Jameson and Guinness aside, some of our favorite Irish exports are the wonderful actors and actresses that hail from the green island in the North Atlantic. Let's take a look at the often intertwined filmographies of our favorite Irish thespians.
Maria Doyle Kennedy and Aidan Gillen star as a couple whose strained marriage falls apart in critically acclaimed comedy-drama Sing Street. Maria appeared as Katherine of Aragon in The Tudors as Henry VIII's first wife, played by Irish actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Aidan stars as fan favorite Petyr Baelish in Game of Thrones, a series featuring appearances by fellow Irish actors Liam Cunningham and Ciáran Hinds.
If Domhnall's last name seems familiar, it's because he's Brendan Gleeson's son. The elder Gleeson is a prominent actor widely known to mainstream audiences for his role as Professor Moody of the Harry Potter films, and won an Emmy for his performance as Winston Churchill in Into the Storm.
He and actress Fionnula Flanagan both provided their voice talents as son and mother characters in animated fantasy drama Song of the Sea, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2015.
Brendan and Fionnula appeared again as mother-and-son in black comedy The Guard, which also stars Irish actors Liam Cunningham and Dominique McElligott. Both Liam and Dominique are currently starring in popular shows—Liam is recognizable as Davos Seaworth in HBO's hit Game of Thrones, and Dominique appears as the wife of the Republican presidential nominee in Netflix's House of Cards.
Let's circle back to the Harry Potter films for a moment. The cast list is basically a VIP list of respected thespians, claiming Brendan Gleeson (as Professor Moody), Richard Harris (as Albus Dumbledore in the first two films), Domhnall Gleeson (as Bill Weasley), Ciarán Hinds (as Aberforth Dumbledore), Colin Farrell (as the villain in Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), and Kenneth Branagh (as Gilderoy Lockhart) among its illustrious ranks.
Kenneth, who directed Disney's live-action Cinderella, will appear alongside fellow famous Irish actor Cillian Murphy in upcoming epic war thriller Dunkirk. Cillian's breakout role was as the hero of 28 Days Later. Since then, he's been in The Dark Knight, Inception, and Peaky Blinders.
He and Jamie Dornan recently starred alongside one another as two agents seeking to assassinate a top-ranking Nazi in historical thriller Anthropoid. Jamie has shot to international fame as Christian Grey, the titular character of the Fifty Shades of Grey series. Before that, he appeared in Once Upon A Time, a series in which Irish actress Sarah Bolger guest starred.
Sarah won critical acclaim for her supporting role as Princess Mary in The Tudors as the daughter of Jonathan Rhys Meyers' Henry VIII. Since then, she's been in My All American and The Lazarus Effect.
Gabriel Byrne is well-known for his starring role as criminal Dean Keaton in neo-noir mystery film The Usual Suspects. He also appeared in Excalibur, a film that was shot entirely in Ireland and is acknowledged for helping launch Gabriel, Ciáran Hinds, and Liam Neeson's acting careers.
Liam rose to prominence with 1993's heavily awarded Schindler's List. He's also recognizable as Qui-Gon Jinn of Star Wars: Episode I and as the star of action-thriller series Taken. His late wife, Natasha Richardson, played the mother of the twins in the 1998 remake of The Parent Trap.
In the original version of The Parent Trap, which was nominated for Best Sound and Best Film Editing at the 1962 Academy Awards, the mother was played by famously red-headed Irish actress Maureen O'Hara.
Although The Parent Trap didn't win any Oscars, Brenda Fricker did. In 1989, she had the honor of becoming the first Irish actress to ever win an Academy Award. She took home Best Supporting Actress for her role in My Left Foot, which also starred Daniel Day-Lewis. Daniel is well-known for starring in epic period drama Gangs of New York with Liam Neeson and Brendan Gleeson.
Liam and Brendan reunited again in dark comedy Breakfast on Pluto, a film that also starred Cillian Murphy, Liam Cunningham, and Ruth Negga, who was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in 2016's Loving.
Ever the prolific actor, Brendan recently starred in Assassin's Creed with leading man Michael Fassbender, who himself has become quite busy with multiple starring roles every year. In just the past few years, he's been in Macbeth, Steve Jobs, 12 Years a Slave, Prometheus, The Light Between Oceans, and several movies in the X-Men series as Magneto.
Another Irish actor who's starred in a prominent franchise filled the iconic fictional shoes of none other than James Bond. In 1994, Pierce Brosnan was honored with becoming the fifth actor to play Bond, portraying the debonair secret agent four times. Since then, he's appeared in Mamma Mia!, The Ghost Writer, and I.T.
Speaking of I.T., Chris O'Dowd is best known for his role as a cheeky Irish I.T. technician in sitcom The IT Crowd. His appearance in comedy Bridesmaids garnered him an Irish Film & Television Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
The Irish Film & Television Academy was founded in 2003. Since then, it's awarded many of the talented actors and actresses mentioned in this post. Just a few:
- Michael Fassbender won Best Supporting Actor for 12 Years a Slave
- Jamie Dornan won Best TV Actor for The Fall
- Domhnall Gleeson won Best Supporting Actor for Anna Karenina
- Pierce Brosnan won Best Supporting Actor for The Ghost Writer
- Colin Farrell won Best Actor for Ondine
- Saoirse Ronan won Best Actress for The Lovely Bones, Hanna, Byzantium, and Brooklyn
Links to their movie pages:
- MICHAEL FASSBENDER
- SAOIRSE RONAN
- COLIN FARRELL
- MAUREEN O'HARA
- LIAM NEESON
- BRENDAN GLEESON
- PIERCE BROSNAN
- BRENDA FRICKER
- CILLIAN MURPHY
- RICHARD HARRIS
- CHRIS O'DOWD
- MARIA DOYLE KENNEDY
- KENNETH BRANAGH
- GABRIEL BYRNE
- JAMIE DORNAN
- FIONNULA FLANAGAN
- DANIEL DAY-LEWIS
- DOMHNALL GLEESON
- CIARÁN HINDS
- DOMINIQUE MCELLIGOTT
- RUTH NEGGA
- LIAM CUNNINGHAM
- JONATHAN RHYS MEYERS
- AIDAN GILLEN
- SARAH BOLGER