Brendan Gleeson on “Calvary” and his Irish background

As award season approaches, names of potential nominees are starting to fly around. One name that continually crops up in discussions of Oscar nominations for Best Actor is Brendan Gleeson (Mad-Eye Moody), who has garnered praise for his lead role in Calvary. In a new interview, the actor discusses his character, Father James, a Catholic priest in a small Irish town.

Being from Ireland himself, Gleeson talks about how the role reminded him of his childhood:

I grew up in Ireland; I grew up as a Catholic. When I put the vestments on for Mass, it became quite emotional. All I could relate to was my 7-year-old self, where you make your First Communion, after having made your first confession, and you come out, and the slate is wiped clean, and you’re now clean of all the horrible sins you can do as a 7-year old.

He goes on to discuss how his character is important to the film’s close-knit community:

One of the strongest themes in the film is having someone who cares about the community, who you can go to and say, ‘I’m having a bit of a problem here’. It’s a pretty undervalued commodity, the ability to listen, I think.

Unusually for a priest, Gleeson’s character was widowed before he joined the Church, and the actor felt that this made him easier to portray:

I understand the priest thing from my upbringing, but I’m not a priest. In the same way it’s kind of hokey for a priest to talk about marriage in an all-knowing way when he’s never been married; it was easier for me to play a priest that had been married.

Gleeson’s long career has allowed him to work with a whole host of directors, so when asked whom he’d like to work with in future, he said,

I’d love to work with the Coen brothers – there are very few people where I’d say, ‘God, I’d love to work with them’.

He explains that the most important thing for him in a role is that it presents him with a challenge:

The older I get, I want to be challenged by things and doing work like ‘Calvary’ where I’m being given challenges all the time is really where I want to go. I’d love to just kind of limit what I’m doing to things where I get something real to sink my teeth into. Something that means something.

Calvary was released earlier this year and also features Gleeson’s son and fellow former Harry Potter cast member Domhnall Gleeson, who plays an unrepentant murderer visited by Father James in prison. So far, Gleeson has already been nominated for Best Actor at the British Independent Film Awards and the European Film Awards for his role as Father James.

Have you seen Calvary? What did you think of Gleeson’s role – would you like to see him win these awards for it?