Have you seen About Time yet? If you haven’t, maybe you should—if not for the heartwarming, comedic goodness that is a Richard Curtis movie (the mind behind Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and Love, Actually) than to see up-and-comer Domhnall Gleeson in his first feature lead role. “It would have been a lot easier for Richard to cast somebody famous,” says Gleeson, 30, with a laugh. “To be honest, they probably would have made more money!”
The Dublin-born Gleeson is the son of actor Brendan Gleeson, and first appeared on the scene earning a Tony nomination in 2006 for his work in the Broadway production of The Lieutenant of Inishmore. He’d appeared in smaller roles in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 & 2, Never Let Me Go, and Anna Karenina, playing Levin. In fact, when he first met with Curtis he still had Levin’s rather substantial facial hair. “When we cast him he had this very severe big beard from Anna Karenina,” says Curtis. “I was trying to cast this callow youth and it was a kind of leap of faith. But I could see underneath the bush there was a very nice human being.”
Gleeson laughs when this is retold to him. “He’s been telling f—ing everyone about the beard,” he says. “And he makes fun of my accent. So, yes, between the beard and the accent I had some convincing to do.”
Luckily it paid off: “It’s a really sweet movie,” he says of About Time. “A lot of people cry. A lot of people call their parents afterwards. A lot of people go back and watch it a second time: I’ve had people in London who have told me they’ve watched it three times. It makes their day better. I like films that are gritty and hard-hitting and suspenseful. Thrillers too. But it’s really nice to be a part of something that people have a joyous experience with. It’s special.” (His father has seen it, Gleeson says. “It had the desired effect.”)
But get ready to see a lot more of Gleeson — he has four films due out next year: there’s Calvary which co-stars Chris O’Dowd and his father; (“That’s going to be a seriously good film,” he says. “I worked for one day on it and it was worth six months on another movie.”) Frank, co-starring Michael Fassbender and Ex Machina with Inside Llewyn Davis star, Oscar Issac; and Unbroken, directed by Angelina Jolie.