"I didn't want to be seen as just a guy on a list. I'm interested in good scripts, scripts that are about something, scripts that move your acting along." Stephen Rea
Irish actor Stephen Rea received international recognition for his Oscar-nominated lead performance as Fergus, an IRA foot soldier, in writer/director Neil Jordan's popular, critically acclaimed Irish film "The Crying Game" (1992).
Raised in Northern Ireland and studying drama at the Abbey Theatre School, Rea received his first big break in 1982 with Neil Jordan's directorial debut, the crime/drama “Angel.” He later starred in more Jordan's films, notably “The Company of Wolves” (1984), “Interview with the Vampire” (1994), “The Butcher Boy” (1997) and “Breakfast on Pluto” (2005). The 5' 11" actor also played significant roles in such films as "Angie" (1994), "Princess Caraboo" (1994), "Prêt-à-Porter" (1994; aka "Ready to Wear"), "Michael Collins" (1996), "Crime of the Century" (1996; TV), "Guinevere" (1999), "The End of the Affair" (1999), "The Musketeer" (2001), "V for Vendetta" (2005) and "The Reaping" (2007). Next, he will star in the upcoming films "Kisses," "The Heavy," and "Metamorphosis."
Rea's stage performance also received critical acclaim. In 1993, he was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor (Play) for his Broadway debut as Edward in Frank McGuinness' "Someone to Watch Over Me."
Childhood and Family:
In Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK, Graham Rea was born on October 31, 1946. One of four children in a working-class Protestant family, Rea attended Belfast High School and the Queen's University, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he received a BA degree in English literature.
A Protestant republican, Rea was married to former Provisional Irish Republican Army member Dolours Price from 1983 to 2003. They have two sons, Danny (born in 1988) and Oscar Rea (born in 1990), and one daughter. Rea now resides in Dublin, Ireland.
The Crying Game
Making his first stage appearance at age four as the wolf in "Little Red Riding Hood," Stephen Rea was trained at Dublin’s renowned Abbey Theatre School and acted with the Focus Company in Dublin with Gabriel Byrne and Colm Meaney in the late 1970s. He had a breakthrough stage role in "Freedom of the City" by Brian Friel in 1973 and later co-founded the Field Day Theatre with him in 1980.
Rea made his film debut with a bit part as a villager in Gordon Hessler's 1970 horror/thriller starring Vincent Price, “Cry of the Banshee,” and his US TV debut in ABC’s mystery special, "Color Him Dead" (1974). He received his first notable film role in writer/director Thaddeus O'Sullivan's British movie "On a Paving Stone Mounted" (1978), alongside Gabriel Byrne.
In 1982, Rea landed his first leading role in a feature film in Neil Jordan’s directorial debut, “Angel,” a crime drama in which he played a saxophonist who witnesses a number of brutal murders. The film marked Rea's first collaboration with Jordan. He would later appear in more of the director's following films.
During the following two years, Rea reunited with Jordan for "The Company of Wolves" (1984). In the gothic fantasy-horror film based on the werewolf stories in Angela Carter's short story collection “The Bloody Chamber” ("The Company of Wolves", "Wolf-Alice" and "The Werewolf"), he played a young groom-turned-werewolf. It also stars Sarah Patterson and Angela Lansbury.
Rea took a six-year hiatus and returned in 1990 in writer/director Mike Leigh's British drama/comedy movie "Life Is Sweet," starring Alison Steadman and Jim Broadbent. Two years later, he teamed up again with writer/director Neil Jordan for the popular and critically acclaimed Irish film, "The Crying Game" (1992). In the sleeper hit film, which explores themes of race, gender, nationality, and sexuality, Rea starred as the male protagonist and IRA foot soldier named Fergus. His brilliant performance earned him nominations at the Academy Awards (for Best Actor in a Leading Role) and at the BAFTA awards (for Best Actor). He also won a National Society of Film Critics' Best Actor.
Meanwhile, Rea also received rave reviews for his stage performance. His Broadway debut as Edward in Frank McGuinness' "Someone to Watch Over Me" earned him a 1993 Tony Award nomination for Best Actor (Play).
With an Oscar nomination under his belt, Rea subsequently was offered leading roles in four 1994 major US productions. He was in Martha Coolidge's adaptation of Avra Wing's novel "Angie" (starring Geena Davis), Michael Austin's true story-based "Princess Caraboo" (starring Phoebe Cates; Rea played Irish reporter Gutch), Neil Jordan's film version of the 1976 vampire novel by Anne Rice, "Interview with the Vampire" (starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt), and writer/director/producer Robert Altman's satirical dark comedy “Ready To Wear” (aka “Pret-a-Porter”), the latter of which won him a National Board of Review for Best Acting by an Ensemble.
