Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Yes, I am wearing green, and yes, I do have an Irish background. This morning, I was thinking about how to commemorate the day here, and I started thinking about Irish actors. There are many that we know are Irish: Colin Farrell, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Brendan Gleeson, Liam Neeson … but then there are those that you might not be aware were actually born in Eire. And so, today, I’m going to highlight a few of my favorites.
Peter O’Toole, b. 1932, Connemara
Peter O’Toole is perhaps one of the finest living actors. He was well-known on the stage before he began acting in films, and today he’s still going strong. He’s most well-known, perhaps, for playing the title role in Lawrence of Arabia. You might also have enjoyed him in Stardust, Troy, Becket, or the acting tour de force that is The Lion in Winter. I don’t know about you, but I need to see more of his work.
Richard Harris, b. 1930, Limerick
Another of the greats, Richard Harris did it all. He and O’Toole were perhaps more notorious for their lifestyles than famous for their acting work, but they were both still tremendous actors. Harris was much beloved as Marcus Aurelius in Gladiator, as (the original) Dumbledore in Harry Potter, and was fabulous in many westerns like Unforgiven and The Guns of Navarone. My personal favorite, though, has got to be Camelot. He is fabulous as the philosophical, bewildered Arthur.
Kenneth Branagh, b. 1960, Belfast
A common theme so far seems to be an impressive body of stage work, and even though he’s a bit younger, Kenneth Branagh has proved himself a match for O’Toole and Harris. He is today considered to be perhaps the finest interpreter of Shakespeare’s works on film, having acted (and quite often directed) in excellent adaptations of Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet, and Othello. He’s done plenty of other great work, though, and is probably most recognizable to the younger generations as Professor Lockhart in the Harry Potter series.
Ciaran Hinds, b. 1953, Belfast
Ciaran Hinds is a little bit less well-known than the previous three, but is no less an actor, in my opinion. He’s a bit of a character actor, having been in a number of successful films including Road to Perdition, There Will Be Blood, Tomb Raider II, and Calendar Girls, but you’re most likely to remember him in the incredible Munich. My personal favorite, though? Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. Keep an eye out for him in the upcoming The Debt and in the final Harry Potter film (I’m excited about that one!).
I chose those four to highlight because I had already written about them, and could provide some links to reviews of their work, but I would be very remiss in not mentioning a fifth actor, who is almost universally agreed to be one of the best actors of his generation, and currently working. Daniel Day-Lewis, though born in England, lives in Ireland and holds dual citizenship. I’m not sure I really need to tell you about his work, but I will just mention that in high school, my girlfriends and I went to see The Last of the Mohicans in the theater about five times, and it wasn’t because we were such big James Fenimore Cooper fans. I also really enjoyed Nine, despite its lack of critical and commercial success. I haven’t seen many of his big acting triumphs, but I was also quite impressed with him in The Gangs of New York (if not the film as a whole).
So, there you go. A selection of awesome Irish actors, perhaps not particularly known for being Irish. Who’s your favorite Irish actor?