Exhibiting perpetual intensity and the dark, hangdog looks of someone who has been run over by life one too many times, Stephen Rea is one of Ireland's most popular and well-respected actors. Although he has acted in films in diverse genres, Rea is most closely associated with his collaborations with director Neil Jordan, particularly The Crying Game, for which he earned Oscar and BAFTA nominations.
Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1943, Rea was brought up in a working-class Protestant family. After training at the Abbey Theatre School, he began acting on the stage, screen, and television, making his film debut in the 1970 thriller Cry of the Banshee. He first collaborated with Jordan in 1982 on Angel, a crime drama in which he played a saxophonist who witnesses a number of brutal murders. The two again collaborated in 1984 on The Company of Wolves, a modern retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale. That same year, Rea worked with Mike Leigh on Four Days in July; he would later work with him on Leigh's celebrated Life is Sweet (1991). In addition to his work on the screen, Rea formed the Field Day Theatre Company with playwrights Brian Friel and Seamus Heaney, bringing theatre to rural communities across Ireland.