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Gabriel Byrne

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Gabriel Byrne
Byrne in 2010
Gabriel James Byrne

(1950-05-12) 12 May 1950 (age 74)
Dublin, Ireland
Years active1978–present
(m. 1988; div. 1999)
Hannah Beth King
(m. 2014)

Gabriel James Byrne (born 12 May 1950)[1] is an Irish actor. He has received a Golden Globe Award as well as nominations for a Grammy Award, two Primetime Emmy Awards and two Tony Awards. Byrne was awarded the Irish Film and Television Academy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018 and was listed at number 17 on The Irish Times list of Ireland's greatest film actors in 2020.[2] The Guardian named him one of the best actors never to have received an Academy Award nomination.[3]

His acting career began in the Focus Theatre before he joined London's Royal Court Theatre in 1979. Byrne's screen debut came in the Irish drama serial The Riordans and the spin-off show Bracken. He went on to star in such films as Excalibur (1981), Lionheart (1987), Miller's Crossing (1990), Little Women (1994), Dead Man (1995), The Usual Suspects (1995), The Man in the Iron Mask (1998), Enemy of the State (1998), Vanity Fair (2004), The 33 (2015), and Hereditary (2018). He co-wrote The Last of the High Kings (1996) and also produced In the Name of the Father (1993).

For his Broadway work, he has received two nominations for the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his roles in the Eugene O'Neill plays A Moon for the Misbegotten (2000), and Long Day's Journey into Night (2016). For his television work, Byrne has received two nominations for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his role as Paul Weston in the HBO drama series In Treatment (2008–2010), he also received a Golden Globe Award. Other notable television roles include Vikings (2013), Maniac (2018), and War of the Worlds (2019–2022).

Early life


Gabriel James Byrne was born on 12 May 1950 in Walkinstown, Dublin, Ireland, the son of Roman Catholic parents. His father Dan was a soldier and cooper, while his mother Eileen (née Gannon), from Elphin, County Roscommon,[4] was a hospital nurse. He has five younger siblings: Donal, Thomas, Breda, Margaret, and a sister who died at an early age, Marian.[5]

Byrne attended Ardscoil Éanna secondary school in Crumlin, where he later taught Spanish and history.[6] He attended University College Dublin, where he studied archaeology, Spanish and linguistics, and graduated with a BA in 1972,[7] becoming proficient in the Irish language. He went on to complete a Higher Diploma in Education (HDipEd) in 1973.

About his early training to become a priest, he said in an interview, "I spent five years in the seminary and I suppose it was assumed that one had a vocation. I realised subsequently that I didn't."[8]

He played football in Dublin with Stella Maris.[9]

In January 2011, he spoke in an interview on The Meaning of Life about being sexually abused by priests during his childhood.[10][11]



Byrne worked in archaeology when he left UCD. He maintained his love of his language, later writing the first television drama in Irish, Draíocht, on Ireland's national Irish-language television station, TG4, when it began broadcasting in 1996.[12]

Before becoming an actor, Byrne had many jobs, including archaeologist, cook, and Spanish and history school teacher at Ardscoil Éanna in Crumlin. He started acting at age 29,[7] and began his career on stage with the Focus Theatre and the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. He later joined the Performing Arts Course at Roslyn Park College in Sandymount. He came to prominence on the final season of the Irish television show The Riordans,[7] subsequently starring in his own spin-off series, Bracken. His first play for television was Michael Feeney Callan's Love Is ... (RTÉ). He made his film debut in 1981, as King Uther Pendragon in John Boorman's King Arthur epic, Excalibur.[7]

In 1983, he appeared with Richard Burton in the miniseries Wagner, co-starring Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson.[13] In 1985, he starred in the acclaimed political thriller Defence of the Realm, though he subsequently claimed he had been upstaged by his co-star, veteran actor Denholm Elliott: "I amended the actor's cliché to 'Never work with children, animals or Denholm Elliott'."[14] In the 90s, his production company Plurabelle Films received a first look deal with Phoenix Pictures.[15]

Byrne holding his Herald Angel, an award given to him at the 2006 Edinburgh International Film Festival.

