Brendan Gleeson talks “Calvary”, dying on screen, and why he didn’t want to do “Harry Potter”

Fans may recognize Brendan Gleeson as Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody from the Harry Potter series, but the versatile Irish actor has been acting in films since 1989. In a new interview with AV Club, Gleeson discusses some of his most recognizable roles.

First, his role as Father James in the new film Calvary, in which he appears beside his son and fellow Harry Potter actor,Domhnall (Bill Weasley):

I think [Calvary] is probably the most deeply, personally affecting film I’ve done in terms of my relationship with the character. I remember doing The General years ago, and [director] John Boorman, after a screen test, said I had done a very good impersonation but that I needed to go deeper than that. And that’s when I first began to understand the nature of inhabiting a character. And this one draws it to a length that I wasn’t quite prepared for. Because it was about a personal, spiritual journey and humanity—and about maintaining that notion that human beings are worth it and that there’s a future in some way that can be beautiful. Because everybody feels so disillusioned and betrayed. And so it had personal consequences. I found it very trying to absorb that amount of pain in the making of it. And afterwards, too, I couldn’t fully recover from it.

Talk invariably turned to the Potter films, and Gleeson dropped a bombshell by saying that he didn’t want to be in multiple films.

I didn’t want to. I signed up for one. I didn’t really want to do a franchise. That’s not my thing. Because I taught for 10 years. I said if I go on, and there’s a bunch of brats here, I’m not going to be able to live with it. So I was kind of slightly terrified about the whole notion. And my kids were really excited about me doing it. But I signed up, and I went onto the set, and it was a really positive thing. The kids were really lovely. They were allowed to grow up at a proper pace. […] I played a teacher, and I had been a teacher for 10 years, so all this throwing chalk and dusters at people and stuff—I remember that from my own childhood. But also, I’m sure I was able to exorcise some of the demons from my own teaching career. It was great.

He goes on to discuss the difficulty in crafting Mad-Eye’s ocular appearance, saying,

And trying to find the look, trying to find the eye. I assumed [Moody] looked like a cyclops. But the more we talked about it, we wanted something he actually made as a wizard. So the creature effects—all that stuff and working with that eye—were [expletive] fantastic. Massive respect for the craftsmanship—kind of old-fashioned, in a way. Before the CGI just about took over in Number 4, particularly, which is my big one. But we kept the eye in-camera. That sort of magic—that’s real magic in cinema.

Finally, Gleeson was asked if he regretted that Mad-Eye’s death occurred off screen. His answer:

No, no, no, no, no, it’s great having other people talking about your demises. It’s so much more flattering. I die in a lot of movies, don’t I? I don’t owe anything on the death-scene front. So I was happy enough. And actually, my son announced it, Domhnall announced it. Also, I think I had the coolest broom. Let’s be honest, it was like a Harley Davidson kind of a broom.

Check out the whole interview here!

Calvary opens in theaters on August 8! You can check out a trailer for the film right here!

Would you have liked to see Mad-Eye die on screen? Or do you think that it was fitting to let Domhnall announce his death? Tell us in the comments!