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Brendan Gleeson

Brendan Gleeson, September 2005
Born Brendan Gleeson
29 March 1955 (1955-03-29) (age 54)
Dublin, Ireland
Years active 1975—Present
Spouse(s) Mary Gleeson

Brendan Gleeson (born 29 March 1955) is an Irish actor. His best-known films include the Harry Potter films, Braveheart, Gangs of New York, and the role of Michael Collins in The Treaty. He won an Emmy award in 2009 for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in the film Into the Storm.


Early life

Gleeson was born in Dublin, Ireland and has described himself as having been an avid reader as a child.[1] After leaving school for a short while, he worked for two years in an office with a health board. He then graduated from University College Dublin and went on to Drama School in London at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). Just after completing the 3 Year Acting Drama Course at RADA, Gleeson built a very respectable CV at the Royal National Theatre, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, and the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon. Gleeson became known for his tremedous stage presence, particularly while performing in such works of William Shakespeare as King Lear, Richard III, and Hamlet. Gleeson was also known for performing the works of Anton Chekhov throughout the theatres of London's West End. He then returned to Ireland and worked for several years as a secondary school teacher at Belcamp College in North County Dublin where he taught the Irish language, English and Physical Education. During that time Gleeson was also active in the Dublin Shakespeare Festival.


Gleeson started his film career at the age of 34. He first came to prominence in Ireland for his role as Michael Collins in The Treaty a television film broadcast on RTÉ One, and for which he won a Jacob's Award in 1992.

Gleeson has subsequently acted in more than 60 films including Braveheart, I Went Down, Michael Collins, Gangs of New York, Cold Mountain, 28 Days Later, Troy, Kingdom of Heaven, Lake Placid, Artificial Intelligence: AI and The Village. He won critical acclaim for his performance as Irish gangster Martin Cahill in John Boorman's 1998 film The General.[2]

While Gleeson portrayed Irish statesman Michael Collins in The Treaty, he later portrayed Collins' close collaborator Liam Tobin in the film Michael Collins with Liam Neeson taking the role of Collins.

The first day I went to the set Liam came over to me and said 'Here's the real Michael Collins now, I'll be picking your brains'.[3]

Ironically, Gleeson later went on to portray Collins' nemesis Winston Churchill in Into the Storm.

He was going to wipe us out. [Referring to Churchill and his influence and participation in the subjugation of Ireland] I was in the TV film The Treaty so I knew what it was like to be on the other side of the table from Churchill. I had to think about it a lot before doing this.[4]

Gleeson played Hogwarts professor Mad-Eye Moody in the fourth and fifth Harry Potter films, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Gleeson will also appear in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I, reprising his role of Mad-Eye. His son, Domhnall will be playing Bill Weasley in the film. Roger Ebert described him as having a "noble shambles of a face and the heft of a boxer gone to seed" in praising his performance in In Bruges, in which Gleeson played a mentor-like figure for Colin Farrell's hitman,[5] a role that garnered him his first Golden Globe nomination, among other accolades. Gleeson provided the voice of Abbot Cellach in The Secret of Kells, an animated film co-directed by Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey[6] of Cartoon Saloon which premiered at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival in February 2009.[7]

He starred in the short film "Six Shooter" in 2006, which won an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short.

Gleeson will be making his directorial debut in a film adaptation of Flann O'Brien's novel At Swim Two Birds. The Irish production company Parallel Pictures will produce the film with a budget of $11 million. Colin Farrell, Gabriel Byrne, and Cillian Murphy have been attached to star in the film, which is set for release in 2010.[8][9] In October 2009, however, Gleeson expressed fear that, should the Irish Film Board's budget be reduced as planned by the Irish State, the film might fall through.[10]

Personal life

Gleeson lives in Malahide, County Dublin. He is a talented fiddle player, with an interest in Irish folklore.[1] He played the fiddle during his role in Cold Mountain and in Michael Collins and will also feature on Altan's 2009 live album.[11] He can be found from time to time playing at traditional music seisiúins in Hughes' pub in Chancery Street in Dublin 7. His brother, Barry Gleeson, is a well-known singer in An Góilín traditional singers' club, and his son Domhnall is an actor. Gleeson is known for his love of football and recounts tales of attempting to get a clear radio reception so he could listen to how his team, Aston Villa, were faring on a Saturday.


Year Film Role Notes
1989 Dear Sarah Brendan Dowd TV
1990 Hard Shoulder Lorry Driver TV
The Field Quarryman
1991 In the Border Country Farmer
Saint Oscar TV
The Treaty Michael Collins TV
1992 The Bargain Shop Jim Kennedy
M.A.N.: Matrix Adjusted Normal Dr. Abraham Short
Far and Away Social Club Policeman
Conneely's Choice Josie Conneely Short
Into the West Inspector Bolger
1993 The Snapper Lester TV
Love Lies Bleeding Thomas Macken TV
1994 The Lifeboat Leslie Parry TV series
1995 The Life of Reilly Patient Short
Braveheart Hamish Campbell
Kidnapped Colin Campbell of Glenure, the Red Fox
1996 Angela Mooney Barney Mooney
Michael Collins Liam Tobin
Trojan Eddie Ginger
1997 Angela Mooney Barney Mooney
Spaghetti Slow Frank Ferguson
Turbulence Stubbs
The Butcher Boy Father Bubbles
A Further Gesture Richard
I Went Down Bunny Kelly Won - Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor
Nominated - Irish Film and Television Award for Best Actor
1998 Making the Cut Flanagan TV
The General Martin Cahill Won - Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor
Won - Irish Film and Television Award for Best Actor
Won - London Film Critics Circle Award for British Actor of the Year
Nominated - Satellite Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama
This Is My Father Garda Jim TV
The Tale of Sweety Barrett Sweet Barrett
1999 Lake Placid Sheriff Hank Keough
My Life So Far Jim Menries
2000 Mission: Impossible II John C. McCloy
Harrison's Flowers Marc Stevenson
Saltwater Simple Simon
Wild About Harry Harry McKee Nominated - Irish Film and Television Award for Best Actor
2001 J.J. Biker
The Cake Paul Short
The Tailor of Panama Michelangelo 'Mickie' Abraxas
Artificial Intelligence: AI Lord Johnson-Johnson
2002 28 Days Later Frank
Gangs of New York Walter 'Monk' McGinn
Dark Blue Jack Van Meter
2003 Cold Mountain Stobrod Thewes Nominated - London Film Critics Circle Award for British Supporting Actor of the Year
2004 In My Country De Jager
Troy Menelaus
The Village August Nicholson
Six Shooter Donnelly Short
2005 Kingdom of Heaven Raynald of Châtillon
Breakfast on Pluto John Joe Kenny
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody Nominated - London Film Critics Circle Award for British Supporting Actor of the Year
2006 Studs Walter Keegan Nominated - Irish Film and Television Award for Best Actor
The Tiger's Tail Liam O'Leary
2007 Black Irish Desmond
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody
Beowulf Wiglaf
2008 In Bruges Ken Nominated - BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Nominated - British Independent Film Award for Best Actor
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Nominated - Irish Film and Television Award for Best Actor
Nominated - Satellite Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
2009 The Secret of Kells Abbot Cellach (voice)
Into the Storm Winston Churchill TV
Won - Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
Won - Satellite Award for Best Actor in a Miniseries or a Motion Picture Made for Television
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Miniseries or Television Film
Perrier's Bounty Darren Perrier
2010 Green Zone
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody (post-production)
The Guard Sergeant Gerry Boyle (post-production)
At Swim-Two-Birds [12][13] Director (pre-production)
Making his directorial debut; also starring


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