Celebrating 13 Famous Irish Actors: From the Emerald Isle to Silver Screen
Updated On: November 10, 2023
Nestled in the heart of the verdant Emerald Isle lies a rich tradition of storytelling and performance that has transcended borders and enchanted audiences worldwide. As a land steeped in myth, legend, and poetic eloquence, Ireland has birthed a remarkable lineage of actors who have left an indelible mark on the global stage. From the humble streets of Dublin to the flashy boulevards of Hollywood, these talented individuals have taken the world by storm with their charisma, versatility, and sheer talent.
In this blog post, we embark on a captivating journey through the annals of cinematic history, paying homage to the luminous stars who hail from Ireland. Now that we, hopefully, have excited you to know who these actors are, it is time to know more about the most famous Irish actors who dazzled us with their performances, many of whom you are already familiar with from some of your favourite movies and TV shows.
1. Colin Farrell
In 1998, Colin Farrell made his acting debut in the BBC drama Ballykissangel. In 1999, he made his debut as an actor in The War Zone. In the military drama Tigerland in 2000, he played the lead character for the first time and achieved great success in Steven Spielberg’s science fiction thriller Minority Report in 2002. However, you may know the actor from his 2004 movie Alexander, where he starred alongside Angelina Jolie. Farrell’s ability to seamlessly transition between intense drama and dark comedy has solidified his status as one of the industry’s most versatile performers.
2. Liam Neeson
The first career goal of Liam Neeson was teaching. But he was forced to resort to acting as a result of a quite memorable incident that occurred on his first day as a teacher. Neeson quit his dream of becoming a teacher and started acting on stage in Belfast and eventually on Broadway. However, the Irish stage actor’s journey to fame began in 1992, when Schindler’s List director Steven Spielberg offered him the part of Oskar Schindler.
Following this opportunity, he assumed many iconic roles. In Star Wars Episode 1, he played the famous and iconic character of Master Qui-Gon Jinn, portrayed the central figure in Michael Collins, acquired a strong supporting yet memorable role in Batman Begins, and showed us his versatile range with the rom-com Love Actually. Of course, no one can forget his remarkable performance as CIA agent Bryan Mills in Taken (2008) and its sequels.
Alongside his BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Academy Award nominations, he has garnered several prestigious accolades, including two Irish Film and Television Awards. To show you how powerful of an actor he is, in 2020, he placed seventh on The Irish Times list of Ireland’s 50 Greatest Film Actors.
3. Jamie Dornan
Okay. Just three words, “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Jamie Dornan is a fantastic Irish actor who has a wide range of works where he proved to be a brilliant actor. However, his most well-known role is, undoubtedly, Mr Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey movies.
Jamie Dornan, who was born on 1 May 1982 in County Down, Northern Ireland, began his modelling career in 2001, posing for Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, and Dior Homme campaigns. Five years after he started acting, Dornan won the Irish Film and Television Award for Best Actor in the murder drama series The Fall. Because of how amazing of an actor he is, he was nominated for a BAFTA award for Best Actor category.
4. Pierce Brosnan
His name is Bond…James Bond! When you think about it, no Irish actor has been blessed to play the role of Agent 007 in not one, not two, not three, but four movies. Pierce Brosnan, who grew up in Drogheda, County Louth, started his career on television. Remington Steele, the series’ main character, was perhaps his most well-known TV role. Besides Mrs Doubtfire, he also appeared in The Thomas Crown Affair and the great Mamma Mia starring Meryl Streep. In addition to acting on stage, Pierce Brosnan has won additional awards and been nominated for others. He has also won the Irish Film and Television awards two times.
5. Michael Fassbender
If you haven’t watched X-Men movies, you’re missing a lot. Aside from the great story and magnificent performances, young Magneto (played by Fassbender) was surely one of the main highlights of the franchise. You may have seen the actor in the amazing periodic book adaptation of Jane Eyre, where he played the mighty and sensational Mr Rochester.
Although he was born in Germany to a German father and an Irish mother, Michael Fassbender’s family relocated to County Kerry’s Killarney when he was two years old. Early in his career, Michael Fassbender appeared in several stage productions in addition to acting in TV shows, including the series Band of Brothers. In 2006, he made his debut as an actor in the Spartan movie 300. Since then, he has been in movies like 12 Years a Slave, Hunger, and Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Bastards. If you watched that movie, you know there are two ways for the 3-finger signal.