In 2007, he led the jury of the Kerry Film Festival.[16]

Upon his return to theatre in 2008, he appeared as King Arthur in Camelot with the New York Philharmonic from 7 to 10 May, following the footsteps of veteran actors Richard Burton and Richard Harris. Byrne was cast in a film adaptation of Flann O'Brien's metafictional novel At Swim-Two-Birds, alongside Colin Farrell and Cillian Murphy. Actor Brendan Gleeson was set to direct the film.[17] In October 2009, however, Gleeson expressed fear that, should the Irish Film Board be abolished as planned by the Irish State, the production might fall through.[18]

Byrne starred as therapist Paul Weston in the HBO series In Treatment from 2008 to 2010. He was named as TV's "latest Dr. McDreamy" by The New York Times[19] for this role, and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Drama Series in 2008. He also received his first Emmy Award nomination (Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series) for the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards that same year.[citation needed]

In 2011, he signed up to appear in a film by director Costa-Gavras, Le Capital,[20] an adaptation of Stéphane Osmont's novel of the same name. In 2013, he starred as Earl Haraldson in the first season of Vikings opposite Travis Fimmel and Clive Standen.[citation needed]

In 2017, he appeared in Mad to Be Normal (previously titled Metanoia), a biopic of the Scottish psychiatrist R. D. Laing, produced by Gizmo Films.[21]

Walking with Ghosts, Byrne's one-man show based on his memoir of the same title (published by Grove Press in January 2021), premiered at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin on 1 February 2022,[22] before playing at the Edinburgh International Festival.[23] It opened on 6 September 2022 at the Apollo Theatre in London,[24] marking Byrne's West End debut at the age of 72, in 'a career-best performance',[25] and opened on 26 October 2022 at the Music Box Theatre on Broadway.[26]

Personal life


Byrne had a 12-year relationship with television producer and presenter Aine O'Connor, from 1974 to 1986.[27] He began a relationship with actress Ellen Barkin, and relocated to Manhattan to be with her. A year later, in 1988, he married Barkin, with whom he has two children. The couple separated amicably in 1993, and divorced in 1999.[28] He later married Hannah Beth King on 4 August 2014 at Ballymaloe House in County Cork.[29] As of 2021, Byrne lives with his family in Rockport, Maine.[30]

At the fifth Jameson Dublin International Film Festival in 2007, Byrne was presented with the first of the new Volta awards, for lifetime achievement in acting. He received the Honorary Patronage of the University Philosophical Society, of Trinity College Dublin on 20 February 2007. In November 2007, he was awarded an honorary degree by the National University of Ireland, Galway; the president of the university, Iognáid Ó Muircheartaigh, said that the award was in recognition of the actor's "outstanding contribution to Irish and international film".[31]

Byrne released a documentary for the 20th Galway Film Fleadh in the summer of 2008 called Stories from Home, an intimate portrait about his life. It premiered in the United States in September 2009 at the Los Angeles Irish Film Festival.[32]

Byrne mentioned in interviews and his 1994 autobiography, Pictures in My Head that he hates being called "brooding". He has been listed by People as one of the "Sexiest Men Alive". Entertainment Weekly has also dubbed Byrne as one of the hottest celebrities over the age of 50.[33]

Byrne is an atheist and has been vocally critical of the Catholic Church, which he described in a 2011 interview with The Guardian as "repressive of women and minorities and repressive of its followers". In the same interview, he said that he still reads the Bible "for the fables".[34]

He was cultural ambassador for Ireland until he criticised The Gathering, a tourism initiative to encourage people of Irish heritage to visit the country, describing it as "a scam" and adding that the majority of Irish people "don't give a shit about the diaspora except to shake them down for a few quid".[35] Byrne also criticised the marketing strategy employed by Guinness known as Arthur's Day as "a cynical piece of exercise in a country which has a huge drinking problem".[36]




