12 Great Irish Movie Stars
She's been nominated for multiple Oscars, worked with iconic directors and is one of the world's top leading ladies. Saoirse Ronan was born in New York, moved to Carlow when she was three and Howth as a teen. She first caught our attention as an aspiring novelist in Atonement and hasn't let it go ever since. Her turn as an Irish immigrant in Brooklyn was quietly devastating.
With three Oscars on his mantelpiece, Daniel Day-Lewis could well be the best actor to ever live. Think that's a bold statement? The man is a method actor who brings characters as diverse as a disabled Irish artist and an iconic American president home when the cameras stop rolling. Born in London to a Laois man, he now lives in Wicklow, also known as the "Garden of Ireland".
Jamie Dornan is more than just a pretty face. Sure, he's best-known as suave billionaire Christian Grey in the 50 Shades movies, but he's also thrown himself into roles including a serial killer in The Fall as well as soldiers and rebels in hard-hitting historical dramas. Born in Down, the Northern Irishman wanted to be a park ranger growing up, saying, “I love the green space.” We can certainly see the appeal.
Treading the boards at the Lyric Players’ Theatre in Belfast led Liam Neeson to a very particular set of skills; skills he has acquired over a very long career… When not striking a chill into the bones of kidnappers with that deep, County Antrim growl of his, chameleon Neeson has donned the guise of German World War II hero, Irish revolutionary and even a Jedi knight, complete with green lightsaber, of course.
The rise of Michael Fassbender over the past decade has been remarkable. Since breaking out in 300, the Kerry native’s proved to be one of our most versatile actors and has been cast as everything from super villains and droids to Steve Jobs and Macbeth. Speaking of Kerry, the two-time Academy Award nominee said, “It's a very magical place. This is the place that formed my personality.” Good job, Kerry.
Three roles to see:
The Revenant, Star Wars, Brooklyn, Ex Machina – Domhnall Gleeson sure knows how to pick them. The dashing redhead grew up in Malahide, a quiet seaside town in Dublin and cut his teeth in the Gate Theatre. Upcoming parts see him return as General Hux in Star Wars Episode VIII and Winnie the Pooh author AA Milne, so don't expect his meteoric rise to stop anytime soon.
You can’t talk about Domhnall Gleeson without mentioning his old man, Brendan. Gleeson Senior also hails from Dublin, where he worked as a teacher until he was 34. A respected character actor, he’s as compelling to watch in dramatic turns as he is in comedic roles. He speaks fluent Irish and is an advocate in promoting the native language.
Since bursting on to stage and screen in Disco Pigs with renowned Cork theatre company, Corca Dorca, Cillian Murphy’s career has taken him far and wide: exploring space in Sunshine, wreaking havoc on Gotham in The Dark Knight trilogy, breaking hearts as a broken rebel in The Wind That Shakes The Barley. But no matter the alternate reality, Murphy always comes home. He lives in south Dublin – though you can catch him in post-war Birmingham on BBC smash hit, Peaky Blinders.
No list about Irish movie stars would be complete without mentioning Colin Farrell. With his unmistakable accent, charm and quick wit, the Dublin heartthrob is one of the top leading men working today. As comfortable blasting phasers as he is proving his comedic chops and taking knocks, Farrell is endlessly entertaining no matter the genre. See him in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as he takes his first steps into JK Rowling’s magical Potterverse.
Something of a dark horse on this list, Bronagh Gallagher has been popping up in great movies for decades: since appearing in the cult classic The Commitments when she was only 17, she has gone on to work with Quentin Tarantino, George Lucas and Guy Ritchie. Bronagh is also a talented singer and regularly performs around Ireland.
Supermodel, humanitarian, two-time Golden Globe nominee – Caitriona Balfe has many talents. Born in Dublin and raised in Monaghan, she’s now been nominated twice for her role in the period TV series Outlander and appeared in cinemas with George Clooney in Money Monster earlier this year. But Balfe is used to fame. Her modelling credentials read like a who’s who of agencies, including Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel and Dior. But her greatest talent? She’s fluent in Irish.
Is there any actress getting more attention right now than Ruth Negga? She’s graced the cover of Vogue, starred in a dozen smash TV shows and has been nominated for a Golden Globe. The Limerick-raised actress says that “Ireland is home” and studied in Dublin’s esteemed Trinity College. With more roles in comic-book adaptations, videogame-based movies and hard-hitting dramas on the way, she is a rising star turned supernova.