute YouTube video where the actors in his latest short are the trees occupying his property, with a raspy voice reciting his poems about sycamores, willows and “the great big pine” who “allowed his hormones to fall and she forgot to tell her to stop growing.”
The 508-square-meter (5,468-square-foot) rambling pile, with the 1970s stretched back, is where the likes of Lee Marvin and Sean Connery sat for dinner. (Marvin starred in Bormann’s 1967 film Point Blank, while Connery wore a crimson mankini, thigh-high boots, and a ponytail in his 1974 film Zardoz.)
There are four reception rooms and five bedrooms – including a master suite, a mezzanine study, and a library opening onto a raised covered veranda. One of the notable rooms is the main sitting room, which occupies the entire southwest elevation. Being a triple sided, it is flooded with natural light.
Behind the house is a secluded arch-fronted pool room, which in an earlier incarnation was a changing room for the now-filled pool that sits between the house and the Japanese-style tea house.
It will need some work, as these homes always do, as all of the occupants are just trustees of future generations.
But it would be the floor — as charming as the house itself — that would captivate the heart, just as they did with the director, who filmed Excalibur in the surroundings in 1981. “I was in my own bed every night when we were filming Excalibur — a rarity when you travel the world to make movies. But I always came back to edit—while a movie might take two years, shooting is in about eight weeks, so I always came back to Wicklow.”
The grounds sprawl out over 50 acres (20.2 hectares) and contain two gorgeous cut-stone cottages that provide an additional 208 square meters (2,234 square feet) space, while the walled garden is connected by countless paths that lead to an old tennis court and river swimming hole – a rivalry with diving board.
Will he miss Wicklow and Ireland? “But of course—that’s where I’ve always thought I’d die, and I don’t quite know how I’d live without it.”
Borman spent this week catching up with old friends, including his “great friend” actor Brendan Gleeson, who gave him his first leading role in the 1998 movie The General. His half-century country retreat, surrounded by the “soft hills” that still visit his dreams, is now on the market through Lesny Sotheby’s International Realty, seeking €2.75 million.