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What I've learned ... Colm Meaney

Published 07/09/2015

Leisurely life: Colm Meaney with his wife Ines
Leisurely life: Colm Meaney with his wife Ines
Colm Meaney
Colm Meaney in Star Trek as Chief Miles O'Brien

Actor Colm Meaney is now said to be "in advanced talks" to play Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness in a new movie.

The Journey, which will be filmed here in the autumn, centres on Mr McGuinness' developing friendship with the late First Minister Ian Paisley, who will be played by Timothy Spall.

A faithful character actor, Meaney's roguish charisma has maintained a successful 37-year career on both sides of the Atlantic. After a decade in Tinseltown providing bit-part support in TV classics Moonlighting and MacGyver and cinema smashes Dick Tracey and Die Hard 2, he finally landed his breakthrough as the inimitable Dessie Curley in Roddy Doyle's The Snapper, earning a Golden Globe nod for his efforts.

Today, the Dubliner (62) is kept busy in Hollywood, starring in a string of big-screen hits, from Con Air with Nicolas Cage and Layer Cake alongside Daniel Craig to Intermission opposite Colin Farrell and Cillian Murphy.

Meanwhile, sci-fi devotees will fondly remember the actor for his Enterprise duties on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine as Chief Miles O'Brien.

Currently, he's in Canada shooting the fifth and final season of Hell on Wheels, a Western saga chronicling the building of the first transcontinental railway.

In the series, he plays the villainous Thomas 'Doc' Durant, who sacrifices the lives of thousands to make his fortune.

Splitting his time between his homes in Los Angeles and a sun-drenched villa in Majorca with French wife Ines Glorian and their 11 year-old daughter, Ada, Meaney also has a grown-up daughter, Brenda (30), from his first marriage to actress Bairbre Dowling.

I'm not particularly ambitious.

I never had that "burning ambition". I'm not that driven. I tend to like my leisure. I don't think too far ahead. I've always loved what I do. I've had the good fortune to always do it and be good at it.

I don't have that sense of age yet.

40, 50, 60; I haven't had a crisis birthday that I'm aware of. My mother says to me that age is just in a number, I don't know if I agree with that. The increasingly creaking bones in the body say otherwise. I guess I'm more aware of mortality, it hasn't had any direct or conscious effect on me yet. Maybe I'm just waiting for some major crisis at 65. When you start looking back on a career, you see it as a career. I very much feel like I'm continuing, I'm a working actor. I work. It goes on like that.

When I first went to LA in the early Eighties, I got turned down a lot.

It was frustrating after working solidly in London because I felt like I was starting out again, being rejected by casting directors who didn't know who Alec Guinness was.

In my day, you had to pay your dues, stand around in the back, filling out the crowd.

Getting one-line parts here and there. Now, these young actors coming from Dublin to try out for pilot season in Hollywood, if they don't have a 20-episode series after one summer, they're considered a failure.

The Snapper changed everything.

I got the Golden Globe nomination for that and things really turned. More offers came through and there was less auditioning. Unfortunately, the BBC, who were involved in the production of the movie, aired it on TV first. And when that happens, it's immediately discounted from consideration from the Oscars. I'm not saying I would have got an Oscar nomination, but it didn't help.

Star Trek is the best job I've ever had.

I was only guesting every now and then in the show, so when I'd be in town, they'd get me in to do a couple of episodes with Jean Luc Picard and all the gang and I'd be done then for another year. And the money was fantastic.

There was talk of me doing Lord of the Rings at one stage.

But when I heard it was a three-picture deal in New Zealand and the ballpark money they were going to offer, I thought, "New Zealand, for three years? For that? They can f*** off."

I read somewhere that I turned down Jurassic Park.

That cracked me up. I mean, who in their right mind would turn down Spielberg?

Working on the last series of Hell on Wheels, it's mixed emotions.

It's been wonderful working on a show that evokes the spirit, the atmosphere, right after the Gold Rush. An intense, fascinating period in history.

Durant has been a great creation and a great character.

I've enjoyed playing him and he's the kind of historical, articulate guy I was looking for. It's sad to walk away. But on the other hand, five years is a good innings. Now I'm itching to get on to other things.

For the last five years, we split our time between LA and Majorca, and going to Calgary where we shoot for four or five, sometimes six months.

It's a complication. A good complication. My wife and youngest daughter are with me now, she's enjoying every minute of horse-riding camp. It's going to be nice to be just between LA and Spain for a change.

I was reluctant when my wife suggested Majorca.

All that came to mind were high-rises and sunburnt drunks. But it's a beautiful island that I call home.

If I don't do an Irish film for a couple years, I start looking for one.

I care about Irish cinema, I want to do good Irish stories. I'm in Dublin four, five times a year, usually for short breaks. But sometimes you don't want to spend a month or six weeks there, especially in January.

Hell On Wheels The Complete Fourth Season is out now on DVD

Belfast Telegraph

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