Top 10 Irish actors and actresses

March 14 15:33 2014

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, presents 10 of the most honored Irish actors and actresses. From Peter O’Toole to Maureen O’Hara, these actors have enthralled us with their riveting performances and dashing accents.

Many became famous from popular television such as Game of Thrones and Once Upon a Time. Others such as Maureen O’Hara have been performing since black-and-white films. Many were awarded by the Academy Awards and Golden Globes, and many will continue to be nominated as they continue enthralling us.

Although we recognize most of these actors by their English accents, some have performed in films set in Ireland. Maureen O’Hara performed in the countryside of The Quiet Man (1952), and Liam Neeson reenacted Ireland’s 1920s revolution in Michael Collins (1996). Some such as Pierce Brosnan have lived most of their lives in England, but all these actors have one thing in common: They were born in Ireland.

To celebrate Irish heritage, we present to you the top 10 Irish actors and actresses.

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10. Jack Gleeson

Born in Cork, Ireland, this 21-year-old actor has made few, but popular, appearances in television and films. Most viewers recognize him as King Joffrey Baratheon from Game of Thrones (2011-2013), for which he was nominated twice by Screen Actors Guild Award for an Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.

Known for his young and stubborn characters, Gleeson also appeared as a bully in A Shine of Rainbows, set in Ireland’s Corrie Island, and a little boy in Batman Begins (2005).


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9. Roma Downey

Born in Derry, Northern Ireland, Roma Downey performed lead roles in drama and inspirational films.

In Touched by an Angel (1994-2003), Downey starred as one of three angels sent to Earth to guide people regarding God’s blessings for them. Downey also performed in Borrowed Hearts (1997), The Sons of Mistletoe (2001) and Son of God (2014), in which she played Mary, Mother of Jesus.

Downey was nominated twice by Golden Globes for Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Series – Drama.

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8. Ciarán Hinds

Known for his roles as leaders, politicians, and captains, Ciarán Hinds has become one of Ireland’s most well-known actors.

Born in Belfast, Ireland, Hinds grew up with a physician father and an actress mother. His father wanted Hinds to pursue a career in medicine, but Hinds followed his mother’s passion for acting. He attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and performed a minor role in his first major film Excalibur (1981).

Soon, Hinds established his reputation as a leading actor with roles such as Captain Wentworth in Persuasion (1995) and Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre (1997). In the 2000s, he performed roles such as Julius Caesar in HBO’s Rome (2005-2007) and Mayor Michael Henchard in The Mayor of Casterbridge (2003).

In his career, Hinds received five awards, two of which came from the Irish Film and Television Awards: Best Actor in a TV Drama (The Mayor of Casterbridge, 2003) and Best Actor in a Lead Role in Television (Rome, 2005). Hinds also won a Tribeca Film Festival Award for Best Actor in The Eclipse (2009), in which he played a leading role as a horror novelist haunted by ghosts.

Hinds performed other minor roles in film and television, such as Lord Tarleton in Amazing Grace (2006), Aberforth Dumbledore in Harry and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) and Mance Rayder in Game of Thrones (2013).

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7. Sarah Bolger

From Dublin, Sarah Bolger began her career as a child actress. Her first performance appeared in In America (2002) when she was about 10 years old. Bolger captivated her audience with her performance of Christy, an Irish immigrant who finds new life for her family in New York. From this film, she won an award for Best Performance by a Youth in a Lead or Supporting Role – Female, by Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards.

Grown up, Bolger performed historical roles such as Mary Tudor in the TV drama series The Tudors (2008-2010). She is currently performing as Princess Aurora in ABC’s Once Upon a Time that airs Sundays at 8/7c.

Bolger received seven nominations for her In America performance and won two awards for her performances in The Tudors and In America.

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6. Colin Farrell

A suave, black-haired gentleman from Dublin, Colin Farrell entices his audience as a gun-fighting rogue and sexy lover.

After he failed his audition for the Irish boy band Boyzone, Farrell discovered acting and performed in Tim Roth’s The War Zone (1999) and BBC’s series Ballykissangel (1996). He then starred in his first award-winning motion picture film Tigerland (2000), starring as a young Texan soldier in the Vietnam War.

Farrell’s career continued to skyrocket with Steven Spielberg’s film Minority Report (2002), for which he was nominated as best actor by Empire Awards. He then performed in Joel Schumacher’s Phone Booth (2002), for which he was nominated as best actor by Teen Choice Awards and Mexico’s MTV Movie Awards.

Throughout his career, Farrell played in numerous settings, including his native homeland. He performed Irish characters such as Syracuse in “Ondine” (2009), for which he won Best Actor in a Lead Role in Film by the Irish Film and Television Awards, and Ray in “In Bruges” (2008), for which he won a Golden Globe award as Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical.

Farrell recently performed the role of Travers Goff in Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks (2013).

