He’s happy to chat about his famous father – but just you try getting upand-coming actor Domhnall Gleeson to open up about his love life... Patricia Danaher meets a reluctant romantic
I’ll talk about my dad but not dating
The quickest way to end a conversation with Domhnall Gleeson is to ask him a personal question, particularly anything that’s connected to his private life. The 29-year old Dubliner is more than willing to talk about his work and his famous father, but try to get beneath the public face to discover anything about his intimate life, and you’ll see him head for the hills.
Given that one of his most recent roles was the lead in About Time, a romantic comedy by Richard Curtis — who wrote and directed Four Weddings And A Funeral and Notting Hill — it’s a question he’s been trying to avoid for quite some time. ‘That’s the one area you will not get me to talk about. I refuse to define anybody by somebody they know. I think that’s really bad,’ he says. ‘If I was dating anybody, I wouldn’t want to be defined by it, and if I wasn’t dating anybody, I wouldn’t want to be defined as a single loner who just buys towels for himself and sits at home crying in the evenings.’
Growing up in an artistic household in Malahide as his father’s very successful career took off, the Gleesons have always been very close. Domhnall is the eldest of four boys and the second son to follow his father in his profession. Brendan continues to be a massive influence on Domhnall and his brothers, and it’s clear that his mammoth body of work is both encouraging and intimidating. It is to Brendan and his family that Domhnall goes again and again when he needs advice or help.
‘My dad has a particular influence on me,’ he acknowledges. ‘He’s a very successful actor. He’s done amazing work over many years. He’s very well respected. People know who he is and like him. I obviously look to him for guidance in that way. He’s pretty good in knowing when to give advice. He asks questions and talks about problems you might be having in a different way. He never tells you what to do. As an actor, he’ll talk things through with you. It’s always about finding out what you want to do and then finding the best way to do it. He’s really exceptional in that way and so is my brother Brian. He’s pretty fantastic that way too.
‘My dad will ask very insightful questions that help you find the answer. He’ll ask all of us and my mam our opinion on stuff. Everybody in the family really respects and values everyone’s opinions. I turn to everybody in my family for different things at different points and I always come out of it in a better state of mind.’
They have collaborated on several movie projects in the past decade, including Martin McDonagh’s Six Shooter and more recently in director John Michael McDonagh’s upcoming Calvary. It’s clear that he relishes any chance he gets to work alongside his father. ‘Calvary is really my dad and John McDonagh’s gig. I was only on it for a day, but I was as excited about doing that movie as I was about doing the Richard Curtis film. The opportunity of going toe to toe with my Dad and John was exceptional. You just grab an opportunity like this with both hands and hope you don’t mess it up. I feel like I did a good job. I haven’t seen it yet but I’m expecting it to be a success on its own terms which is the best you can hope. I think what John has done with this film is extremely interesting. It’s got everything that people loved about The Guard, but he’s found another level of film making here.’
Domhnall, along with Gabriel Byrne, Michael Fas sbender, Colin Farrell and Cillian Murphy — the cream of the Ir ish male act ing fraternity — have all been attached to Brendan’s directorial debut o f At SwimTwo- Birds. But although the script has been written and some funding offered by the Irish Film Board in a coproduction with Luxembourg, they have not succeeded in raising all the money necessary to begin making the movie. ‘That’s one of those ones, where I feel like I’m cheating in talking about it. Dad and the people who are making the film are all operating goodo trying to get it made, but I’ve just started to look the other way,’ he says. ‘I realised I was craning my neck looking that way all the time, ignoring other opportunities coming along. It’s an amazing script — and I say that without any sense of false pride because my father wrote it — but it is an amazing script and a big undertaking. They’ve got some great actors.
‘All I’m hoping is that they can get it together while I’m still young enough to play somebody important in it! ‘ Having everybody available and having all the money at the same time is the toughest nut to crack — the calibre of those people committed to it is so high that they are booking work all the time. As far as I know, the main thing holding it back is getting the money together.”
Meanwhile his own stock is firmly in the ascendant, with offers of bigger parts coming all the time. He has just finished filming a starring turn in the Lenny Abrahamson-directed Frank, opposite Fassbender and Maggie Gyllenhaal, and is shortly about to begin filming Unbroken, a movie none other than Angelina Jolie is directing in Australia. He has also signed up for the film Brooklyn, written by Nick Hornby based on Colm Tóibín’s book, and co-starring Saoirse Ronan.
Despite quite a short CV for someone just nudging 30, the accolades and international recognition keep coming. Last year, Variety magazine named him as one of Ten Actors to Watch. ( That list has in the past included Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner and Emma Stone.) He won a Tony for his role in