COLM MEANEY ranks among Ireland’s greatest ever actors.
An established presence on the stage and screen for the best part of four decades, the Glasnevin-born actor first caught the bug back in his early teens and has rarely looked back since.
Though the Dubliner is best known among Sci-fi fans for his sterling work in the world of Star Trek, most Irish film fans know him for a string of collaborations on three big screen Roddy Doyle adaptations.
Even that fails to do justice to the sheer breadth of roles taken up by Meaney on either side of the Atlantic.
A genuine Hollywood success story who continues to support the British and Irish film and television industry, it’s high time someone celebrated his incredible body of work – here are just a few notable highlights.
Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987) – Chief Miles O’Brien
From inauspicious beginnings on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Meaney flourished into a fully-fledged member of the Enterprise crew as Chief Miles O’Brien.
His character eventually made the big move over to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the critically-lauded spin-off, with Chief O’Brien emerging as one of the show’s main characters. To date, Meaney has an astonishing 225 episodes of Star Trek to his name – the second highest of any actor in the franchise’s history.
The Snapper (1993) – Dessie Curley
Meaney was a regular fixture of the various Roddy Doyle film adaptations released during the late 1980s and early 1990s – and with good reason. Though each of his turns in The Commitments, The Snapper and The Van won him critical plaudits and plenty of laughs besides, The Snapper was undoubtedly the pick of the bunch.
Cast in the role of Des Curley, the Irish patriarch struggling to cope with the news of his adult daughter Sharon’s pregnancy and her initial refusal to divulge the identity of the father, Meaney earned a Golden Globe nomination for his comedic efforts, ultimately losing out to Robin Williams for Mrs Doubtfire. He was robbed.
Con Air (1997) – DEA Agent Duncan Malloy
Meaney showed he wasn’t averse to big blockbuster action with with this turn as the brash and ballsy DEA Agent Duncan Malloy in the Jerry Bruckheimer produced Con Air.
A swaggering, all-guns blazing counterpoint to John Cusack’s more measured US Marshall Vince Larkin, Meaney’s Malloy plays a key role in facilitating the ensuing chaos, which sees a colourful collective of major league criminals hijack a prison plane before heading off to Las Vegas. Don’t ask…
Intermission (2003) – Detective Jerry Lynch
Meaney lent his considerable talents to this sprawling Irish black crime comedy. In a talented cast featuring the likes of Cillian Murphy and Colin Farrell, Meaney is the seasoned pro, putting in a fine performance as charismatic crime buster Garda Detective Jerry Lynch.
A tough-as-nails cop whose hard-line approach at dealing with Dublin’s rough-and-ready types earns him a talking to from his boss, Meaney is in his element and one of the standout performers from this impressive ensemble effort.
Layer Cake (2004) – Gene
Meaney further enhanced his tough guy persona with another impressive turn in Matthew Vaughn’s directorial debut.
Helping breathe fresh life into the tired and tested British gangster genre, Meaney’s Gene, a trusted criminal associate of Daniel Craig’s XXXX who exudes a quiet toughness that eventually comes to the fore as the story progresses. It’s a supporting role but one that adds to the slick authenticity of the finished film.
The Damned United (2009) – Don Revie
Michael Sheen grabbed all the plaudits for his portrayal of iconic football manager Brian Clough in Tom Hooper’s critically acclaimed adaptation of David Peace’s book of the same name but Meaney more than holds his own as Clough’s bitter rival and Leeds United predecessor Don Revie.
It’s a delightful turn and one that further showcases the Irishman’s impressive range.
The Simpsons (2009) – Tom O’Flanagan
Meaney joined a select group of actors and entertainers in lending his voice to The Simpsons in the episode “In The Name Of The Father”. He voices the character of Tom O’Flanagan, the owner of a struggling Irish pub in Dublin, who succeeds in selling his stricken establishment to Homer and Abe during a Simpson family trip to Dublin.
They soon hit upon a novel idea to bring trade back though, turning the pub into a “smoke-easy” with patrons allowed to smoke indoors despite the introduction of a ban on such activities. It doesn’t last though.
Hell on Wheels (2011) – Thomas “Doc” Durrant
Largely overlooked by UK TV audiences, Hell of Wheels ran for five seasons and told the story of the development of America’s vast railroad network in the wake of the Civil War. While that may not sound entirely appealing on paper, in practice it was thrilling from start to finish featuring everything you love about movies around the old west: native American Indians, outlaw criminals and danger at every turn.
Meaney played “Doc” Durrant, an increasingly corrupt businessman and investor hoping to make his fortune with the development of the First Transcontinental Railroad. It doesn’t quite go to plan.
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013) – Pat Farrell
Every good comedy needs a straight man and Meaney provided that in spades for Steve Coogan’s first big screen outing as Alan Partridge.
Playing out like a low-key Norwich-based version of Die Hard played for laughs, Meaney plays Pat Farrell, the disgruntled and recently-axed local DJ who decides to take Alan and his co-workers hostage with consistently hilarious results. Even though he largely plays it straight, Meaney still manages to draw few laughs.
The Journey (2016) – Martin McGuinness
A drama set around the story of how Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness formed an unlikely political alliance, much of the success of The Journey lies in the performances of Timothy Spall and Meaney, respectively, as the two leaders.
Meaney, in particular, shines as McGuinness, delivering a nuanced and layered performance that ranks among his very best and helps gloss over some of the film’s other shortcomings. A reminder that, decades on from his film debut, Meaney’s power as an actor is undiminished.