You’re in Hawaii? That must be nice!
Yeah, I’m sitting here with my family — my wife and my sons. I’m nursing a beer on the north shore of Kauai, where we live.
I feel like one of those Secret Service officers who interrupt your island retirement because the world needs you one last time.
No, it’s OK! I love MAXIM, actually. It’s very cool. I see my note for today — “ICON interview” — and I think, shit, icon? How the hell did that happen?
Let’s start at the beginning: You grew up poor in Ireland but became an emblem of sophistication. Now how the hell did that happen?
A man becomes what he dreams. And I dreamed of being in the movies. I was brought up on Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood, Warren Beatty, and Cary Grant. Being some country lad from the banks of the River Boyne, I never wanted to be wealthy. I was driven by artistic intention.
Some stars come from acting royalty, but you didn’t. Your father split when you were young and your mum was a nurse. Was that part of the motivation?
Acting — well, when you have nothing and you find something like that, you have the world. When I found acting, I found a sanctuary; I found a home for myself. It made me work hard because I had nothing else in the back pocket going for me. I cleaved my way in there for years: street theatre and kids theatre. I trained. At 61 years of age, it’s what I do. I love making movies.
When colleagues talk about you, they also describe your professionalism. Do you take pride in that?
Acting is a hard f—king game. It’s psychological warfare out there. My old teacher taught me that, as trivial as it may seem to the outside world, it’s always a life-and-death situation as soon as you set foot on the stage. So you’d better bring heart and soul to the work to somehow turn people on and enthrall them. And you want to be with cool people who will also enthrall you! I worked with William Hurt [in The Moon and the Sun]. I love the dude. The better the actor you’re working with, the better you’ll be.
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