Sinéad Cusack

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Sinéad Cusack
Jane Moira Cusack

(1948-02-18) 18 February 1948 (age 73)
Dalkey, Dublin, Ireland
Years active1967–present
(m. 1978)
Children3, including Max Irons and Richard Boyd Barrett

Sinéad Moira Cusack (/ʃɪˈnd/ shin-AYD; born 18 February 1948) is an Irish actress. Her first acting roles were at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, before moving to London in 1969 to join the Royal Shakespeare Company. She has won the Critics' Circle and Evening Standard Awards for her performance in Sebastian Barry's Our Lady of Sligo.

Cusack has received two Tony Award nominations: once for Best Leading Actress in Much Ado About Nothing (1985), and again for Best Featured Actress in Rock 'n' Roll (2008). She has also received five Olivier Award nominations for As You Like (1981), The Maid's Tragedy (also 1981), The Taming of the Shrew (1983), Our Lady of Sligo (1998) and Rock 'n' Roll (2007). In 2020, she was listed at number 25 on The Irish Times' list of Ireland's greatest film actors.[1]

Early life[edit]

Cusack was born Jane Moira Cusack in Dalkey, County Dublin, the daughter of actress Maureen Cusack (born Mary Margaret Kiely) and actor Cyril Cusack.[2] She is the sister of actresses Sorcha Cusack, Niamh Cusack, and half-sister to Catherine Cusack. Her father was born in South Africa, to an Irish father and an English mother, and had worked with Micheál Mac Liammóir at Dublin's Gate Theatre.[3]



Her first acting roles were at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. In 1975, she moved to London and joined the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) starring in Dion Boucicault's London Assurance in the West End. Cusack's work with the RSC continued with an award-winning performance as Celia in As You Like It which included the Clarence Derwent Award and her first Olivier Award nomination. She secured a second Olivier Award nomination for her performance in The Maid's Tragedy by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher in 1981, followed two years later with a third Olivier Award nomination as Kate in The Taming of the Shrew.

She made her Broadway debut in 1984 performing in repertory with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Starring opposite Derek Jacobi, she played Roxane in Anthony Burgess' translation of Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac and Beatrice in William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Terry Hands. Much Ado was first produced at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1982–83, then moved to London's Barbican Theatre for the 1983–1984 season where it was joined by Cyrano, before both plays transferred to New York's Gershwin Theatre from October 1984 to January 1985, for which Cusack received a Tony Award nomination for her performance as Beatrice, and costar Derek Jacobi won the award for his Benedick. The production of Cyrano de Bergerac was later filmed in 1985.

During this period, Cusack and her husband, Jeremy Irons, appeared in a Shakespeare Winter's Eve, a major fundraiser for the Riverside Shakespeare Company in New York, along with other members of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Following the Broadway run, the plays toured the US, making stops in Washington DC and Los Angeles. Cusack's connection with the Royal Shakespeare Company continued with a series of leading roles include Portia in The Merchant of Venice opposite David Suchet, Lady Macbeth opposite Jonathan Pryce in Macbeth and Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra in Stratford-upon-Avon and at London's Haymarket Theatre in the West End.

In 1990, Cusack, in the role of Masha, joined two of her sisters, Niamh (as Irina) and Sorcha (as Olga), and her father, Cyril Cusack (as Chebutykin) for a well-received production of Anton Chekhov's tragi-comedy The Three Sisters in a new version by Frank McGuinness, directed by Adrian Noble at the Gate Theatre, Dublin before transferring to the Royal Court Theatre in London. The production also featured Niamh's husband Finbar Lynch as Solenyi and Lesley Manville as Natasha. The production won the three real-life sisters the Irish Life Award in 1992.

One of her best known stage roles was Our Lady of Sligo by Sebastian Barry in 1998, in which she played the principal role of Mai O'Hara in performances in Ireland, on Broadway and at the National Theatre. For this she won the 1998 Evening Standard Theatre Awards for Best Actress, the 1998 Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Best Actress and her fourth Olivier Award nomination for Best Actress. In 2006/7 she starred with Rufus Sewell in Tom Stoppard's Rock 'n' Roll at the Royal Court Theatre in London which transferred to the West End and Broadway, winning Cusack her fifth Olivier Award nomination and her second Tony Award nomination.

In 2015, Cusack returned to Ireland's Abbey Theatre, where she began her theatre career. She appeared in the world première of Mark O'Rowe's play Our Few And Evil Days, acting opposite long-time collaborator Ciarán Hinds. She won the Irish Times Theatre Award for Best Actress.

Film and television[edit]

Cusack starred with Peter Sellers in the film Hoffman (1970). She guest starred in an episode of The Persuaders! (1971), a TV series starring Tony Curtis and Roger Moore, as Jenny Lindley, a wealthy heiress who suspects that a man claiming to be her dead brother is in fact an impostor.[4] In 1975 she made three appearances in the TV series Quiller as the character 'Roz'.

Cusack and her husband Jeremy Irons appeared together in the film Waterland (1992), in a television adaptation of Christopher Hampton's Tales from Hollywood (also 1992), and again in Bernardo Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty (1996). Further film work includes starring roles in the films V for Vendetta (2005) and Eastern Promises (2007), a thriller directed by David Cronenberg. Her performance in The Tiger's Tail (also 2007) won her a first IFTA Award nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. She won the IFTA Award for her performance in The Sea (2013), adapted from the novel by John Banville. Cusack was nominated once more for an IFTA Award for her performance in John Boorman's drama film Queen and Country (2014), which premièred at the Cannes Film Festival.

