'Potter,' 'Star Wars' vet Gleeson plays rare comic roles in 2 films

By Karen Butler  |  Updated Feb. 8, 2018 at 6:08 AM
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Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Domhnall Gleeson says he is happy to return to his comic roots after several years of intense film-making experiences on dramas such as Never Let Me Go, Anna Karenina, Unbroken, Ex Machina, Calvary, The Revenant, Brooklyn and mother!

Also known for his supporting roles in the Harry Potter and Star Wars franchises, the son of film star Brendan Gleeson first gained fame for his work in the Irish sketch comedy show Your Bad Self and in the Broadway production of Martin McDonagh's wickedly funny play The Lieutenant of Inishmore.

The Dublin native can now be seen portraying the brilliant, but buttoned-up National Lampoon co-founder Henry Beard in Netflix's A Futile and Stupid Gesture. Peter Rabbit, a family comedy in which he plays bunny-battling Thomas McGregor to James Corden's titular hare, is due in theaters Feb. 9.

Asked by UPI in a recent phone interview if he was looking to have some fun after tackling so many serious roles, the 34-year-old actor, replied: "Yeah, it's all just about trying to mix it up. I think you're right. I think that I wanted to do some stuff with a different energy, where it's not about accessing pain."

"There are moments of that on A Futile and Stupid Gesture. There are certainly plenty of moments of pain on Peter Rabbit, but that was just physical," he laughed. "But I think getting to a place where it's about joy. That was a lovely thing to be able to do. Yes, it was important to be able to do that and enjoy myself in a different way on set."

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Although he didn't grow up with National Lampoon magazine or the movies it spawned like Animal House and Caddyshack, Gleeson said he was immediately attracted to A Futile and Stupid Gesture because it had a fantastic script with a lot of heart and was about the 1970s and '80s comedy giants who influenced some of his favorite funny people in real life such as Jim Carrey and Mike Myers.

"I'm mostly kind of the straight man," Gleeson said of the real-life humorist he plays, adding all of his co-stars in the film -- including Joel McHale, Jon Daly, Rick Glassman and Matt Walsh, who played Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis and Matty Simmons -- are "incredible at what they do."

He also praised "hilarious" Saturday Night Live alum Will Forte who played Doug Kenney, Beard's hard-partying, writing partner, who died at the age of 33 after years of substance abuse.

"They were all just so funny that really it was just kind of remembering to stay in your lane," Gleeson said of his contributions to Gesture. "It's not a competition. You don't have to compete with them and come up with the funniest line and Henry, to me, was always the funniest person in the room, but he didn't need to prove it."

"He didn't need to show everybody how funny he was because he didn't need that approval, whereas one of the things that Doug Kenney ended up paying for in a way, sadly, was that he did want people to accept him. That resulted in some of the best comedy ever and, so, the world is a better place for it, but I think it definitely weighed heavily on him."

Gleeson explored a completely different kind of humor for Peter Rabbit, which mixes live action and animation, a process that frequently forced him to share the screen with a tiny, fluffy co-star who would be digitally added in later.

"That's a movie for kids, as well, so it's on a different sort of a level," he said. "I loved working with Rose Byrne who is just fantastic, so all my scenes with Rose, it was like a breath of fresh air because you are talking to somebody who makes you better in the room or you could just shut up and let her do her thing because she is so wonderful, whereas dealing with the rabbit was tricky. That was hard, but I really enjoyed the challenges of it and I really hope it has turned out well."

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