Monday, 23 March 2009

Underrated: Brendan Gleeson

So you're making a big, epic ensemble movie, your lead actor is embarrassing himself and you need your supporting players to step up and give the film a bit of credibility. Who do you call? Brendan Gleeson. This guy's never gonna be your traditional leading man in these films. He looks a bit like the bloke down the pub who you're not sure if he's going to buy you a pint or punch you, but he is always solid and its no coincidence that he crops up in so many summer blockbusters. The guy's a pretty sure bet to put in a good performance without overshadowing the pretty-boy lead.

I'd seen Gleeson pop up in a number of films over the years, particularly in an awesome but brief role in A.I., but I only really started to follow this guy after I saw 28 Days Later. All I could think was that this guy does Ray Winstone better than Ray Winstone and that he was playing the rarest of things in modern horror movies; a believable, sympathetic character. Alot of this is testiment to the superior team behind the film but it was the perfect role for Gleeson. Very few people can do the gruff father figure better than Gleeson; he only started acting at 34 so its the kind of role he's grown into with each passing film.

However, where Gleeson really shines is in historical epics. Like Orlando Bloom, he cropped up in both Troy and Kingdom of Heaven, but unlike Orlando Bloom he was competant and believable as a historical character. He can play the eccentric, booming individual that characterise these films with ease and can challenge the Rickmans of this world for scenery-chewing brilliance that makes everyone else look boring or sit back and be the wise mentor if needs be. And if you need a guy to beat up Mr. Bloom and make him look as pathetic as possible he's your man. And who couldn't love him for that?

The film industry seems to finally be recognising Gleeson's value. He's joined the elite band of thespians proudly cashing their paychecks from the Harry Potter franchise and is beginning to get some seriously meaty roles, not least in last year's In Bruges, and later this year will be playing one of history's most interesting figures as Winston Churchill in Into The Storm, the follow up to The Gathering Storm. That film featured an amazing Albert Finney perfomance which will be hard to match but if anyone can fill his shoes its Brendan Gleeson and he could very well be a good bet for an Oscar nod. About time too.

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