The life and times of one of Ireland’s finest actors, Cyril Cusack, features in a documentary on TG4 on Christmas Day. Cusack’s career began in the early days of Irish silent cinema and saw him conquer stage, screen and TV. Cusack appealed to many generations across his 75-year career. To some, he was the Irishman who popped up in Hollywood films. To others, he was Uncle Peter in Glenroe. He was also a poet, playwright and gaelgeoir.
Starting with Cusack’s screen debut at the age of eight in one of the first films ever shot in Ireland, the silent classic Knocknagow, the documentary goes on to look at his performances alongside James Mason in Odd Man Out, Richard Burton in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, Edward Fox in The Day of the Jackal as well as classics like 1984, Harold and Maude, Fahrenheit 451 and My Left Foot, directed by Jim Sheridan.
Cusack appeared in over 130 movies and TV shows and was sought after in both the UK and Hollywood. Richard Burton considered him the greatest actor he had ever appeared opposite. The documentary also looks at his remarkable stage career in plays such as The Playboy of the Western World, The Plough and the Stars and Chekhov’s Three Sisters, in which he appeared alongside his three daughters – Sorcha, Sinéad and Niamh.
Interviewees include his children, Paul, Pádraig, Sinéad, Sorcha, Niamh and Catherine, actors Jeremy Irons, Stephen Rea, Máire Ní Ghráinne and Bríd Ní Neachtain and directors Bob Quinn and Jim Sheridan. Irons says of his father-in-law: “Cyril had the art of making the audience watch him and never being quite sure of what he was thinking or going to do but knowing that there was something up. It was an honour to know him.”
Jim Sheridan, who directed Cusack in My Left Foot, says: “He changed the style of acting in the Abbey. Soft, gentle stiletto acting, like acting with a stiletto knife that could scur you in a second. So, while he was gentle, there was a kind of wispy danger to him.” His daughter Sinéad recalls his disdain for directors: “I don’t think Dad ever saw the need for directors. I think he put his faith in the text and the actors ability to make sense of it.”
Featuring rare family photos, exclusive interviews with his six children and the greatest moments from his long career, the documentary is an in-depth portrait of one of our finest actors. Cyril Cusack – Lár an Stáitse is on TG4 at 9.30pm on Lá Nollag/Christmas Day.