Tuesday 24 April 2018

Force is strong with Domhnall Gleeson as 'Star Wars' dream sinks in

'I never thought I'd be in the same room as JJ Abrams – it's just an amazing opportunity'

RISING STAR: Domhnall Gleeson is already a familiar face in Hollywood – but this is different. Photo: Mark Condren
RISING STAR: Domhnall Gleeson is already a familiar face in Hollywood – but this is different. Photo: Mark Condren
Domhnall Gleeson


"IT'S nuts. It's absolutely nuts, and your heart's going like that," gasps Domhnall Gleeson, pounding his chest rapidly. "But you're also like, 'What an amazing way to spend a Tuesday!'"

Yes, but what did you say when the phone rang?

"I said: 'JJ, how'd you get my number?'" he answers, nearly collapsing off his chair with laughter.

Gleeson is trying to convey what it's like to get a call from director JJ Abrams and be told that you have a leading role in what is likely to be the biggest cinema event of the decade – Star Wars: Episode VII.

In one of the most feverishly anticipated Hollywood announcements in recent years, Tuesday saw the release of a photo on the official Star Wars website showing the newly revealed main cast of the film sitting together with Abrams for a reading. Look carefully and you can spot returning stars of the originals – Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill – alongside new recruits Andy Serkis, Daisy Ridley and Oscar Isaac.

And there, in the foreground, with his back to us, was the signature unkempt mop-and-hoodie combo of our very own Domhnall Gleeson.

"We are so excited to finally share the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII," Abrams said in a statement.

"It is both thrilling and surreal to watch the beloved original cast and these brilliant new performers come together to bring this world to life once again. We start shooting in a couple of weeks, and everyone is doing their best to make the fans proud."

The internet nearly collapsed with the scale of interest the image elicited, and if you weren't already familiar with the red-haired, fresh-faced screen and stage talent, you are now.

After all, Star Wars fans have a reputation for being, shall we say, obsessive.

While it is understood the film is set 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi (1983), a strict non-disclosure agreement by Disney and Lucasfilm prevents Gleeson from divulging anything about the film's plot or his character. It doesn't, however, mean the 30-year-old must hold back his giddiness, or, for that matter, his jitters over the scale of the project, which is set to be the first part of a trilogy.

"It's the maddest thing in the world, and I'm just incredibly excited about it," Domhnall told the Sunday Independent.

"I never thought I'd be in the same room as JJ Abrams. It's just an amazing opportunity, not for my career but for life experience and for the film experience, to be a part of something different to anything else I've done."

Gleeson's student-chic and hysterical chuckle belie the fact that he is a steely professional who has already had leading turns in box-office smashes such as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, True Grit and About Time. The former Tony Award nominee has worked with such celebrated film-makers as the Coen Brothers, Richard Curtis and, most recently, Lenny Abrahamson on Frank (which is now showing ). This can't happen unless you take your craft very seriously indeed.

"There's a desire not to repeat yourself," the Dubliner frowns, "or to become bored with what you're doing because then the work will suffer and it just won't remain vital. The experience and getting the job done are what counts. It all comes back to making sure you give it everything every time and not being lazy, ever."

With a release date of December 18, 2015 mooted, it is likely that Star Wars VII will consume the entire planet. If so, the son of Irish acting giant Brendan is about to step up a level into Hollywood's top tier. Indeed, Gleeson Snr may well come to be known as "Domhnall's dad" from now on.

First things first. Shooting commences in Pinewood Studios in the UK in the coming days. He's clearly daunted, but takes comfort in the fact that his old man – whom he can currently be seen acting alongside in John Michael McDonagh's Calvary – has seen it all before and can prepare him for the world he is about to become immersed in.

"Dad and my whole family are amazing in that way," he says. "My brother Brian – who is a great actor – my other two brothers, my dad and my mam, they're good for reminding me that it's also just a job, and although that sounds unflattering for the project, it's really important. What you're doing is saying you have a life outside of it, and while you have to be excited about it and give it everything, it's still a job and you have life over here too. So as much as the acting advice I can get from my dad is great, life advice is also very important in these situations."

Sunday Independent

Entertainment Newsletter

Going out? Staying in? From great gigs to film reviews and listings, entertainment has you covered.

Editors Choice

Also in Entertainment