Friday, August 30, 2013

Brendan Gleeson: Domnhall Gleeson, a star in his own time

Tara Brady
August 30, 2013

Julian Lennon. Paul Dalglish. Cameron Douglas. It’s never easy following in your father’s footsteps when dad happens to be really, really good at his job. How is it, then, that Domhnall Gleeson, son of Brendan, makes it look so damned easy? The sometime star of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and True Grit, has, aged 30, already been exposed to squillions of movie-going punters. In sheer bums-on-seats terms, he’s a huge star.

“But they’re not going for me,” he shrugs. “It doesn’t count. Even if I signed a Harry Potter thing I don’t think you’d get anything for my autograph on Ebay.”

What if Brendan added a Mad Eye Moody signature?

“Maybe two euro. At most. But by the time you add in postage and packaging. You know.”

He’s being modest. But any film-maker who has been lucky enough to direct Domhnall Gleeson will tell you that he’s as whip-smart as he is gifted. A versatile talent, the actor has effortlessly transitioned between Hollywood gigs and home turf. He’s appeared in sci-fi (Dredd), Tolstoy (Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina), alternate history (Never Let Me Go), political drama (Shadow Dancer) and one Irish sex comedy that we know of (Sensation). He has worked with the Coen Brothers, with Charlie Brooker (for the incoming Black Mirror) and with Lenny Abrahamson (on Frank). He has sidestepped with ease between media: he was nominated for a Tony for his work on the Broadway production of Martin McDonagh’s The Lieutenant of Inishmore and he took home an IFTA for playing Bob Geldof in the TV movie When Harvey Met Bob.

He has, as the varied CV attests, no plans to settle down in Tinseltown.

“I like that home is, erm, home,” he says. “I don’t really want to be too far away. And I hate driving. So LA definitely doesn’t suit me.”

The oldest of the four Gleeson brothers, Domhnall’s fate was sealed when he went to the IFTAs, aged 16, to pick up an award on behalf of his father. An agent, impressed by his amusing speech, came a-calling and, by 19, the youngster was appearing on London’s West End in The Lieutenant of Inishmore.

“I wanted to be a writer in my teens,” he says. “And when I got an agent I thought: ‘Oh great. Extra work. I might make a bit of money’. Then I read Martin McDonagh’s script and that changed everything. It was the funniest thing I had ever read. I thought it was a masterpiece. I still think so.”

Does he remember Brendan’s transition from teaching to professional acting?

“Yes and no. From early on, I remember dad coming home with strange haircuts. I remember him dyeing his hair black. I remember him doing a Garry Hynes play and looking really menacing for about a month. Which was weird. But I don’t remember the transition. And I often think about that now. Because my parents had four kids and it must have been an intensely worrying and anxious time for them. But it was completely hidden from us.”

And was it cool knowing that dad was touched by glitz and glamour?

“That never mattered to us at all. He was always still busy being a good dad and mam was always busy being a good mam. And that’s what I remember most.”

Fittingly, father and son will soon share screen time in Calvary, John Michael McDonagh’s dark good-priest-gone-bad drama.

“I haven’t got a huge amount to do in that,” explains Gleeson the Younger. “That’s my dad’s film. He is the centre of it. There are all these local people who are taking strips off him and we are all in orbit around him. I am only in it for one scene. But it did take us to different level of working together. And it’s another level for John. It feels very, very strong.”


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