People In Film | Domhnall Gleeson

Domhnall Gleeson: Living the Real Life as Levin

Still a relative newcomer to acting, flame-haired Irish thesp Domhnall Gleeson announces himself on the international stage with a fine performance as Levin in director Joe Wright's ANNA KARENINA. Domhnall Gleeson (whose first name is pronounced “dough-null”) was a perfect fit for the gentle, understated Levin, not least because he himself has a humility that is echoed in his character. “They sent me the script for ANNA KARENINA and I thought, 'Oh, this is way out of my league in terms of the type of actor who would normally play this part'," Gleeson told The Guardian. However, he proved he was more than capable of taking on Levin during an intense five-hour audition in Los Angeles. He particularly impressed Wright and company with the warmth and humanity of his Levin, with Gleeson bringing out of Tom Stoppard's script “the wry sense of humor shooting through it, which I appreciate; this story gets to the depths of what it means to be alive.” Gleeson particularly felt the joy of being alive when, back in London, he got a call saying he had been cast in the movie: "I did a little dance on the street in Soho. It was wonderful," he recalls. Collaborating closely with fellow breakout star Alicia Vikander, who plays his onscreen love interest, Kitty, Gleeson worked hard to ground himself in his character, and listening to him talk about Levin reveals just how much he came to understand him. “Levin’s idea of love is at the same time very pure and blinkered, in that he sees only this one person to love; he’s shooting for the absolute ideal, which isn’t always compatible with real life,” says Gleeson. “But in the story, he is one of the only people who spends any time in the real world; he is in a very real place with love, one not based on artifice.” ANNA KARENINA's veteran producer Tim Bevan says, “Audiences may not have seen Domhnall or Alicia before, but they are excellent –– and, as they are also young people like their characters, there is a freshness to their work.” The critics agree. Empire's Ian Freer called Gleeson's performance “terrific,” while The Playlist's Oliver Lyttleton said, “Best of all are Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander, as faltering would-be lovers Levin and Kitty. They're the least well-known names among the principal cast, but on this basis, it's unlikely to remain that way for long. Gleeson effortlessly shows the good-hearted nature of Levin, but isn't afraid to dig into the hypocrisy of the character.”

Domhnall Gleeson: Irish Screen Royalty

If Domhnall Gleeson looks somewhat familiar to a lot of moviegoers, it's because he's the son of one of Ireland's finest actors, Brendan Gleeson, the star of such films as Martin McDonagh's IN BRUGES. And it was the combination of Gleeson Sr. and McDonagh who, by accident, guided young Domhnall into the world of acting. Initially, 29-year-old Dublin native Gleeson had determined to stay away from the family business, and graduated from Dublin Institute of Technology with a degree in Media Arts, intending to become writer/director. "I'd been very certain about not wanting to do the acting thing because of my father,” Gleeson told “I thought I'd always have the father-son thing of 'He got you the part'.” However, fate intervened when, sometime in the mid-2000s, Domhnall was asked to pick up an award from the Irish Film and Television Academy on behalf of his father (who was busy on location). His acceptance speech was so impressive that McDonagh gave him a copy of his play The Lieutenant of Inishmore and asked him to audition for a role in its upcoming Broadway staging. Gleeson excelled in the part of Davey and received not only glowing reviews but also a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Play. Domhnall also appeared in McDonagh's Oscar-winning short Six-Shooter, in which Brendan played the lead, and father and son have also shared the bill on a handful of other films, most notably Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (in which Domhnall played Ron Weasley's older brother Bill).

Domhnall Gleeson | Red Hot Prospect

In the few years that he has been appearing on screen, Domhnall Gleeson has very quickly demonstrated that acting is his true vocation. He has shone in supporting roles, playing opposite the estimable Jeff Bridges twice, in both the 2009 canine comedy A Dog Year and the Coen brothers' 2010 remake of True Grit. Back in Britain, Gleeson has had more minor roles in the aforementioned Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 and the literary adaptation Never Let Me Go. He was able to really sink his teeth into a role for the first time when playing the loser-ish lead character, Donal, in the darkly funny 2010 Irish sex comedy Sensation, a performance that drew raves and also earned him a 2011 European Shooting Star award. (His ANNA KARENINA co-star Alicia Vikander was also a winner of the same accolade that year, and the pair were also both selected for Variety's 2012 list of “10 Actors to Watch.”) Gleeson built on that success with an acclaimed turn as Bob Geldof, the Irish rocker turned humanitarian, in When Harvey Met Bob, which won him Best Actor at the 2011 Irish Film & TV Awards. In 2012, he has shown his versatility, juxtaposing his period piece work in ANNA KARENINA with playing Clan Techie in the action blockbuster Dredd 3D and Irish nationalist Connor in the tense IRA thriller Shadow Dancer, starring Clive Owen. And ahead for Gleeson are two lead roles, one alongside Michael Fassbender in the 1980s-set pop music drama Frank, and playing Rachel McAdams' love interest in PIRATE RADIO writer/director Richard Curtis' romantic comedy ABOUT TIME. Commenting on the latter movie, Gleeson told The Guardian, "I was ready to do something where there was more opportunity to look for the laughs. Who better to do that with than Richard Curtis? Seeing him rework a gag on the floor has been brilliant."

Domhnall Gleeson | A Filmmaker As Well

Although Gleeson’s desire to write and direct was slightly derailed after college by his unexpected acting career, he’s made up for lost time in recent years. In 2009, he cast his brother Brian in his short What Will Survive of Us, about an uncomfortable meeting between two lovers John and Noreen, each with a very different take about where their relationship is. In 2010, Gleeson made Noreen, about two Irish police men with, as the poster’s tag line suggests, “no idea what’s going on.” Here brother Brian joined his dad Brendan as the two confused cops. Domhnall Gleeson joked about his father’s inside track: “Dad read it and really liked it. I didn’t ask him to audition or anything. He’s so good that he didn’t need to.” Noreen has gone on to a number of international festivals, winning best short film at Galway Film Fleadh 2010. Keeping it all in the family, Domhnall is slated to appear in Gleeson Sr.'s own upcoming debut as writer/director, a big-screen adaptation of At Swim-Two-Birds, the classic Flann O'Brien comic novel which he's described as “the funniest book I've read.”

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