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Crown Jewels: Irish Actors

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St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner, so what better way to celebrate here at The Nerd King than with the Crown Jewels of those actors from the Emerald Isle?  For the purposes of this top ten list, I’ll be counting actors from both Ireland proper and Northern Ireland.  Also, all actors must be currently active in the film industry.  Now let’s take a look at my personal favorite Irish actors!

10. Colin Farrell – Castleknock, County Dublin

This actor has been very busy in Hollywood, taking roles in films such as Phone Booth, Alexander, the Total Recall remake, Daredevil, and Minority Report.  He also won a Golden Globe for his work on In Bruges.  But what really makes him stand out is the fact that I have never actually seen him act.  That’s right, I’ve seen him in a few trailers, but never in a movie.  How did he make the Crown Jewels, then?  By showing up in my Based on the Trailer reviews so often.  In the past year, he played a Leaf Man in Epic, a drunken father in Saving Mr. Banks, and a thief in Winter’s Tale.  Honestly, he’s starting to feel like family, and that earns him at least the bottom slot on my list.  Who knows?  Maybe once I see him in action, he’ll move up a spot or two.

9. Katie McGrath – Ashford, County Wicklow

This beautiful and talented young lady gave a wonderful and often heart-wrenching performance as Morgana in the television series Merlin, proving she can pull off a loveably sympathetic heroine as well as a loveably wicked villain.  She hasn’t done much else besides that role, but it was such a good job that it earns her the #9 spot all by itself.  It doesn’t hurt that she’s the only woman on a list dominated by men.  Anyone who can hold her own against those odds is definitely a Crown Jewel.

8. Colin O’Donoghue – Drogheda, County Louth

This time, I’ve seen the actor in two roles: the main character in The Rite and the roguishly handsome Captain Hook in Once Upon a Time.  It’s mostly this last role, definitely the more colorful and memorable, that earns him a place among my Crown Jewels.  I hope he continues to act for a long time, because I can’t get enough.

7. Ciarán Hinds – Belfast, Northern Ireland

Hinds is one of the more distinguished actors on this list, starring in movies such as Munich, The Debt, Road to Perdition, Amazing Grace, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.  Some of my favorite roles of his are the paranoid King Herod in The Nativity and the stereotypical man in black Henry Burke from Race to Witch Mountain.  I don’t know what it is, but something about his face that makes him delightfully untrustworthy and a great villain.

6. Colin Morgan – Armagh, Northern Ireland

There are a lot of Colins on this list, but this is the last one, I promise.  This particular Colin is another veteran of Merlin; in fact, he was the title character.  Add to that a role in the Doctor Who episode “Midnight,” one of the show’s best in my opinion, and the fact that he recently played Ariel in The Tempest at the Globe Theatre.  Playing Shakespeare in Shakespeare’s own theatre earns serious points for your acting credibility and a nice comfortable spot among my Crown Jewels.

5. Pierce Brosnan – Navan, County Meath

Yes, he’s really Irish.  He moved to England at a young age, which explains the British accent.  Brosnan has had roles in Mars Attacks! and Mrs. Doubtfire, but he is best known for his role as suave secret agent Bond, James Bond.  Taking on the character for movies such as Goldeneye, The World Is Not Enough, Tomorrow Never Dies, and Die Another Day, this particular Bond is one of my favorites, always managing to stay cool even when things are going terribly wrong.

4. Liam Neeson – Ballymena, Northern Ireland

One of the great action heroes and a good actor to boot, Liam Neeson, the man so awesome I must always refer to him by his full name, earns a place on this list just by existing.  However, I’ll go ahead and list some of his movies so those of you somehow not familiar with the man will understand why: Taken, The Grey, The Chronicles of Narnia series, the Clash of the Titans remake, Batman Begins, Star Wars Episode I, Non-Stop, and The Lego Movie.  In short, he’s been a god (twice), a Jedi, and Batman’s trainer; he’s fought wolves and slavers, he’s shot up airplanes and interrogated minifigures, and he was nominated for an Oscar for Schindler’s List.  ‘Nuff said.

3. Cillian Murphy – Douglas, County Cork

This Golden Globe-nominated actor has turned in some top-notch performances.  The one that leaps to mind is his emotional moment towards the end of Inception (I won’t spoil it for you, but it’s definitely worth a watch).  And of course, he had a role as everyone’s favorite Master of Fear, Jonathan Crane aka the Scarecrow in Batman Begins and all the following films.  The character may not have been used to his full potential, but Murphy’s phenomenally psychopathic acting is not to blame.  Add to that list roles in 28 Days Later and In Time, and you’ve got a mighty fine actor on your hands.

2. Kenneth Brannagh – Belfast, Northern Ireland

The most Oscar-nominated in the group with five nominations, Brannagh is definitely deserving of a high place among my Crown Jewels.  He is best known for his Shakespearian work in movies such as Hamlet, Othello, Henry V, Much Ado about Nothing, and most recently the stage play of Macbeth.  However, he has also starred in films such as Valkyrie, My Weekend with Marilyn, and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.  And let’s not forget he’s also a talented director, responsible for many of those Shakespearian films and for Thor, one of my favorite Marvel movies.

1. James Nesbitt – Coleraine, Northern Ireland

It takes a lot to top this list, but Nesbitt does it and makes it look easy in the process.  He is, of course, the loveable dwarf Bofur from The Hobbit trilogy, everyone’s favorite after the cute ones.  Having a key role in the movies based on my favorite book of all time helps, of course, but what really seals his place on top of my crown is his outstanding, brilliant performance in the television miniseries Jekyll.  Maybe it was just that everything else about that series was underwhelming, but … no, he really is that good at being good and wonderfully, awfully bad.  Possibly one of the most underrated actors of the modern era, James Nesbitt definitely tops my list of Crown Jewels.

So what do you think?  Who are some of your favorite Irish actors?  Let me know in the comments below, and a blessed Saint Patrick’s Day to yiz!

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