A former teacher, burly Irish actor Brendan Gleeson spent the 1990s earning an increasing amount of acclaim for his work in a variety of films, most notably John Boorman's The General (1998). Gleeson, who made his feature film debut in Jim Sheridan's The Field (1990), first made an impression on audiences in the role of Hamish, William Wallace's hulking ally in Braveheart (1995).
In 1997, the actor was given his first crack at a starring role in I Went Down, a likeable black comedy that cast him as a thick-skulled hitman. The role brought him a greater dose of recognition and respect on both sides of the Atlantic, but it was Boorman's The General (shot right after I Went Down wrapped) that truly demanded -- and received -- international attention. The story of real-life Irish criminal Martin Cahill, the film featured Gleeson in its title role, and his cocky, assured portrayal of Cahill was widely deemed the best part of an altogether excellent film. The numerous plaudits he won for his performance included awards from Boston and London film critics.