Birthdate: March 29, 1955
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland
Brendan Gleeson (birthname: Brendan Gleeson) is one of the most revered Irish-born actors, and part of a great tradition of Irish theater-trained actors who have achieved great success in American and European-made cinema. After working part-time as a Dublin-area actor, Gleeson—who grew up with a great passion for the plays of Samuel Beckett—nabbed his first film role in writer-director Jim Sheridan’s play-to-film version of The Field (1990), with Richard Harris, John Hurt, Sean Bean, Brenda Fricker, and Tom Berenger.
In 1992, after Gleeson had fully committed to an acting career, he was cast in a small role in the Ron Howard-directed Western epic, Far and Away, starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Brendan Gleeson got a larger role in his next project with Sheridan, who this time was co-writer (with David Keating) of the Mike Newell-directed Irish film, Into the West (1992), starring Gabriel Byrne and Ellen Barkin.
In his biggest career leap yet, Gleeson was cast in a significant supporting role in Mel Gibson’s Oscar-winning spectacular, Braveheart (1995), co-starring Sophie Marceau, Patrick McGoohan, and Catherine McCormack, grossing over $210 million globally and winning four Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director for Gibson.
Gleeson reinforced his growing reputation as a powerful supporting actor in the period Irish drama, Michael Collins (1996), starring Liam Neeson, Aidan Quinn, Stephen Rea, and Alan Rickman, and winning the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. Gleeson’s first Hollywood movie was MGM’s action thriller, Turbulence (1997), with Ray Liotta, Lauren Holly, and Hector Elizondo.
One of Brendan Gleeson’s early film triumphs was as Father Bubbles in writer-director Neil Jordan’s sensational black comedy, The Butcher Boy (1997), starring Stephen Rea, Fiona Shaw, Eamonn Owens, Milo Shea, and Sinead O’Connor, premiering at the Berlin Film Festival where Jordan won a Silver Bear for Best Director. Gleeson then continued with Rea in the Robert Dornhelm-directed film, A Further Gesture (1997), co-starring Alfred Molina.
Gleeson’s first starring role was in director Paddy Breathnach’s Irish crime comedy, I Went Down (1997), co-starring Peter McDonald, and earning Gleeson’s first major award consideration with a Best Actor nomination from the National Society of Film Critics. The next year, Brendan Gleeson was again nominated for Best Actor from the same critic's organization for his major breakthrough lead performance in writer-director John Boorman’s brilliant crime drama (winning Boorman the Best Director Palme at the Cannes Film Festival), The General (1998), with Adrian Dunbar, Sean McGinley, and Jon Voight.
The Irish love story, This is My Father (1998), written and directed by Paul Quinn, was Gleeson’s next assignment, playing opposite Aidan Quinn, James Caan, Rea, and John Cusack. Gleeson’s second Hollywood studio movie was the Maine-set horror-thriller, Lake Placid (1999), co-starring Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda, Oliver Platt, and Betty White. Gleeson quickly followed this Hollywood project with another, co-starring in Mission: Impossible 2 (2000) under John Woo’s direction, and starring Tom Cruise, Dougray Scott, Thandiwe Newton, Rade Sherbedgia, and Ving Rhames, and grossing $546 million worldwide.
The Croatia-set wartime film, Harrison’s Flowers (2000), written and directed by Elie Chouraqui, cast Brendan Gleeson in major support opposite Andie MacDowell, Elias Koteas, Adrian Brody, and David Strathairn. Gleeson reunited with writer-director Boorman in the fine John le Carré espionage drama, The Tailor of Panama (2001), with Pierce Brosnan, Geoffrey Rush, Jamie Lee Curtis, and playwright-actor Harold Pinter.
The fourth Hollywood movie in Gleeson’s growing career was certainly a highlight: Steven Spielberg’s version of the Stanley Kubrick-created sci-fi adventure, A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001), starring Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O’Connor, and William Hurt, and grossing $235 million worldwide. Gleeson stayed in the near future for the post-apocalypse 28 Days Later (2002), directed by Danny Boyle and with Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, and Christopher Eccleston, which became a cult hit, earning over ten times its $8 million budget.
