Entertainment & Arts

Uniform role for Harry Potter star Brendan Gleeson

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Media captionBrendan Gleeson talks to the BBC's Talking Movies about his latest film

Irish actor Brendan Gleeson talks about his new film The Guard, a dark comedy about an unorthodox Galway policeman up to his neck in drugs and murder.

As Alastor 'Mad-­Eye' Moody in the Harry Potter movies, Irish actor Brendan Gleeson made a burly impression in the successful fantasy series.

Yet his abrupt departure from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 last year meant he could not join the teenage wizard in his final big-screen outing last month.

Thanks to black comedy The Guard, though, Gleeson - a familiar face due to parts in the likes of Troy, In Bruges and TV's Into the Storm - is still making his presence felt in cinemas.

The role of maverick 'garda' Gerry Boyle is a terrific one for the 56-year-old Dubliner - albeit one that could make him persona non-grata in the eyes of some of Ireland's law-keeping fraternity.

"I'm either going to get a parking ticket for everything or for absolutely nothing," laughs the larger-than-life performer.

"I wasn't sure what way the lads would take it, but hopefully it'll be a big success with them.

"I'm sure somebody's going to get irritated by it, who'll reckon it's glib or a cheap shot or whatever.

"But they got some cops to go to a screening and ask their advice and apparently they roared - they were beside themselves laughing."

Image caption The actor previously worked with the brother of director John Michael McDonagh (r)

In his personal fiefdom of western Ireland, Sergeant Gerry Boyle is hardly an advertisement for the country's 'Garda Siochana' (Guardians of the Peace).

A small-town copper with a surly disposition and a penchant for prostitutes, he has no interest when informed his turf has been invaded by a trio of international cocaine smugglers.

His mood hardly improves when he is paired with Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle), a by-the-book FBI agent determined to bring these miscreants to justice.

Gleeson and Cheadle became firm friends on set, though the former concedes that some of Wendell's outsider status bled off-screen.

"We did find ourselves teasing him slightly and telling him fibs, just to unsettle him," the actor admits.

"But he was pretty sharp about spotting them. And having read the script, he wasn't surprised to find people could be a little bit forthright maybe."

The aforementioned script was the work of John Michael McDonagh, a writer turned director whose previous credits include 2003 biopic Ned Kelly.

Gleeson was familiar with his work, In Bruges having been written and directed by John's playwright brother Martin.

"There's definitely a shared sense of humour and all that, and a shared commitment to language," he muses.

"They write quite meticulously, with great rhythm and imagination, a certain savagery and a ferocious honesty.

"They came out of the same house and have similarly expressive traits, but they are two very different voices.

"I'm not sure how to define it, other than saying theirs are both very distinctive worlds."

As fate would have it, Gleeson found himself appearing with another high-profile African-American earlier this year.

The circumstances could hardly have been more different, though, taking place as it did during Barack Obama's official visit to Ireland.

Ahead of the president's stirring speech at Dublin's College Green, Gleeson took to the stage to address an enormous crowd of around 40,000 people.

"It was kind of explosive," says the actor of that 23 May occasion. "It was kind of Churchillian in the way words can actually make a real, tangible difference."

Image caption Gleeson was seen as 'Mad-Eye' Moody in three of the Harry Potter films

Having played Winston in 2009's Into the Storm, Brendan is better placed than many to compare the two leaders' public speaking skills.

In the light of Ireland's recent financial woes, however, he also sees the Obama visit and that of The Queen as opportunities for his homeland to turn a symbolic corner.

"I was away for the Queen's visit, but it seemed to be addressing the past and drawing a line under something," he tells the BBC News website.

"Then we had the showbizzy pizazz of Obama, which was about optimism and how our best days are in the future.

"It takes a particular courage to grasp the big ideals and big aspirations," he continues. "Hope is a massive weapon.

"It's not going to pay any credit card bills, but I'm still hoping it's a turn-around."

The Guard is out in the UK on 19 August.

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