Year Title Role Notes
1978 On a Paving Stone Mounted[37] Unknown
1981 Love Is ... Larry
1981 Excalibur Uther Pendragon
1983 Hanna K. Joshua Herzog
1983 The Keep Sturmbannfuhrer Erich Kaempffer
1984 Reflections William Masters
1985 Defence of the Realm Nick Mullen
1986 Gothic Lord Byron
1987 Lionheart The Black Prince
1987 Hello Again Dr. Kevin Scanlon
1987 Julia and Julia Paolo Vinci
1987 Siesta Augustine
1988 The Courier Val
1989 A Soldier's Tale Saul
1989 Diamond Skulls Lord Hugo Bruckton
1990 Miller's Crossing Tom Reagan
1990 Shipwrecked Lieutenant John Merrick
1992 Into the West Papa Reilly Also associate producer
1992 Cool World Jack Deebs
1993 Point of No Return Bob aka The Assassin
1993 A Dangerous Woman Colin Mackey
1993 In the Name of the Father Executive producer
1994 A Simple Twist of Fate John Newland
1994 Trial by Jury Daniel Graham
1994 Little Women Professor Friedrich Bhaer
1994 Prince of Jutland Fenge
1995 The Usual Suspects Dean Keaton / Keyser Söze (flashback)
1995 Dead Man Charlie Dickinson
1995 Frankie Starlight Jack Kelly
1996 Mad Dog Time Ben London
1996 The Last of the High Kings Jack Griffin Also writer and executive producer
1996 Somebody Is Waiting Roger Ellis Also executive producer
1996 Dr. Hagard's Disease Unknown Unreleased; also executive producer
1997 Smilla's Sense of Snow The Mechanic
1997 The End of Violence Ray Bering
1997 This Is the Sea Rohan
1998 Polish Wedding Bolek
1998 The Man in the Iron Mask D'Artagnan
1998 The Brylcreem Boys Sean O'Brien Also co-producer
1998 Quest for Camelot Sir Lionel (voice)
1998 Enemy of the State NSA Agent Fake Brill
1999 Stigmata Father Andrew Kiernan
1999 End of Days The Man / Satan
2000 Canone inverso The Violinist ('Jeno Varga')
2000 Mad About Mambo Executive producer
2002 Virginia's Run Ford Lofton
2002 Spider Bill Cleg
2002 Emmett's Mark Jack Marlow / Stephen Bracken
2002 Horses: The Story of Equus Narrator (voice)
2002 Ghost Ship Captain Sean Murphy
2003 Shade Charlie Miller
2003 Flight from Death Narrator (voice)
2004 Vanity Fair The Marquess of Steyne
2004 P.S. Peter Harrington
2004 The Bridge of San Luis Rey Brother Juniper
2005 Assault on Precinct 13 Captain Marcus Duvall
2005 Wah-Wah Harry Compton
2006 Played Eddie
2006 Jindabyne Stewart Kane
2007 Emotional Arithmetic Christopher Lewis
2008 2:22 Detective Swain Uncredited
2009 Butte, America Narrator (voice)
2009 Perrier's Bounty The Reaper (voice)
2009 Leningrad Phillip Parker
2012 Le Capital Dittmar Rigule
2012 I, Anna Detective Bernie Reid
2013 Just a Sigh (Le Temps de l'aventure) Doug
2013 All Things to All Men Joseph Corsco
2014 Vampire Academy Victor Dashkov
2015 The 33 André Sougarret
2015 Louder Than Bombs Gene Reed
2015 Nobody Wants the Night Bram Trevor
2016 Carrie Pilby Mr. Daniel Pilby
2016 No Pay, Nudity Lawrence Rose
2017 Mad to Be Normal Jim
2017 Lies We Tell Donald
2018 In the Cloud Doc Wolff
2018 An L.A. Minute Ted Gold
2018 Hereditary Steve Graham Also executive producer
2018 Atlantic Salmon: Lost at Sea Narrator (voice)
2020 Lost Girls Richard Dormer
2020 Death of a Ladies' Man Samuel O'Shea
2022 Murder at Yellowstone City Sheriff James Ambrose
2022 Lamborghini: The Man Behind the Legend Enzo Ferrari
2022 The Boy, The Mole, The Fox And The Horse The Horse (voice) Short film
2023 Dance First Samuel Beckett Post-production[38]
2025 John Wick Presents: Ballerina TBA Post-production
Denotes films that have not yet been released


Year Title Role Notes
1978–1979 The Riordans Pat Barry Drama series
1980–1982 Bracken Pat Barry Drama series
1981 Strangers Johnny Maguire Episode: "The Flowers of Edinburgh"
1981 The Search for Alexander the Great Ptolemy 4 episodes
1982 Joyce in June Keogh / Blazes Boylan Television film
1983 Wagner Karl Ritter 3 episodes
1985 Christopher Columbus Christopher Columbus 4 episodes
1985 Mussolini: The Untold Story Vittorio Mussolini 6 episodes
1993 Intimate Portrait Narrator (voice) Episode: "Kim Cattrall"
1994 Screen Two The Good Thief Episode: "All Things Bright and Beautiful"
1995 Buffalo Girls Teddy Blue Television film
1995 Saturday Night Live Himself / Various Characters Episode: "Gabriel Byrne/Alanis Morissette"
1996 Draíocht Father Television film
1997 Glenroe Pat Barry Episode: "Miley's New Bullock"
1997 Weapons of Mass Distraction Lionel Powers Television film
2000 Madigan Men Ben Madigan 12 episodes; also co-executive producer
2008–2010 In Treatment Dr. Paul Weston 106 episodes
2012 Secret State Tom Dawkins 4 episodes
2013 Vikings Earl Haraldson 6 episodes
2014 Quirke Quirke 3 episodes
2016 Marco Polo Pope Gregory X Episode: "Let God's Work Begin"
2018 Maniac Porter Milgrim 5 episodes
2019–2022 The War of the Worlds Bill Ward 24 episodes
2020 ZeroZeroZero Edward Lynwood 2 episodes