A much grander production came next for Brendan Gleeson: Martin Scorsese’s stunning saga, Gangs of New York (2002), with Daniel Day-Lewis, Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz, and Jim Broadbent, and earning ten Oscar nominations and $194 million globally. Gleeson made a rare Los Angeles-based film, director Ron Shelton’s version of the James Ellroy crime story, Dark Blue (2002), with Kurt Russell, Scott Speedman, Lolita Davidovich, and Ving Rhames. Co-starring with Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, and Renée Zellweger, Gleeson played major support in writer-director Anthony Minghella’s version of Charles Frazier’s modern classic novel, Cold Mountain (2003).
Brendan Gleeson’s third film under John Boorman’s direction was In My Country (2004), with Samuel L. Jackson and Juliette Binoche. Gleeson continued his work in big-scaled movies with the Wolfgang Petersen-directed Troy (2004), starring Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, and Peter O’Toole, and grossing nearly $500 million worldwide. By now known as one of the most in-demand actors, Gleeson continued his run of hit movies with M. Night Shyamalan’s thriller, The Village (2004), with Bryce Dallas Howard, Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, William Hurt, and Sigourney Weaver.
It was perhaps inevitable, given Gleeson’s respected stature in big period movies and director Ridley Scott’s cinema that the actor and director would work together, in the Crusades drama, Kingdom of Heaven (2005), with Orlando Bloom, Eva Green, Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson, and Edward Norton, and grossing $218 million worldwide. Brendan Gleeson reunited with writer-director Neil Jordan for the Irish comedy-drama, Breakfast on Pluto (2005), with Cillian Murphy, Stephen Rea, and Neeson.
Gleeson joined the biggest-grossing project of his career, playing Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody in a triplet of Harry Potter movies: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007), and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—Part 1 (2010), with Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson—and earning a combined $2.8 billion globally. For the second time with John Boorman, Brendan Gleeson was cast in the starring role in the Irish drama, The Tiger’s Tail (2006), with Kim Cattrall and Ciaran Hinds, followed by a supporting role in the Robert Zemeckis-directed computer-animated (using CGI motion capture), Beowulf (2007), with Roy Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, John Malkovich, and Angelina Jolie.
Brendan Gleeson earned major accolades opposite Colin Farrell (including BAFTA and Globe nominations for Best Actor) in the Martin McDonagh crime comedy, In Bruges (2008), and then played once again opposite Cillian Murphy in the Irish crime comedy, Perrier’s Bounty (2009), co-starring Jim Broadbent. Gleeson continued his remarkable career path of working with top English-language directors in the Paul Greengrass-directed Iraq War thriller, Green Zone (2010), starring Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, and Amy Ryan.
Gleeson co-starred (with Don Cheadle) in the top-grossing Irish movie on record, The Guard (2011), by writer-director John Michael McDonagh, and earned a Best Actor Golden Globe nomination. Gleeson returned to the theater, in a sense, in a supporting role in the stage-to-screen adaptation, of Albert Hobbs (2011), starring Glenn Close, Mia Wasikowska, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and earning Gleeson a Best Supporting Actor nomination from the Irish Film & Television Academy.
Another major supporting role for Brendan Gleeson came in the South Africa-set Safe House (2012), with Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Vera Farmiga, and Sam Shepard, earning $208 million globally. One of Gleeson’s few Hollywood movies during this period that failed at the box office was the Robert Redford-directed political thriller, The Company You Keep (2012), followed by a live-action performance (opposite Hank Azaria and Neil Patrick Harris) in the hit animated feature, The Smurfs 2 (2013), earning a $347 million worldwide take. One of Gleeson’s few Canadian movies was director Don McKellar’s comedy, The Grand Seduction (2013), with Taylor Kitsch and Gordon Pinsent, earning Gleeson a Canadian Genie Award nomination.