[new page = Evanna Lynch]

5. Evanna Lynch

Known for her role as Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter series, Evanna Lynch has established herself as a sly witch captivating her audience.

Born in Termonfeckin, Ireland, the 22-year-old actress performed in four Harry Potter films, including Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011).

Lynch auditioned among 15,000 other girls, and her mesmerizing performance won her the role. She was nominated by Young Artist Awards for her supporting role in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. She also starred as Theresa Bornstein in the upcoming film Dynamite: A Cautionary Tale, which is scheduled to be released this year.

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4. Pierce Brosnan

One of Ireland’s best-known actors, Pierce Brosnan solidified his reputation as the world’s most famous secret agent, James Bond.

Born in Navan, Ireland, Pierce Brosnan began his acting career with lead roles such as Taffin in action film Taffin (1988) and Phileas Fogg in the TV film Around the World in 80 Days (1989) with Eric Idle.

Brosnan remains one of Britain’s sexiest actors. He is best known for his James Bond films, from Golden Eye (1995) to Die Another Day (2002), and he has performed in romances such as Laws of Attraction (2004) and Mama Mia! (2008).

Brosnan won 14 awards and received 14 nominations for his lead roles, including an Irish Film and Television Award for his outstanding contribution to cinema. He is currently performing in films such as How to Make Love like an Englishman (2014) and Survivor (2015).

[new page = Liam Neeson]

3. Liam Neeson

From Ballymena, Northern Ireland, Liam Neeson remains one of Ireland’s most memorable and awarded actors, reputed for roles such as Oskar Schindler and Star Wars’ Qui-Gon Jinn.

Although he started his career as an amateur boxer and studied for his bachelor’s in teaching, Neeson found his talent for acting when he enrolled in the Belfast Lyric Players’ Theatre. His first performances in feature films involved minor roles, yet his first lead roles included Leo in The Good Mother (1988) and Martin Falcon in Satisfaction (1988). By the time Sam Raimi starred him as the tortured hero in Darkman (1990), Neeson’s fame soared.

Neeson became an iconic figure in Hollywood cinema, starring in films such as Under Suspicion (1991) and Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives (1992). By far, his most acclaimed film, Schindler’s List (1993), won him six recognitions, including an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

Neeson’s most popular roles include Qui-Gon Jinn from Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace (1999), Valjean in Les Miserables (1998), Henri Ducard in Batman Begins (2005) and Aslan in three episodes of The Chronicles of Narnia (2005, 2008, 2010).

His outstanding performance of Michael Collins in Michael Collins (1996) earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role – Drama. The film occurred in Ireland, where Neeson reenacted a revolutionary fighting for his country’s freedom from Britain.

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2. Maureen O’Hara

One of Ireland’s most beloved actresses, Maureen O’Hara became a star from early childhood. Born in Ranelagh, Dublin, she attended Ireland’s Abbey Theatre at age 14 and performed in her first films Jamaica Inn (1939) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939). Her more noteworthy films include Miracle on 34th Street (1947), How Green Was My Valley (1941) and The Parent Trap (1961). Her characters are known for their feminine strength and beauty, and many remember her from the films The Quiet Man (1952) and McClintock! (1963) with John Wayne.

During her career, O’Hara won five awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Irish Film and Television Awards. In 1960, her name was engraved on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

[new page = Peter O’Toole]

1. Peter O’Toole

None from Ireland have won as much acclaim as Peter O’Toole. Known for his award-winning performance in Lawrence of Arabia (1962), O’Toole has been engraved into the history of cinema, having won 33 awards and received 29 nominations.

Born in Connemara, Ireland, O’Toole began his career as a journalist and served as a radioman in the Royal Navy before he pursued theatre. He studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art with Albert Finney, Alan Bates and Richard Harris. He performed a few minor roles in films such as Robin MacGregor in Kidnapped (1960) and Capt. Monty Finch in The Day They Robbed the Bank of England (1960).

O’Toole is most remembered for his performance of Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia. For that role, he received three nominations and two awards. In 2003, O’Toole received the Oscars Honorary Award for his memorable performances.

O’Toole also performed the roles of kings, nobility, leaders and a few comic or animated characters. Some of his kingly roles included Henry II in The Lion in Winter (1968), Tiberius in Caligula (1979), Eli Cross in The Stunt Man (1980), Anton Bosnyak in Svengali (1983) and Reginald “R. J.” Johnston in The Last Emperor (1987).

O’Toole performed the comic character Arthur Chipping in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969), for which he won a Golden Globe award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture Film – Comedy or Musical. He also performed Maurice in Venus (2006), for which he received 11 nominations for his performance as best actor in a comedy.

Before his death, O’Toole’s recent performances included King Priam in Troy (2004) and Pope Paul III in the TV series The Tudors (2008). O’Toole passed away Dec. 14, 2013, in London.


Above Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons



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