A Conversation with Gabriel Byrne

Gabriel Byrne Conversatio

A Conversation with Gabriel Byrne

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"Gabriel is a beautiful man. He epitomizes for me the Modern European Man: dynamic, a great potential for hard work, for fun, for introspection, and he's a wonderful father, actor and writer. He makes me sick." - Liam Neeson

The grace and intellect Gabriel Byrne brings to the screen is that of a dramatic poet. Using the most basic of human elements, he excites emotions with a simple look or truthful delivery of a word. Most often remembered for his depictions of Tom Reagan in the Coen Brothers' Miller's Crossing (1990), Friedrich Bhaer in Gillian Armstrong's Little Women (1994) and Dean Keaton in Bryan Singer's The Usual Suspects (1995), the diversity and depth of Gabriel Byrne's roles distinguish him as one of modern cinema's masters. Byrne's ability to portray a variety of complex people seems rooted in his deep and varied life.

Born in Dublin, Ireland in 1950, Gabriel Byrne's wealth of experiences is as varied as his choice in film projects. Once an archeologist, he has accepted such jobs as schoolteacher, short-order cook, bullfighter and even spent days in a teddy bear factory placing plastic eyes on toys' heads. As a young Dubliner, he delighted in watching American movies projected on white sheets in makeshift theaters created from bus seats. It wasn't until he was 29 that he gave any thought to a career in acting, and it wasn't until his thirties that he found international success. Making his feature film debut in John Boorman's epic, Excalibur, Byrne has starred in such films as Costa-Gavras's Hanna K, John Badham's Point of No Return, Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man, Bille August's Smilla's Sense of Snow and Wim Wender's The End of Violence. He also made a cameo appearance in Miramax's Last of the High Kings, which he co-wrote.

In 1992, he put on the producer's hat for Into the West, in which he also starred with his former wife, Ellen Barkin and has continued to develop further projects with his own production company. An Academy Award-nominated producer, as well as an actor, Gabriel Byrne executive produced In the Name of the Father (1993) starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Pete Postlethwaite. He is drawn to the theme of a movie and the people with whom he works rather than basing his decisions on potential commercial success, and he has expressed a continued interest in retaining his connection with and making films about Ireland. In addition to his work in films, Byrne has recently found success as an author. His first book, "Pictures in My Head", became an immediate best-seller in Ireland, and last year, it came out to excellent reviews in America. Even more than his achievements, it is his attitude and character that most endear Byrne to his fans and his friends: "People who believe that being incredibly famous or wealthy or powerful is going to make them happier are on a fool's mission," says Byrne. "I'm famous enough, that suits me fine. The relentless emphasis on celebrity in this country drives me around the fucking bend. The new religion is celebrity, but nobody stops to question what it means when you achieve it. Honestly, I'm very scared of the whole notion of fame. You take it on at your own peril."

Cinequest is delighted and honored to have Mr. Byrne join us for a very special conversation about his life and career. We expect that this exceptional event will reveal the humor and complexity of this charismatic modern day Renaissance Man. - Mike Rabehl