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Spotlight on: Domhnall Gleeson

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Domhnall Gleeson: a red-headed Irish actor of pure brilliance.

Gleeson’s career is one that I have kept a close eye on. In this spotlight, I’ll be taking a deep dive into his career from his very humble beginnings in BBC’s Rebel Heart to playing General Hux in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Right everyone, go and find the darkest cupboard in your house, clench your hands into fists and…

Let’s travel back in time

Domhnall Gleeson’s first appearance came back in 2001 in the BBC drama, Rebel Heart – following the move towards independence in Ireland, from the 1916 Easter Rising until the 1922 civil war, seen through the eyes of a naive, idealistic young man. His appearance may have only been short, but this lead to more opportunities for the Gleeson.

His first feature didn’t come along until 2005, in which he starred as Bernard in Boy Eats Girl. This lead to Gleeson being caught up in a variety of different features from comedies like Sensation to romantic dramas like Never Let Me Go. However, his career skyrocketed when he appeared as Bill Weasley in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 & 2.

Gleeson said:

“I was a massive fan. When they asked my dad to play Mad-Eye, I was so incredibly excited. I said, ‘Listen, if one of the other brothers’ parts comes up, you need to get me in for an audition.’”

Starring alongside his dad, Brendan Gleeson, playing the ever so popular character of Mad-eye Moody, this gave him a gentle push to star.

From 2012 onwards, people started to recognise his appearances. One of which most will remember is his role as Ash in Black Mirror’s Be Right Back. When Ash is killed in a car accident, his wife, Martha discovers a service that allows widows and widowers to reconnect with their partners in a new body created from the deceased individual’s social media and internet activity.

Black Mirror gains reactions from around the world and this episode was no different. Scouring through Twitter, I found some of my favourite reactions to the weird and strange narrative of Be Right Back:


Are you still clenching your fists together in a dark cupboard?

A personal favourite of mine is About Time where Gleeson stars as Tim. Tim as discovers from his father (played by Bill Nighy) that he has the power to travel back in time to any memory. Richard Curtis’s magical storytelling leads Gleeson to glory.

Although Curtis was initially hesitant to cast Gleeson:

“He came in with this huge beard, looking like a character from Deliverance. I remember auditioning him in a scene when he approaches Rachel’s character in the gallery. I thought, ‘Christ, she’d run a mile.’ Then I saw a preview of Anna Karenina, and I thought he was marvellous in that. But it was a complicated process casting him, because he never lost the beard. I had no idea how his face would move, and he always looked much older than the part.”

In 2014, Gleeson played apprehensive programmer, Caleb participating in a ground-breaking experiment in synthetic intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breath-taking humanoid A.I. – also known as Alicia Vikander.

Lady in the red coat, what you doing with that bag?

That’s right, the ever so memorable line 2014 indie hit, Frank.

Gleeson plays Jon Burroughs, a wannabe musician who tries to find comfort in a band named The Soronprfbs, helping them with his lyrical abilities. With over a million listens on Spotify, I Love You All from the Frank soundtrack had an impact on audiences, making everyone fall in love with Gleeson and a helmeted Michael Fassbender.

“With the soulful Gleeson and a sweetly menacing Fassbender (under a giant helmet-head) at its centre, the movie never loses its acerbic edge or its oversize heart.” – Entertainment Weekly

2015 was a big year

Gleeson began his journey into the Star Wars franchise in The Force Awakens as well as starring in Oscar-winning film, The Revenant, directed by 4-time Oscar-winner director Alejandro G. Iñárritu. Gleeson starred alongside Tom Hardy and Leonardo DiCaprio as Captain Andrew Henry. This role was one of his most difficult to date, putting him in severe conditions to get the best out of Captain Henry.

Gleeson spoke about his well-constructed character:

“He starts in a very conflicted space and then I think as the film goes on, things get tougher and tougher, and certainly the circumstances just get bigger and bigger and harder and harder and he is faced with some very tough decisions. Then you see he feels betrayed and his goodness comes out and he goes on almost like a revenge mission himself.”

Since then, Gleeson’s gone on to feature in Goodbye Christopher Robin as author of the Winnie the Pooh books, Alan Milne as well as exploring deeper, darker films such as Mother!. And with his foot in the door on the Star Wars franchise, he’s still got the versatility to continue into other projects, making him a well-rounded actor.

In 2019, he’ll continue his role as General Hux in Star Wars: Episode IX and star in upcoming American crime drama, The Kitchen. We can’t wait to see him go from strength to strength in the new year.

What do you think of Domhnall Gleeson’s career so far? Let us know in the comments section below or tweet us your thoughts.

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