Saturday 25 May 2019

'I applauded Daniel for quitting acting', says his pal Gabriel Byrne

Gabriel Byrne Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Gabriel Byrne Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Lynne Kelleher

Gabriel Byrne has revealed he has been improving his education between acting roles in the last five years.

The Dubliner, recently back in the capital to film his RTE documentary on literary giant George Bernard Shaw, said he has always been aware there is more to life than movies.

Byrne, who now lives in Maine and New York, says he feels he was robbed of a rounded education during his own school days in Dublin.

"I've been studying economics and history and politics for the last five years," he said.

Daniel Day-Lewis retires
Daniel Day-Lewis retires


"I've dedicated myself to really educating myself about things I don't know about. I was useless at mathematics and science in school."

The father-of-three was one of the first Irish actors to build a full Hollywood career, but says he understands why Daniel Day-Lewis recently retired from making movies.

"I applauded him. I'm sure it's not a decision he took lightly, but I understand," said the Golden Globe-winning actor.

"Daniel was always one of those guys; in-between jobs, he was always trying to learn new things and develop new disciplines. I think it all boils down to you working to live, not living to work.

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"I think there is so much out there to be studied and read about and experienced, that people who get sucked into the notion that life is just about acting short-change themselves.

"I was always taught I was an eejit and I could never grasp subjects because I was too stupid to grasp them.

"I'm kind of making amends for that now. I think it's wonderful to dedicate yourself to something that's not the way you are making your living."

He would love to see George Bernard Shaw's legacy of questioning the status quo being brought into Irish classrooms, he added.

Byrne's documentary on Shaw explores how the writer gave birth to the celebrity brand with his larger-than-life personality and wit.

He says Shaw was one of the loudest voices in the world, challenging authority during his prime in the first half of the 20th century.

"He was anti-war and pro-feminist, he was anti-authoritarian. At the age of 89 he started doing yoga. He also jumped out of airplanes and travelled to China. He was an incredibly courageous and curious man," he said.

"I don't think there is anybody today with the same kind of cultural authority he had in his day.

"That is something to do with the access he had to television, radio, newspapers and the theatre. He was the first writer to turn himself into a brand."

In today's celebrity, social-media obsessed world, Byrne thinks Shaw would have been excited by instant access to an audience.

"I think he would have been on everything. Twitter and every chat show," he said.

My Astonishing Self: Gabriel Byrne on George Bernard Shaw is on RTE One tonight, 9.35pm

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