Year Title Role Theatre Ref.
2000 A Moon for the Misbegotten James 'Jim' Tyrone, Jr. Walter Kerr Theatre (Broadway)
2002 The Exonerated Kerry Max Cook (replacement) Bleecker Street Theatre (Off-Broadway) [39]
2005 A Touch of the Poet Cornelius Melody Studio 54 (Broadway)
2008 Camelot King Arthur Avery Fisher Hall
2016 Long Day's Journey into Night James Tyrone American Airlines Theatre (Broadway)
2022 Walking with Ghosts Performer Music Box Theatre (Broadway)


Year Award Category Title Result Ref.
1979 Jacob's Awards Best Actor in a TV Series (Drama) Bracken Won
1987 Fantasporto Best Actor Gothic / Defence of the Realm Won
1995 National Board of Review of Motion Pictures Best Acting by an Ensemble The Usual Suspects Won
1998 Satellite Awards Best Actor in a Mini-Series or TV Movie Weapons of Mass Distraction Nominated
Grammy Awards Best Spoken Word for Children The Star-Child / The Nightingale and the Rose Nominated
1999 Cinequest Film Festival Maverick Tribute Award Won
2000 Theatre World Awards Best Acting A Moon for the Misbegotten Won
Tony Awards Best Leading Actor in a Play Nominated
Razzie Awards Worst Supporting Actor End of Days / Stigmata Nominated
Blockbuster Entertainment Awards Favorite Actor (Horror) Stigmata Nominated
2005 Irish Film and Television Awards Best Lead Actor in a Feature Film Wah-Wah Nominated
2006 Inside Film Awards Best Actor Jindabyne Nominated
Australian Film Institute Awards Best Lead Actor Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Awards Outstanding Actor in a Play A Touch of the Poet Won
2007 Jameson Dublin International Film Festival Lifetime Achievement in Acting Won
2008 Irish Film and Television Awards Best Lead Actor in a Feature Film Jindabyne Nominated
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series In Treatment Nominated
Dingle International Film Festival Gregory Peck Excellence in the Art of Film Award Awarded
Golden Globe Awards Best Actor in a Television Series - Drama In Treatment Won
Satellite Awards Best Actor in a Television Series – Drama Nominated
2009 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Nominated
2016 Tony Awards Best Leading Actor in a Play Long Day's Journey into Night Nominated
2018 Irish Film and Television Awards Lifetime Achievement Award For his contribution to cinema Received
2021 Best Actor in a Leading Role - Film Death of a Ladies' Man Won

In 2007, NUI Galway awarded him an honorary doctorate for his outstanding contribution to Irish and international film, theatre and the arts.[citation needed]


  • Pictures in My Head. Dublin: Wolfhound Press. 1994. ISBN 978-0-86327-462-6.
  • Walking with Ghosts: A Memoir. New York: Grove Press. 2020. ISBN 978-0-8021-5712-6.


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  4. ^ "Holiday Homes, Elphin, Co. Roscommon – Rent Self Catering Accommodation in Ireland". myhome.ie. Archived from the original on 12 August 2017. Retrieved 20 November 2012.
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  7. ^ a b c d Stated on Inside the Actors Studio (2000).
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  27. ^ "Hollywood Celebrities". Hollywood.com. 28 May 2014. Archived from the original on 7 August 2017. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
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  36. ^ O'Shea, James (4 December 2012). "Gabriel Byrne Again Slams The Gathering and Arthur's Day: Actor Says Ireland Needs a Real Relationship with the Diaspora". Irish Central. Archived from the original on 8 December 2012. Retrieved 4 December 2012.
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  39. ^ "The Exonerated at the Bleecker Street Theatre". Lortel Archives. Archived from the original on 20 February 2019.

Further reading