- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 15, 2012

We’ve seen many of them in the beloved British TV drama “Ballykissangel” and in the “Harry Potter” films. To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on March 17, The List looks at Ireland’s top 20 actors.

  • 20. Brenda Fricker - She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress as Christy Brown’s mother in “My Left Foot” (1989). The 67-year-old was also in the Glenn Close film “Albert Nobbs” last year.
  • 19. Barry Fitzgerald - The 72-year-old Dublin-born actor won the Best Supporting Actor Award for his role as Father Fitzgibbon in the 1944 Bing Crosby film “Going My Way.” An avid golfer, he broke the head off his Oscar statue while practicing his golf swing.
  • 18. Colm J. Meaney - He’s best known for playing Miles O'Brien in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” He is second only to Michael Dorn in most appearances in “Star Trek” episodes. He was excellent in the soccer film “The Damned United” (2009).
  • 17. Cillian Murphy - The striking Cork-native played Scarecrow in the Batman films “Batman Begins” (2005) and “The Dark Knight” (2006). He was star of “28 Days Later” (2003) and also starred in “Inception” (2010).
  • 16. Jonathan Rhys Meyers - His breakout role was in “Bend It Like Beckham” (2002). He played King Henry VIII in “Tudors” (2007-10). He also starred in Woody Allen’s “Match Point” (2005), and “Mission Impossible III” (2006). The 34-year-old earned a Golden Globe for Best Actor playing Elvis Presley in the biographical miniseries “Elvis” (2005).
  • 15. Gabriel Byrne - The Dublin-born star came to fame as the suave thief in the critically acclaimed caper flick “The Usual Suspects” (1995). In recent years he became the star of the HBO series “In Treatment” (2008). In 2010, he was appointed Ireland’s ambassador for culture.
  • 14. Dervla Kirwan - She became famous for her role in “Ballykissangel” (1996-1998) as the publican Assumpta Fitzgerald who falls in love with the local English priest. She also played the villain on “Dr Who” (2008).
  • 13. Patrick McGoohan - The Irish-raised actor came to fame in America in as secret agent John Drake in “Secret Agent” (1964-67). In Britain he starred in “The Prisoner” (1967-68) a show he created and directed. He had a key role in the Gene Wilder film “Silver Streak” (1976). He died at 80 in 2009.
  • 12. Victoria Smurfit - Born into one of Ireland’s richest families Ms. Smurfit starred in “Ballykissangel” and was excellent as the hard-edged detective in British series “Trial & Retribution” (1997-2009). Americans will see her in Ashley Judd’s new TV series “Missing,” which kicked off this week on ABC.
  • 11. Saoirse Ronan - We are going to see a lot more of this talented, up-and-coming actress, who might be the next Meryl Streep. The 17-year-old came to fame in “Atonement” (2007). She is excellent with accents, as witnessed in “The Lovely Bones” (2009) and the war drama film “The Way Back” (2010).
  • 10. Michael Gambon - He came to our attention as the bedridden and embittered writer in the BBC’s “The Singing Detective” (1986), but the 71-year-old is best known as Professor Albus Dumbledore in six of the “Harry Potter” films after inheriting the role from the late Richard Harris.
  • 9. Colin Farrell - Another member of the “Ballykissangel” alumni. Mr. Farrell gained stardom in the hit “Phone Booth” (2003). He had the title-role in the epic “Alexander” (2004) and the leading role of Captain John Smith in “The New World” (2005). This year he will star in the remake of “Total Recall.”
  • 8. Pierce Brosnan - Best known as James Bond from 1994 to 2005 in films such as the stylish “The World Is Not Enough” (1999), and “Die Another Day” (2002). Take a pass on “Mamma Mia” (2008) but catch the 58-year-old in the silly-written “The Ghost Writer” (2010).
  • 7. Kenneth Branagh - The skilled Shakespearean actor was superlative in “Henry V” (1989) and enchanted us in “Much Ado About Nothing” (1993). The Belfast-born actor starred in “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” (2002). He earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor as Laurence Olivier in “My Week with Marilyn (2011). Check him out as the Swedish detective in the absorbing but dark “Wallander” (2008-12) on PBS.
  • 6. Daniel Day-Lewis - What can we say, the reluctant star is a perfectionist. The London-born actor with Irish citizenship won an Oscar for his affectingly palsied performance in “My Left Foot” in 1989. We can’t wait to see him in the much-ballyhooed Steven Spielberg’s Abraham Lincoln epic “Lincoln” coming out this year.
  • 5. Richard Harris - Born in Limerick, Harris came to fame in the rugby film “The Sporting Life” (1963). He played King Arthur in the musical “Camelot” (1967). In his later years he was introduced to a new generation of film fans as Albus Dumbledore in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (2001) and “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” (2002).  He died in 2002 at the age of 72.
  • 4. Maureen O’Sullivan - The Irish-born beauty was a tantalizing starlet as Jane in “Tarzan the Ape Man” (1932). She appeared along with daughter Mia Farrow in Woody Allen’s “Hannah and Her Sisters” (1985), playing the mother of her daughter’s character. She died in 1998 at 87.
  • 3. Maureen O’Hara - We’re still haunted by Miss O’Hara’s performance as a frightfully bloodless rationalist in “Miracle on 34th Street,” but the fact that she was never nominated for an Oscar, especially for her work alongside friend John Wayne in John Ford classics, including “The Quiet Man” (1952) and “Rio Grande” (1950), is astonishing.
  • 2. Peter O’Toole - He achieved fame playing T.E. Lawrence in the epic “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962). Other notable films included “The Lion in Winter” (1968) and “Man of La Mancha” (1972). The 79-year-old has been nominated for eight Academy Awards, and holds the record for most competitive Academy Award acting nominations without a win.
  • 1. Liam Neeson - The Northern Ireland-born star must be one of the hardest working actors out there. The 59-year-old is already in two films this year  “The Grey” and “The Wrath of Titans”  with three others in post-production. He was nominated for and Oscar for his role in “Schindler’s List” (1993) and since then has been averaging about three films a year including “Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace” (1999) and “Taken” (2009).

Compiled by John Haydon
Sources: imdb.com, The Washington Times and Wikipedia