As the 2013 Oscars will be broadcast on ABC this Sunday, Irishman Daniel Day-Lewis looks to be the odds-on favorite for his turn as Abraham Lincoln in Stephen Spielberg's “Lincoln” to add yet a third Oscar for Best Actor to his mantelpiece. Day-Lewis is but one of many fine thespians from the Emerald Isle.
We here at the Shamrock Club have researched long and hard our top 10 favorite Irish actors making you members privy to yet more exclusive Irish content as one of the many benefits your Shamrock Club membership.
1. Daniel Day Lewis
The most highly decorated actor from Ireland and of our times completely loses himself into his Oscar-worthy roles whether it’s as a paraplegic artist in” My Left Foot” (1989) or an intense early 20th century oil man in “There will be Blood.” (2008). The Best Acting Oscar statue should be named after this man who is looking good to join Marlon Brando, Tom Hanks, Dustin Hoffman, Sean Penn and Jack Nicholson and three others to complete the Best Actor Trifecta.
2. Peter O’Toole
Born in Galway and raised in England, O’Toole was poised to become a photojournalist before catching the acting bug. He first achieved acting success in his memorable role of T.E. Lawrence in the epic “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962). He later went on to bolster his iconic Hollywood status as English King Henry II in both classics “Beckett,” and “The Lion in Winter” with Katherine Hepburn. The record holder of the most Oscar nominations without win resides today in Clifden.
3. Maureen O’Hara
Born Maureen FitzSimons, O’Hara made a name for herself at first in the Dublin theater scene. There she caught the attention of director Charles Laughton who gave the scarlet beauty her first big break as Esmeralda in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1939). She continued as a leading lady is such cinematic classics as “The Black Swan” (1942) and “Sentimental Journey” (1946), and shot into the stratosphere with her appearance in the Christmas staple “Miracle on 34th Street.”
Along with frequent co-star John Wayne, O’Hara starred in “The Quiet Man,’ considered one of the all-time best Irish films. Irish America Magazine’s 2005 “Irish American of the Year” lived in County Cork and currently resides in the US.
4. Richard Harris
The film star had quite the unconventional path to film stardom. Harris, hailing from Limerick, was a rugby star whose career was cut short by tuberculosis. He made his way to England where he found his way into acting via the theater.
The notoriously fickle actor found his first taste of success in Tinsel Town after taking on the mighty role of King Arthur in the film based on the musical “Camelot” (1967). His eclectic and unconventional acting career has included major roles in “A Man Called Horse” (1970), Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven” (1992) and “Gladiator” (2000).
He perhaps reached his zenith of popularity as the most popular wizard to grace the movie screen as Harry Potter’s headmaster “Dumbledore” in the first two installments of the series. Harris died shortly before the premiere of the second Harry Potter film.
5. Kenneth Branagh
The Northern Ireland born and bred actor and director is most famous for his work with Shakespearean film adaptations. These include “Henry V” (1989) (for which he was nominated for Best Actor and Best Director) and his epic version of “Hamlet” (1996) (for which Branagh was nominated for best original screenplay).
He has not been limited to work only by the bard, also displaying his acting chops in a wide array of films including “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” (2002), “My Weekend with Marilyn” (2011) (for which Branagh received a Best Supporting nod for his portrayal of Laurence Olivier), and “Thor.” The thespian’s dramatic efforts were celebrated by the British monarchy who made him a knight Bachelor in 2012.
6. Liam Neeson
This son of County Antrim was once an amateur boxer, but all the while playing dramatic roles on the stage. Neeson first came to moviegoers’ attentions by starring in the Sam Raimi-directed superhero vehicle “Darkman” (1990).
Starring as Oscar Schindler in the epic “Schindler’s List” in 1993 led to a Best Oscar nomination for the Irishman. Many more movie fans may recognize him for his portrayal as Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn in the Star Wars film “Phantom Menace” (1999) and in latest turns as action hero in the more recent “Clash of the Titans” and “Taken” franchises. Neeson is an American citizen.
7. Barry Fitzgerald
Known to friends and family by his birth name, William Joseph Shield, Fitzgerald began his career at the famed Abbey theater in Dublin appearing in plays written by his roommate Sean O’Casey.
In Hollywood Fitzgerald was the go-to-guy to play the quirky, witty, understated role of a token Irishman in various films. He is best remembered as playing a genial Irish priest alongside Bing Crosby in the comedy musical “Going My Way” (1944 ) which earned him a Best Oscar nomination. Fitzgerald also appeared in “A Quiet Man” (1952).
8. Pierce Brosnan
Born in Navan, County Meath, Brosnan was raised by his grandparents after his parents abandoned him, moving to England. Starting out as an artist, the Irishman soon turned to the art of acting. Brosnan’s big break came by playing one of the most iconic characters in 80s television as the lead character Remington Steele in “Remington Steele” (1982-1987).
For years Brosnan was offered the role of James Bond and finally donned the tuxedo and drank the shaken and not stirred martini in 1995’s “Golden Eye,” continuing in “Tomorrow Never Dies” (1997), “The World is not enough” (1999), and “Die Another Day” (2002). Other notable films of Brosnan’s include “The Ghost Writer” (2010) and “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Lightning Thief” (2010)
9. Aidan Quinn
An American citizen raised in Chicago, Quinn was born to Irish emigrant parents. Over the past 20 or so years Quinn has been an ubiquitous presence in films ranging from drama to comedies, and period pieces to horror, starring alongside the crem de la crem in Hollywood.
Such diverse films as “Benny and Joon” (1993), “Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein” (1994), and “Michael Collins” (1996), alongside Liam Neeson, appear on Quinn’s deep and impressive filmography. The Shamrock Club has a special affinity for “Legends of the Fall” (1994) with Brad Pitt.
10. Una O’Connor
Belfast’s own Agnes Teresa McGlade was star of the stage in England and Ireland. In a career-turning role in the play “Calvacade,” O'Connor moved to Hollywood to revisit her role in the movie adaptation of the stage production.
Once there she found herself fame in horror and thriller genre films like “The Invisible Man” (1993) and “Bride of Frankenstein” (1935). She broke type and added a comic touch to Billy Wilder’s serious “Witness for the Prosecution.”
And there you have it Shamrock Club members. Our much-debated and fought over picks for our favorite Irish Actors of all-time. Yet more Irish culture brought to you exclusively from the Shamrock Club.
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