12 July 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network
Irish Screenwriter Johnny Ferguson Has Died After Short Illness
18 Apr 2013 : By Kevin Cronin
Johnny Ferguson - photos courtesy of Kip Carroll.
Johnny Ferguson - who wrote the screenplay for ‘Gangster No 1’ has died following a short illness this Wednesday 17 April.

A much-loved figure within the Irish film industry, Mr Ferguson had been working on a number of forthcoming film projects including ‘The Magnificat’ and the film adaptation of Sebastian Barry’s ‘The Secret Scripture’.

Mr Ferguson received an IFTA nomination for the 2007 mini-series ‘Fallout’, was nominated for Best Screenplay at the 2000 British Independent Film Award for ‘Gangster No 1’ and counts among his credits ‘Blue Guitar’, which is in production, and the TG4 documentary ‘Pimpernel sa Vatican’.

Producer Brian Willis, close friend of Mr Ferguson, told IFTN of his great sadness at his passing:

‘Johnny Ferguson was a friend of mine. A raconteur in the full sense of the word. Independent in thought and spirit. A dark horse. Freewheeling. No pedals. Over 30 years we worked together - sometimes - but played more times. Writing was his sport. As a copywriter and as a screenwriter. He wrote the treatment for me for a documentary called ‘Pimpernel sa Vatican’ for TG4 and took the life story of a priest, all 300 pages, and condensed it into a two page document that captured the man without losing any of the story in the process. He had the ability to condense without missing anything. He was a three star Michelin chief who reduces and reduces to make the perfect roux. That was Johnny's talent.'

Producer Noel Pearson, who worked with and was friends with Mr Ferguson for over a decade, spoke to IFTN about his loss:

‘Johnny was a one-off, you know. He was terrific. The sad thing is we’d been working on a couple of scripts over the last 5 or 6 years and now he’s gone and two of them are going to happen this year - the scripts for modern fairytale ‘The Magnificat’, which will hopefully shoot early next year, and ‘The Secret Scripture, which will hopefully start filming in October. It wasn’t a producer-writer relationship. We were great pals as well. We killed many a good bottle of wine. Johnny was wonderful. He’d drive you mad. Always late with the drafts but have the most pleasant excuses why and then get it right. He was a great conversationalist and he had a wide knowledge of all sorts of things. He was very interested in paintings and his father Vincent was a huge art collector. You could sound things off Johnny. He’s a big loss to me on many levels.’

Producer Adrian Devane added his tributes to Mr Ferguson’s life and career:

‘I was working on a project with Johnny that he was very passionate about. He was in the middle of some incredible work that we can hopefully still bring to a wider audience and that’s something Johnny would have wanted - that his work would be realised.'

James Hickey, CEO of the Irish Film Board, also expressed his sorrow at the sad news.

'We are very sorry to hear about the untimely passing of Johnny Ferguson. He was a talented screenwriter and his death is a loss to the Irish film industry. Our thoughts are with his family at this time,' he added.

Mr Ferguson is survived by his wife Ali Joy White, mother Noeleen, siblings Ciara, Conor, Paul, Judy and Emma; family and friends.

His funeral will take place tomorrow, Friday 19th April, at 11am in the Unitarian Church on St Stephen's Green.

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