Brendan Gleeson gained even more acclaim and awards attention (including a European Film Awards nomination) for his starring turn in his second film with writer-director John Michael McDonagh, Calvary (2014), with Chris O’Dowd, Isaach de Bankole, M. Emmet Walsh, and Domhnall Gleeson. Twelve years after his Mission: Impossible work opposite Tom Cruise, Gleeson joined Cruise again for the lively Doug Liman-directed sci-fi movie, Edge of Tomorrow (2014), with Emily Blunt and Bill Paxton. Although it failed at the box office, the hand-drawn animated feature, Song of the Sea (2014), with Gleeson co-starring with Fionnula Flanagan, was Oscar-nominated for Best Animated Feature.
Brendan Gleeson won Best Supporting Actor at the British Independent Film Awards for his turn in the British suffragette drama, Suffragette (2015), with Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham-Carter, and Meryl Streep. Another epic co-starring Gleeson was director Ron Howard’s account of the true story behind Moby-Dick, In the Heart of the Sea (2015), with Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, and Tom Holland.
Though released theatrically only in Germany, France, and the U.K., director Vincent Pérez’s Alone in Berlin (2016) gave Gleeson a starring role opposite Emma Thompson, with Daniel Brühl and Lars Rudolph. Premiering at the Toronto Film Festival in the same year, Gleeson co-starred with Michael Fassbender in the crime drama distributed by A24 (in 2017), Trespass Against Us.
Brendan Gleeson made yet another powerful impression in writer-director-star Ben Affleck’s ambitious though commercially disappointing version of Dennis Lehane’s Live by Night (2016), co-starring Elle Fanning, Chris Messina, Sienna Miller, Zoe Saldana, and Chris Cooper. Gleeson rejoined Fassbender for the anticipated but poorly received film version of the sci-fi video game, Assassin’s Creed (2016), directed by Justin Kurzel and co-starring Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Charlotte Rampling, and Michael K. Williams, followed by a big hit, Paddington 2 (2017), the $227-million-grossing live-action/animated sequel (and scoring a 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating), with Gleeson sharing live-action screen time with Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, and Hugh Grant.
For his first collab with the Coen Brothers, Brendan Gleeson played the character named (naturally) The Irishman in the section titled, “The Mortal Remains,” in the wildly entertaining Western, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018), starring Tim Blake Nelson and an extensive ensemble, including James Franco, Liam Neeson, Tom Waits, Zoe Kazan, and Tyne Daly. For writer-director Ira Sachs, Brendan Gleeson played in the French-U.S.-Portuguese production, Frankie (2019), starring Isabelle Huppert, Marisa Tomei, Greg Kinnear, and Jérémie Renier, and released by Sony Pictures Classics.
Gleeson reunited with director Joel Coen as Duncan in a black-and-white version of Macbeth (2021), with Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand. Gleeson then reunited with In Bruges creator Martin McDonagh and co-star Colin Farrell for The Banshees of Inisherin (2022), winning Best Actor (Farrell) and Screenplay at the Venice Film Festival. Gleeson was next cast by writer-director Todd Phillips for the sequel, Joker: Folie à Deux (2024), starring Joaquin Phoenix, Lady Gaga, Zazie Beetz, and Catherine Keener.
Brendan Gleeson was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland by parents Frank and Pat Gleeson. An avid reader growing up, Gleeson attended St. Joseph’s Christian Brothers School and was active in the school’s theater group. He attended and graduated from University College Dublin with a B.A. in English and Irish.
For nearly fifteen years, Gleeson was a full-time teacher of English and Irish at Catholic Belcamp College in North County Dublin, while also playing in a professional and semi-professional theater in the Dublin area. In 1991, he committed himself full-time to acting. Gleeson has been married to Mary Weldon since 1982; the couple has four sons, including actors Domhnall Gleeson, Brian Gleeson, Rory Gleeson, and Fergus Gleeson. His height is 6’ 1¼”. Gleeson’s estimated net worth is $8 million.
Childhood Trauma: Brendan Gleeson revealed in 2014 that he was molested as a child by a Christian Brother priest in a Christian Brothers primary school.
Brendan Gleeson, Director: Gleeson has directed one film, a short titled Psychic. (2018), and co-starring two of his actor sons, Domhnall and Brian.
The Irishman: Brendan Gleeson is a passionate supporter of Irish culture, promoting the use of the Irish language, performing the fiddle and the mandolin, and playing with the Irish folk music group, Dervish.