6. Jonathan Rhys Meyers
There’s a reason why Irish actors are so great when it comes to periodic pieces: Colin Farrell in Alexander, Michael Fassbender in Jane Eyre, and none other than Jonathan Rhys Meyers in The Tudors!
Jonathan Rhys Meyers started acting in 1994. He was born on 27 July 1977 to a musical family in Dublin, Ireland. Rhys Meyer’s first big break came when he won the Chopard Award at the Cannes Film Festival for his role in the 2005 Woody Allen’s drama Match Point.
7. Andrew Scott
It’s uncommon for the audience to like the protagonist and antagonist at the same time in the same show, but Andrew Scott made Jim Moriarty in Sherlock very likeable. The Irish actor was born in 1976 in Dublin and has won the BAFTA Television Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Moriarty.
In the second season of Fleabag in 2019, Scott portrayed The Priest. He also made an appearance in the Netflix series Black Mirror in the episode “Smithereens” from Season 5 as the protagonist, Chris.
8. Richard Harris
Irish actor and singer Richard Harris was from Limerick. He made theatrical and screen appearances frequently. He appeared in films including Camelot as King Arthur, Jim Sheridan’s The Field, and Gladiator as Marcus Aurelius. However, if you think you know him from somewhere else, it’s because he played our beloved Professor Albus Dumbledore in the first and second Harry Potter films as he passed away in 2002 and was replaced by another Irish actor, Michael Gambon. Harris has received Grammy and Golden Globe awards, and he has also received two Academy Award nominations. He appeared in films and television shows as well.
9. Kenneth Branagh
Don’t you just love the most handsome professor in Hogwarts, Professor Gilderoy Lockhart? Kenneth Branagh is an Irish actor, writer, director, and producer. His family relocated to Berkshire, England, when he was nine years old, even though he was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1960. Shakespeare’s movie adaptations are among Branagh’s most well-known works, and he made Oscar history by becoming the first person to be nominated in five distinct categories. In 2012, Queen Elizabeth II gave him a knighthood to recognise his amazing contributions to Northern Ireland’s community.
10. Evanna Lynch
Born in 1991, Evanna Lynch is an Irish actress who made her debut movie role in Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix as Luna Lovegood. How could we forget her calming voice and the dreamy look in her eyes?
11. Saoirse Ronan
Saoirse Ronan is another amazing Irish actress who was born in 1994. If you still can’t pronounce her name, this should help you: /sersha/. She has played many roles on screen and in theatre, but she’s famous for her role in the coming-of-age book-to-movie adaptation of Little Women.
12. Amybeth McNulty
You may have seen the actress in many roles, but her most recognised one is Anne Shirley in the Netflix series Anne With an E. The actress, who was born in 2001, is an Irish-Canadian, hence her not-so-Irish accent.
13. Cillian Murphy
Cillian Murphy, born on 25 May 1976 in Douglas. County Cork, Ireland, is a cinematic force to be reckoned with. Known for his striking blue eyes, intense screen presence, and penchant for choosing complex, challenging roles, Murphy has carved out a distinctive niche for himself in the world of acting. His journey from the theatrical stages of Ireland to the silver screen of Hollywood is a testament to his unwavering dedication to the craft.
Murphy’s career breakthrough arrived with his portrayal of Jim in the post-apocalyptic thriller 28 Days Later (2002), directed by Danny Boyle. His haunting performance in the film showcased his ability to convey a profound range of emotions, setting the stage for his future success. However, it was his collaboration with director Christopher Nolan that elevated him to international stardom. Murphy’s portrayal of the enigmatic Scarecrow in Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy not only showcased his versatility but also solidified his reputation as a sought-after actor. With his latest role portraying the controversial physicist in Oppenheimer, Murphy proved his acting versatility.
How many Irish actors did you know before reading this? We bet this list surprised you with some names that you thought didn’t belong here. Ireland has been blessing cinema, TV, and theatre with fantastic talents and great actors who have a special place in our hearts. Who would have thought that three names on this list have blessed us in the Harry Potter movies?