Brendan Gleeson

Active - 1990 - 2021  |   Born - Mar 29, 1955 in Dublin, Ireland  |   Genres - Drama, Comedy Drama, Epic, Fantasy, Thriller

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Biography by Rebecca Flint Marx

A former teacher, burly Irish actor Brendan Gleeson spent the 1990s earning an increasing amount of acclaim for his work in a variety of films, most notably John Boorman's The General (1998). Gleeson, who made his feature film debut in Jim Sheridan's The Field (1990), first made an impression on audiences in the role of Hamish, William Wallace's hulking ally in Braveheart (1995).

In 1997, the actor was given his first crack at a starring role in I Went Down, a likeable black comedy that cast him as a thick-skulled hitman. The role brought him a greater dose of recognition and respect on both sides of the Atlantic, but it was Boorman's The General (shot right after I Went Down wrapped) that truly demanded -- and received -- international attention. The story of real-life Irish criminal Martin Cahill, the film featured Gleeson in its title role, and his cocky, assured portrayal of Cahill was widely deemed the best part of an altogether excellent film. The numerous plaudits he won for his performance included awards from Boston and London film critics.

His career flourishing, it was only a matter of time before Gleeson had the opportunity to expand his resumé to include the occasional Hollywood blockbuster. That opportunity came by way of John Woo's Mission: Impossible 2 (2000), which cast Gleeson, surprisingly enough, as one of the film's resident villains. After carefully balancing his roles between the mainstream and the more low-key, character-driven films in later 2000 and into 2001 (he gained notice for his starring role as a philanderous, boozing TV chef turned sensitive amnesiac in the romantic comedy Wild About Harry [2000]), Gleeson headed back to Hollywood with his lively turn as Lord Johnson-Johnson in Steven Spielberg's A.I. Appearing in Trainspotting director Danny Boyle's zombie thriller 28 Days Later the following year, it wasn't long before Gleeson was once again gracing stateside cinemas with appearances in such high-profile films as Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York (2002) and the Kurt Russell police detective thriller Dark Blue (2003).

Gleeson remained a presence in high-profile films over the ensuing two years. In 2004 he could be seen in both the M. Night Shyamalan brain-bender The Village and the sweeping historical epic Troy. The following year found the actor in another pair of big-budget Hollywood films, the box-office dud Kingdom of Heaven and the fourth installment in the Harry Potter franchise, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Subsequent years found him re-teaming with 28 Days Later star Cillian Murphy for the Neil Jordan comedy Breakfast on Pluto and reprising his role of Alastor "Mad Eye" Moody in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007).

He had a memorable turn in the Irish comedy In Bruges in 2008. Two years later he returned as Mad Eye for the final Harry Potter movie. That same year he turned in one of his best performances in The Guard. He played opposite the Oscar nominated Glenn Close in Albert Nobbs in 2011, and enjoyed roles in a couple of high-profile Hollywood films - The Raven and Safe House the next year.

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  • Is a very talented fiddler, and used to perform as a street musician.
  • Auditioned for the Abbey Theatre when he was 18; the audition went so poorly he decided to abandon acting. 
  • Worked as a schoolteacher at Belcamp College for nearly 10 years.
  • Had his breakthrough role in Braveheart as Hamish, William Wallace's childhood friend.
  • As Professor Mad-Eye Moody in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, he's the first actor to play a Hogwarts professor who was actually a teacher in real life.
  • Acted alongside his son Domhnall, who played Bill Weasley, in 2010's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1.
  • Has actively participated in charity events for St. Francis Hospice in Ireland.