The next year, Rea took home a Sitges - Catalonian International Film Festival Award for Best Actor for his performance as a brilliant forensic expert in the true story-based TV movie "Citizen X" (1995; opposite Donald Sutherland). He then teamed up again with Neil Jordan to play a key supporting role in the Oscar nominated biopic "Michael Collins" (1996; Liam Neeson starred as the title character), in which he portrayed Edward "Ned" Broy.
Rea went on to portray Bruno Richard Hauptmann, a real-life character who was charged and executed for the crime he never committed, in the HBO miniseries "Crime of the Century" (1996), based on Ludovic Kennedy's book "The Airman and the Carpenter." His performance garnered praise from critics, giving him a nomination at the Golden Globes for Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV.
Rea spent the rest of the 1990s playing the violent, alcoholic father of Eamonn Owens' Francie in Neil Jordan's ode to a psychopath, "The Butcher Boy" (1997), based on the 1992 novel by Patrick McCabe, and had a scene-stealing cameo as a passionate Irish preacher in writer/director Paul Quinn's "This Is My Father" (1998), starring James Caan, Jacob Tierney and Colm Meaney. He also appeared in Neil Jordan's unpopular psychological thriller inspired by Bari Wood's novel, "In Dreams" (1999; with Aidan Quinn and Annette Benning), and played the elderly Bohemian photographer in writer/director Audrey Wells' delightful "Guinevere" (1999; opposite Sarah Polley). Additionally, he received applause for delivering a touching portrayal of Henry Miles in Neil Jordan's World War II love story "The End of the Affair" (1999), adapted from the 1951 novel by British author Graham Greene.
Entering the new millennium, Rea tried his hand in directing a stage play. He helmed and starred in an updated version of the beloved Sean O'Casey play, "The Plough and the Stars," at the Gaeity Theater in Dublin. Afterwards, he played Cardinal Richelieu, the powerful and cunning advisor of King Louis XIII of France (portrayed by Daniel Mesguich), in Peter Hyams' film very loosely based on Alexandre Dumas’ novel, "The Musketeer" (2001; with Catherine Deneuve, Tim Roth and Mena Suvari). He was nominated for Outstanding Performer in a Children's Special for his portrayal of a Jewish rabbi in the based-on-book TV movie “Snow in August” (2001; opposite Peter Anthony Tambakis) and was the narrator of an animated TV series for kids, "Horrible Histories."
After playing Alistair Pratt, "The Doctor," in William Malone's disappointing horror/thriller film "FeardotCom" (2002; opposite Stephen Dorff), Rea co-starred with Peter O'Toole and Janet McTeer in Antony J. Bowman's romantic drama "Romeo and Me" (2004), a love story set during World War II, and was nominated for an Irish Film and Television Award (IFTA) for Best Actor for his solid turn as Fatso in writer/director Lance Daly's comedy movie “The Halo Effect” (2004). On stage, he could be seen as Cyrano in a new version of an 1897 play by Edmond Rostand based on the life of the real French dramatist and duelist, "Cyrano de Bergerac," which was directed by Howard Davies at the National Theatre (Olivier) from April 10 to June 24, 2004.
2005 saw Rea as an aging magician who truly loves transvestite Kitten (played by Cillian Murphy) in Neil Jordan's "Breakfast on Pluto," where he was nominated for an IFTA Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Feature Film for his performance. Rea then played a cop in the Wachowski brothers' "V for Vendetta" (2005, starring Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving), based on the acclaimed graphic novel by author Alan Moore. He recalled, “I'm a policeman who's hunting down Natalie Portman but I have ambiguous feelings about the whole political context in the end. So I catch up with her and she's in a London underground tube station in a train packed with explosives. So with the recent events in London, I thought 'My God, we're not really going to do this movie.' But we shot it and they called me back for a re-shoot and it wasn't that at all. You're going to see that in the movie.”
Recently, Rea co-starred with Hilary Swank in Stephen Hopkins' horror film "The Reaping" (2007), playing Father Costigan. He also played Jean-Claude Van Damme's former detective partner in Simon Fellows' action/drama/thriller "Until Death" and the homeless man who becomes the victim of Mena Suvari's hit-and-run in Stuart Gordon's horror-thriller "Stuck," which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.
Rea is currently on set and will soon complete his upcoming film projects, “Kisses,” writer/director Lance Daly's family/drama movie starring Kelly O'Neill and Shane Curry in which he will co-star as Bob Dylan, and "The Heavy," Marcus Warren's thriller film about rivalry and betrayal between two brothers. He will also star in Limor Diamant's take on Franz Kafka's 1915 novella, "Metamorphosis," alongside Daniel Brühl and Anna Paquin.
Sitges - Catalonian International Film Festival: Best Actor, "Citizen X" (TV), 1995
National Board of Review: Best Acting by an Ensemble, "Prêt-à-Porter," 1994
National Society of Film Critics: Best Actor, "The Crying Game," 1993