With a quartet of films in theaters this season, veteran actor Brendan Gleeson shows American audiences why he’s Ireland’s best-kept secret.
Brendan Gleeson might as well pack a pillow. The Irish actor has taken up residence in theaters this season, with two films (Albert Nobbs and Safe House) currently showing and two more (The Raven and the animated film The Pirates! Band of Misfits) debuting next month.
Gleeson’s is a familiar name across the pond, where the Dublin native gets shout-outs for his starring roles in such homegrown fare as last year’s critical favorite The Guard. But in the States, he remains relatively unknown, despite having won an Emmy in 2009 for portraying Winston Churchill in HBO’s Into the Storm and having worked with movie royalty like Martin Scorsese (Gangs of New York), Steven Spielberg (A.I. Artificial Intelligence), Ridley Scott (Kingdom of Heaven) and Robert Redford (in the upcoming The Company You Keep).
Why the disconnect? Perhaps it’s because the talented character actor so completely disappears into his roles — such as Mad-Eye Moody in three of the Harry Potter films — that he’s often unrecognizable. “I do enjoy being able to sink into my roles,” Gleeson says, “where people have some notion I might be in there somewhere, but it’s the character that remains.”
But audiences will have no choice but to take notice of Gleeson with his 2012 quadruple-header, in which he deftly balances indie fare with blockbusters, switching between his Irish brogue and an American accent. In The Raven, he’s commanding as Colonel Hamilton, the protective father who detests his daughter’s fiancé, Edgar Allan Poe. Then he gets goofy as the Pirate with Gout in The Pirates! Band of Misfits, animated by the Wallace & Gromit team. “My character is an odd mixture of pomposity and innocence,” he says. “It was fantastic fun.”
When Gleeson turns 57 later this month, he plans to be directing his dream project: an adaptation of the Irish literary classic At Swim-Two-Birds. But he still has one other birthday wish in mind. “I’d like to carry a few more films in the States,” he says. Not to worry; his recent rash of high-wattage roles almost guarantees that Stateside casting directors will forget his name — to quote The Raven’s namesake poem — nevermore.