Although he came to acting later in life - becoming a full-time actor at 36 - Brendan Gleeson has more than effectively made up for any lost time.
Over the years, his screen presence has lit up roles as varied as Winston Churchill and Menelaus of The Illiad, not to mention comedic roles for Martin McDonagh and even playing Donald Trump most recently. For his 66th birthday and for him qualifying for the pension today, we're counting down five of his best roles.
5. 'The General' - "Own up, and I'll leave you off with a hiding..."
John Boorman's crime drama is a strange one. Martin Cahill was only dead four years before 'The General' was released. It was filmed entirely in Dublin, often utilising the very locations that feature in the movie. John Boorman himself was burgled by the General at one point. It was shot in black-and-white, and had a jazz score by Richie Buckley. Yet, Brendan Gleeson made it all his own with his performance. Equal parts menacing and gregarious, this infamous scenes sums up much of what Brendan Gleeson's career has been - soft laughter one minute, hard as nails the next. Keep an eye out for Ted Hastings himself, Adrian Dunbar, in this scene too.
4. 'In Bruges' - "You're a c***. You're a c*** now. You've always been a c***."
Martin McDonagh's screenwriting has always tended towards vulgarity as a main course rather than a condiment, and the results vary. This scene in 'In Bruges', however, gets the balance just right. Yes, there's liberal use of the c-word, but the current of the scene is still there. You're unsure whether or not you're supposed to be laughing, as there's so many conflicting emotions going on - which is probably the whole point, of how life itself can be overwhelming.
3. 'Paddington 2' - "Nobody squirts condiments! On my apron!"
As mentioned, Brendan Gleeson could have easily made a career out of playing hard cases as he's got the screen presence to do it. You only need to look to 'The General' to know what he's capable of doing. Yet, in 'Paddington 2', it's balancing the two sides of his presence - soft, welcoming with terrifying menace - to create Knuckles McGinty. There are precious few actors who could fly so cleanly between those two modes, and be as convincing in both. This scene just points that out.
2. 'The Guard' - "Hand it over, ya little shit."
'The Guard' is up there as one of the finest comedies ever made on Irish soil. Brendan Gleeson's performance is note-perfect as Sgt. Boyle, a hard-drinking Garda who likes prostitutes and doesn't think to much of anything to do with being a Garda. Yet, in so many scenes, he demonstrates a willingness to do the right thing even if it means doing the wrong thing. Gleeson's comedic timing, however, is never more sharp than this small little scene with child actor Michael Óg Lane, where they discover a cache of guns.
1. 'Into The Storm' - "If all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made..."
Winston Churchill is a role that many actors of a certain age crave, as there's a belief that it gives them a chance to really shine and make big, wild gestures with it. Gary Oldman's outsized performance in 'Darkest Hour' and John Lithgow in 'The Crown' point to this. Yet, when it came to Brendan Gleeson in the HBO movie, 'Into The Storm', the results are surprisingly different. He underplays everything, allowing instead the text and the minute details of his presence to say more than anything else. Indeed, the famous speech where Churchill implored England to "go on to the end" is done with a deft touch that few actors would have the presence of mind to do so. The results speak for themselves. Gleeson would end up winning an Emmy for his performance, and was nominated for a BAFTA, an IFTA, and a Golden Globe.