Brendan Gleeson Started Acting at 34. He Didn’t Just Become Successful Himself, But Also Helped 2 of His Sons Into the Profession

Hollywood is full of actors who played their iconic roles at a young age. So, one might think that the later one starts their acting career, the harder it is to make it. While this may be true, it was not a problem for Brendan Gleeson, who made his film debut at the age of 34. After over 30 years in the industry, he was nominated for an Oscar, which is an amazing success.

Joel Ryan / Invision / AP / East News

Brendan Gleeson was an avid reader from childhood and was passionate about language and literature. He was not one of those stars who had a love for acting from birth. He stumbled into the theater accidentally. In his youth, he and a friend had a good relationship with their English teacher, who took them to the theater. This is how Brendan started acting. And when he entered college a few years later, he joined the local theater group that wrote and staged plays in Irish and held concerts.

But Brendan also had other hobbies. At 19 or 20 years old, he started playing music and now plays the violin and mandolin. He even sings. Brendan has demonstrated these talents in movies, and he also parts for an album by the Irish folk group Dervish.

Searchlight Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection / East News

Brendan got married in 1982, taught at school, and also worked in theater. He wrote scripts for performances, directed them, acted in them himself, and tried to organize different concerts at school. He really enjoyed working with children and tried to make them as educated as possible. It seemed like he would live his whole life that way. But at the age of 34, everything changed. One beautiful day, Gleeson decided that he was ready for change. After all, he didn’t want to regret missed opportunities later on.

I loved teaching. And I always used to say that acting was just something I did purely on my own terms, and that if I had to make a living from it, there would be too much pressure.

In 1992, he appeared in the film The Treaty about the Irish history. This experience changed his entire life. Brendan became popular in his homeland, and he was noticed in Hollywood. He appeared in such films as Braveheart, Gangs of New York, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Mission: Impossible 2, and The Village. Not all the roles were big, but he didn’t care.

You know, the cliché is that there’s no small part. That’s not true. Some things are just functional, and actually you’re getting in the way, especially on television, if you overdo it, if you try to turn into Hamlet or something. Sometimes you just have to open the door. Open the door. Say good morning.

Brendan’s film career started at the age of 34, but it developed quite rapidly. When Gleeson was asked in an interview how he manages to balance constant filming and a family with children, he attributed all the credit to his wife Mary. They decided that their family would have a permanent base in Dublin so that the actor could travel to various filming locations without the children having to constantly move. Mary sacrificed a lot to support her husband and their 4 boys. Brendan himself calls his 4 sons the greatest gift in life.

2 of Brendan’s sons also became actors. Moreover, Brendan starred with one of them — Domhnall — in the Harry Potter series. The father played the dark wizard Mad-Eye Moody, while the son played Bill Weasley. It is noteworthy that in 2009, the father and son were nominated for roles in different films at the British Independent Film Awards. Brendan beat his son, but could not attend the ceremony. So Domhnall accepted the award on behalf of his father.

Warner Bros / Courtesy Everett Collection / East News, © Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 / Warner Bros. and co-producers

In 2022, the movie The Banshees of Inisherin was released. This job was very important for Brendan for many reasons. His filming partner was Colin Farrell, also an Irishman, and they had been friends for a long time. Brendan and Colin played 2 men whose long-standing friendship was destroyed. Both actors were worried that to get into their characters, they would have to not speak to each other during the filming of the movie. But when they met and tried to talk about this idea, they realized they didn’t need to go to such extremes.

Willy Sanjuan / Invision / East News

Brendan and Colin were each nominated for an Oscar for their roles in this movie. Gleeson shared how he found out about the nomination. He was filming in the movie Joker: Folie à Deux when he received a call telling him to buy a tuxedo to attend the award ceremony. Brendan was simply ecstatic. He is already 67 years old, so, of course, he would like to receive some recognition for his work.


The movie The Banshees of Inisherin exposes many Irish stereotypes, but Colin and Brendan welcomed such references. Still, when Gleeson was invited to participate in Saturday Night Live and showcase his sense of humor, he almost declined. He was afraid of mocking his homeland with a careless remark. But Farrell convinced him, and everything went great.

And even though Brendan lost the award to Ke Huy Quan, this nomination is still a big success for his career. Surely, Gleeson has much ahead of him.

Preview photo credit Warner Bros / Courtesy Everett Collection / East News, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 / Warner Bros. and co-producers
Cheery/People/Brendan Gleeson Started Acting at 34. He Didn’t Just Become Successful Himself, But Also Helped 2 of His Sons Into the Profession
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