Surprising truth of how Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, etc. got their start
How the Hollywood 'mick clique' really made the big time
By: Conn Corrigan and Meghan Sweeney | Published Sunday, December 19, 2010, 9:06 AM | Updated Sunday, December 19, 2010, 10:35 AM
Now we know they are famous forever but once they were unknowns. So how did some of Ireland's biggest names actually get their start in movies? The answers will surprise you.
Colin Farrell tries to give the impression of being a working-class Dublin
boyo – but in fact he comes from the posh Dublin
suburb of Castleknock
Some have fallen for the image he projects – the on-line magazine, “Askman,” for example, once wrote that Farrell is “the kind of guy you want to knock back a few pints with. He oozes working-class heroism.”
His father Eamon, was a former soccer player with an Irish club called Shamrock Rovers, and currently runs a health food store in Dublin. He has said that his mother, Rita, collects newspapers clippings of him for her scrapbook.
Although his accent makes him sound like someone who grew up in a tough Dublin neighborhood of Dublin, Farrell attended two elite private high school, Castleknock College and Gormanstown.
As a young man, he auditioned for the Irish boyband, Boyzone, who would go on to sell almost 20 million records. He went to an acting school in Dublin and an agent first noticed him in a 1997 low-budget feature, “Drinking Crude.” That helped land him a role as Danny Byrne in a British-made TV series set in Ireland called “
Ballykissangel.” Fittingly, Farrell played a bad boy from Dublin, who had come to live in Ballykissangel, a rural village of in Co. Kerry
Two years after first appearing in Ballykissangel, and Farrell got his really big break: a starring role in the Joel Schumacher
And the rest, as they say – the drinking, womanizing, crazy stalker ladies and leaked sex tapes – is history.
Gabriel only went to acting classes at the age of 29 because he wanted “something to do in the evenings’” - and to pick up women.
He studied archeology at University College Dublin, but had little love for the place. He once telling students at rival Trinity College that the university felt like
a grey airport, waiting for a plane that never arrived landed. Prior to that, “The Usual Suspects” star had tried his luck as a teacher, a clerical student and a cook.
The acting classes paid off: he secured himself a role an Irish television soap opera called
“The Riordans” in 1978. Byrne, became a fans’ favorite in the hugely popular soap. That would be followed up by a Riordans spin-off called “Bracken,” in which Byrne played a young farmer in dispute with an older, greedy landlord.
His big movie break finally came in 1990, in the Coen brothers
's “Miller's Crossing.”
Liam Neeson was born a Catholic in Ballymena
, an overwhelmingly Protestant town in Northern Ireland
. Ballymena is the home of Ian Paisley
, the Protestant fundamentalist preacher and unionist leader. At the age of 13, Neeson used to sneak into Paisley’s church hall in Ballymena
to hear him preach.
"He had a magnificent presence and it was incredible to watch this six foot-plus man just bible-thumping away,” Neeson told the BBC
. “It was acting but it was also great acting and stirring too.”
Neeson was so captivated by Paisley that he decided to go into acting himself.
His father was a caretaker (a custodian) at a school, while his mother was a cook. Neither of them initially approved of him wanting to become an actor.
One day in 1975, he successfully auditioned in Belfast for a place at the Lyric Theater. After a time there,
he went to Dublin for various roles in a theater called the Project Arts Center
. The British director John Boorman
spotted him there, which lead to his role in “Excalibur.”
While working on that film, he met and began dating Helen Mirren
, and eventually moved to London
He then nabbed a role in Sam Raimi’s “Darkman.”
His real breakthrough came in the 1990s with his starring roles in the classic films “Schindler’s List” and “Michael Collins.”
Pierce Brosnan, who was born in Co. Meath
, Ireland and moved to London at age 11, began his acting career by enrolling in drama school at the age of 20.
Brosnan became a TV star when he landed the lead in the television series “The Mannions of United States
He then relocated to Los Angeles
">Los Angeles in 1982 and went on to play the role of private investigator Remington Steele
on the popular ABC Inc.
">ABC TV series of the same name.
The actor had supporting roles in Hollywood
">Hollywood films such as “Mrs. Doubtfire.”
But Brosnan became a bona fide A-list actor and a household name when he reinvented the Bond series and reinvigorated the role of James Bond
">James Bond in “Golden Eye,” “Tomorrow Never Dies” and “The World is Not Enough.”
She may not be as well known as the other actors on this list, but the instantly recognizable Fionnula Flanagan has worked her way from a successful theater career in the 1960s to roles in big hits like “The Others” and “Transamerica Corporation
The actress, who was brought up in Dublin speaking both Irish and English, had her breakthrough in Ireland
in 1965 with an Irish-speaking role in "An Triail." (Not one to let her Irish language skills grow rusty, Flanagan, last year, starred in the Irish language series, "Paddywhackery," playing the ghost of Peig Sayers, the iconic Irish-speaking storyteller.)
In the U.S., Flanagan began her career in the theater as a go-to actress for Joycean works. Her performances earned her Critics’ Circles awards in Los Angeles and San Francisco
">San Francisco in the 70s.
She went on to give critically acclaimed performances in such movies as "Waking Ned Devine
">Ned Devine," "Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood," and "Transamerica," in which she played the estranged mother of a pre-op transgender man played by Felicity Huffman
Flanagan also has a successful career in American television. her continuing lead role in dark mob drama Brotherhood (TV Show)
Highlights include a guest starring role in the hit ABC series “Lost,” where she played one of "The Others." She plays the lead role of Rose, matriarch of the Caffee family, in Showtime Networks Inc.
">Showtime’s Irish-American mob drama "Brotherhood.”