An actor whose sad eyes and brooding presence often get him cast as moody, tragic figures, John Lynch first lent his haunted charm to the title role of Pat O'Connor's Cal (1984). Cast as a young IRA recruit who falls in love with the widow (Helen Mirren) of a man he has killed, Lynch earned wide praise for his sensitive, complex performance, and more than held his own opposite the more seasoned Mirren.
Born in Corrinshego, Newry, Northern Ireland, on December 26, 1961, Lynch was raised as the eldest of five children (his sister, Susan Lynch, also went into acting). He got his first break during his second year at London's Central School of Speech and Drama, when he was picked to star in Cal. Following his work on the film, Lynch dropped out of the movies for almost a decade, preferring to work on the stage in England and Ireland. When he resurfaced in front of the cameras in the mid-'90s, he began working steadily, appearing in films ranging from Agneiszka Holland's celebrated 1993 adaptation of The Secret Garden, to Jim Sheridan's acclaimed political drama In the Name of the Father (1993), to John Sayles' similarly feted family fantasy The Secret of Roan Inish (1994), which also featured Lynch's sister, Susan.
In addition to In the Name of the Father, Lynch did starring work in subsequent dramas that focused on the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Among them were Thaddeus O'Sullivan's Nothing Personal (1995), in which the actor portrayed an apolitical but conflicted Catholic; and Terry George's Some Mother's Son (1996), an account of the 1981 Belfast prisoner's hunger strike that, in addition to casting Lynch as IRA prisoner and strike leader Bobby Sands, reunited him with Cal co-star Mirren. In 1998, he appeared in the little-seen This Is the Sea, a romantic drama about the relationship between a Protestant woman and a Catholic man living in post-1994 cease-fire Northern Ireland.
Lynch has also worked in films that have taken him out of the geographical and topical boundaries of Northern Ireland. Peter Howitt's Sliding Doors (1998) saw him play Gwyneth Paltrow's hapless, two-timing boyfriend, while Best (2000), which Lynch co-wrote with his wife, Mary McGuckian, who also directed, cast him as the title figure of real-life football legend George Best. And, like many actors hailing from that section of the world, Lynch has also put in time in various period dramas, including the 1996 TV adaptation of Moll Flanders.