Brendan Gleeson hoping for ‘plum’ roles

Continuing his countdown to City of Culture 2013, GARBHAN DOWNEY looks at one of the highlights of the Foyle Film Festival

Our Cultural Champion Brendan Gleeson may have won an Emmy for his role as Churchill in Into the Storm, but that still doesn’t guarantee him a punnet of apples on the Harry Potter set.

Gleeson revealed this, and a lot more besides, to Culture Company’s Martin Melarkey in the throes of a hugely entertaining Q’n’A at the 24th Foyle Film Festival last weekend. The discussion, which in the Strand Omniplex, followed a screening of The Guard, which garnered Gleeson a BAFTA nomination earlier this year.

Over the course of an hour the star of Hollywood blockbusters such as Troy, The Gangs of New York and Braveheart, regaled his Derry crowd with the inside track on his career in showbiz.

And it’s apparent that life isn’t always a bowl of cherries, even for a successful film actor. This is a man, remember, who was once told by an agent, he was “too fat, too old and not good-looking enough to be a star”.

When asked how he enjoyed the experience of working on major American productions in comparison to smaller independent movies like In Bruges, Gleeson spoke about how performers on big budget films operate in a system as “hierarchical as the Catholic Church”. He said status was often measured by factors such as the size of the actor’s trailer.

Reflecting on his role in Harry Potter as Alastor “Mad Eye” Moody (where he was part of a cast which included such luminaries as Kenneth Branagh, Gary Oldman and Ralph Fiennes), Gleeson explained that there was a very strictly-defined pecking order when it came to the actors’ riders. As he was being driven to the studio on his first day, one of production assistants, unsure of the actor’s place in the firmament, asked of the Golden Globe nominee: “Is he big enough for fruit?”

Whatever his position on the fruit basket scale, Gleeson delighted the crowd in Derry on Sunday and reiterated his support for our City of Culture project.

He told his audience: “The best of luck with the City of Culture. It’s going to be fantastic for the city. I remember being in Cape Town and feeling the sense of excitement there, as they set out to become an example to the world of how to bring fresh ideas to bear. And I think the same thing is going to happen here. You’re going to have a ball, which is the main thing.”