Further starring roles include lead roles in Oliver's Travels (1995), Have Your Cake And Eat It (1997) for which she won the RTS Award for Best Actress and Frank McGuinness's The Hen House (1989) for BBC Television. She starred in the title role of George du Maurier's Trilby (1976), in an adaptation for the BBC's Play of the Month, with Alan Badel as Svengali. She also starred in the BBC mini-series North and South (2004, from the novel by Elizabeth Gaskell) as Mrs. Thornton. Cusack starred in the BBC sitcom Home Again (2006) and appeared in the TV series Camelot (2011), which ran for one season. Cusack had featured roles in the mini-series The Deep (2014) and the series Marcella (2016), an eight-episode murder mystery.


Along with other actresses, including Paola Dionisotti, Fiona Shaw, Juliet Stevenson and Harriet Walter, Cusack contributed to a book by Carol Rutter called Clamorous Voices: Shakespeare's Women Today (1994).[5] The book analysed modern acting interpretations of female Shakespearean roles.

Personal life[edit]

Cusack married British actor Jeremy Irons in 1978, and they have two sons, Samuel James (b. 1978), and Maximilian Paul (b. 1985).

Prior to marrying Irons, Cusack gave birth to a son in 1967 and placed the boy for adoption. In 2007, a journalist for the Irish Sunday Independent, Daniel McConnell, revealed that Cusack was the mother of left-wing general election candidate and now member of Irish parliament Richard Boyd Barrett.[6] The two have since been reunited.[7] Cusack campaigned for Boyd Barrett when he stood unsuccessfully in Ireland's 2007 general election as the People Before Profit Alliance's candidate for Dún Laoghaire constituency.[8][9] She also joined him in the count centre as he awaited the outcome of the 2011 general election, at which he was elected to Dáil Éireann.[10] In May 2013, Boyd Barrett revealed that theatre director Vincent Dowling was his biological father.[11]

She had a long relationship with playwright Tom Stoppard but made it clear that she wanted to remain married to Irons and close to her two sons. After her reunion with Boyd Barrett she also wanted to spend time with him in Dublin rather than with Stoppard in France where they shared a house.[12]

Cusack is a patron of the Burma Campaign UK, the London-based group campaigning for human rights and democracy in Burma.

In 1998, Cusack was named, along with her husband, in a list of the biggest private financial donors to the British Labour Party.[13] In August 2010, Cusack signed the "Irish artists' pledge to boycott Israel" initiated by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign.[14]


Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Work Category
1981 Clarence Derwent Award for Best Supporting Actress As You Like It Won
1981 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role As You Like It Nominated
1981 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Revival The Maid's Tragedy Nominated
1983 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Revival The Taming of the Shrew Nominated
1985 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play Much Ado About Nothing Nominated
1998 RTS Television Award for Best Actor - Female Have You Cake And Eat It Won
1998 Evening Standard Award for Best Actress Our Lady of Sligo Won
1999 Critics' Circle Award for Best Actress Our Lady of Sligo Won
1999 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Play Our Lady of Sligo Nominated
2007 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Play Rock 'n' Roll Nominated
2007 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play Rock 'n' Roll Nominated
2007 IFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Film The Tiger's Tail Nominated
2014 IFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Film The Sea Won
2015 IFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Film Queen and Country Nominated
2015 Irish Times Theatre Awards for Best Actress Our Few And Evil Days Won


  1. ^ "The 50 greatest Irish film actors of all time – in order".
  2. ^ The Annual Obituary. 1993. ISBN 9781558623200.
  3. ^ Nick Curtis (14 July 2006). "Cusack continues to Rock – Theatre & Dance – Arts – London Evening Standard". Retrieved 4 December 2012.
  4. ^ The Persuaders!, 1971. Episode 3, Season 1. "Take Seven" The transcript of the episode, in Finnish An extensive list of her works is available at
  5. ^ Rutter, Carol Chillington (1988). Clamorous Voices: Shakespeare's Women Today. ISBN 978-0-7043-4145-6.
  6. ^ McConnell, Daniel (13 May 2007). "Red hot Richard is son of actress". Retrieved 6 July 2013.
  7. ^ Entertainment News » Irons' Wife Reunited with Adopted Son
  8. ^ Taafe, Danielle (27 June 2007). "Cusack reunited with son she gave up for adoption". The Independent. Archived from the original on 28 September 2008. Retrieved 14 August 2007.
  9. ^ Richard BOYD BARRETT Archived 16 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Ingle, Róisín. "Fresh-minted TDs emerge from 'Group of Death'". 28 February 2011. The Irish Times.
  11. ^ Lynch, Donal (12 May 2013). "Dowling was my father, his death saddens me". Sunday Independent.
  12. ^ Roche, Anthony. "Tom Stoppard; A Life-A great biography of a great playwright". Retrieved 24 October 2020.
  13. ^ "'Luvvies' for Labour". BBC News. 30 August 1998. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  14. ^ "Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign: Irish artists' pledge to boycott Israel". IPSC. 12 August 2010. Retrieved 26 September 2010.

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