The Sunday Times - Ireland
November 24, 2002

Belfast actor Hinds cracks Hollywood at the age of 49
Jan Battles

IT MAY have taken more than two decades, but Ciaran Hinds is set for Hollywood stardom. The 49-year-old Belfast actor is landing roles in blockbuster movies after years of playing characters on British television and in theatre. Hinds, who played Finn McGovern in Road to Perdition, this summer's hit movie starring Paul Newman and Tom Hanks, is in talks to star alongside Brad Pitt in a big-budget epic called Troy.

Based on the Iliad by Homer, the movie will depict the Trojan war. Pitt will play Achilles, and Orlando Bloom, who starred in The Lord of the Rings, has been lined up as the Trojan prince Paris. Hinds is in discussions for one of two roles in the film: that of Agamemnon, the Mycenaean king and main villain of the film, or Odysseus, the Greek leader.

The Irish actor will also star in the 90m film Lara Croft and the Cradle of Life: Tomb Raider 2 alongside Angelina Jolie, and in the movie about Veronica Guerin starring Cate Blanchett.

Until now, Hinds was best-known for playing dashing gentlemen in costume dramas or baddies in television series. The current demand for the respected actor has arisen mainly due to his role in Road to Perdition, for which he received critical acclaim. He played the part of McGovern, who buries his mobster brother and then dares to challenge the mighty Irish mob boss John Rooney, played by Newman, at his wake. He was shot by Rooney's son as a result.

His profile has also been boosted by his portrayal of a fictitious Russian president, Alexander Nemerov, in The Sum of All Fears. Based on the Tom Clancy novel, it also starred Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman.

A few months ago, it would have been unlikely that Hinds would be considered for such big movie roles. Although well respected in the industry in Britain for his talent, he was relatively unknown in America. His last two projects for British television have not yet made it to the screen.

Larry Dalzell, Hinds' agent in London, said: "I think Road to Perdition with Paul Newman has had a lot to do with the current strong interest in him.

"There was a period of time when he was totally tied up in theatre. Film companies were checking his availability and he wasn't free, and as a result he didn't make films for quite a long period of time. Then it suddenly happened."

Hinds has just finished filming Calendar Girls alongside Helen Mirren and Julie Walters. The film, a sort of female Full Monty, is based on the story of the ladies from the Rylstone and District Women's Institute who bared all for a charity calendar. He is currently filming his part as Dr Jonathan Reece in the Tomb Raider sequel.

The dramatic turnabout in Hinds' fortunes has come after a recent period where the actor began to wonder if forces were working against him. An ITV drama he made two years ago called Thursday the 12th, about an aspiring member of parliament with a dodgy personal life, has yet to be broadcast. Similarly, The Mayor of Casterbridge, in which he plays the lead role, is also still on ITV's shelves. Both were postponed as a result of the advertising recession as they were considered too expensive to screen.

Born in 1953 in Belfast, Hinds trained as an actor at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He was once so down on his luck that a tramp in London gave the out-of-work actor 50p in 1978. His first acting job was as the back end of a horse in a Cinderella pantomime for the Glasgow Citizens' Theatre.

He has starred in a number of productions with the Royal Shakespeare Company, including a world tour in the title role of Richard III. Hinds' film career began with a minor role in the 1981 movie Excalibur, which also starred Liam Neeson and Gabriel Byrne. He has played supporting roles in many Irish films, but it was after starring as Captain Wentworth in a television version of Jane Austen's Persuasion, in 1995, that his career flourished.