An amazing cast of performers from Northern Ireland light up the screens of movie blockbusters and top TV shows across the world. 

Our stars come from all arts and parts the country, but they have two things in common – great talent and a great pride in their homeland.


Liam Neeson

Hailing from Ballymena, County Antrim, Liam Neeson is one of the movie world’s biggest stars.

His breakthrough role was in Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives (1992) where he drew great critical acclaim that led to his role as Oskar Schindler in Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List (1993).

That performance established him as one of Hollywood’s leading men and was followed by Academy Award, BAFTA and Golden Globe award nominations.

Since then Neeson has taken on many leading roles from Michael Collins (1996) to Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia (2005) and most recently as an action hero in the hugely successful Taken movie series.

Despite his enormous success Neeson describes himself as still a 99.9% Ballymena man, and regularly promotes “the treasures of his homeland.” The actor maintains close ties with his home town, and was delighted to be made a Freeman of the Borough of Ballymena in 2013.

He is also the patron of Belfast’s award-winning Lyric Theatre, where he first trod the boards as a professional in the 1970s.

“I've always maintained that Northern Ireland is the world's best kept secret, both in the character of its people and its scenery,” he said.

 

Jamie Dornan

Thanks to his impossible good looks and impressive acting prowess Jamie Dornan has gone from Holywood, County Down to Hollywood, L.A.

Dornan is best known as Christian Grey in one of the most talked about movie franchises ever, Fifty Shades of Grey (2015), and as a mild-mannered serial killer in BBC TV hit The Fall (2013), which was filmed in Belfast.

His most recent film is Anthropoid (2016) for which he was nominated as Best Supporting Actor.

Dornan, who was a successful model before he turned to acting, has been quoted as saying that as a child he wanted to be a park ranger as he loves green space. 

No doubt that’s something to do with growing up in Northern Ireland, where the stunning landscapes have made it the star of many films and TV shows, most notably Game of Thrones. 

In his free time Dornan enjoys being a “bad golfer” (unlike his fellow Holywood superstar Rory McIroy who is one of the world’s top golfers), and watching football.

Like many Northern Irish people Dornan is a fanatic Manchester United supporter. How come? It was the team the brilliant Belfast footballer George Best played for.

Asked what he liked most about Northern Ireland, Dornan’s answer was simple: “The people and the Guinness.”

 

James Nesbitt

Raised in Broughshane, County Antrim near Slemish Mountain and the beautiful Causeway Coast, James Nesbitt has become a household name after starring in a string of successful TV series.

These have included Cold Feet, which won him multiple British Comedy Awards and a National Television Award, Murphy’s Law, Monroe, The Missing, Babylon and most recently Lucky Man and The Secret.

Nesbitt has said that he had an “idyllic childhood” growing up in the Ulster countryside and his links to home remain very strong. 

Another Man U fan, he’s often seen cheering on local sporting heroes like boxer Carl Frampton and the Northern Ireland football team. 

 

Sir Kenneth Branagh

Oscar-nominated Branagh is considered by many as the greatest actor-director of his time.

Born in Belfast, he is well known for his Shakespearean interests and has acted and directed in several productions both on stage and in film. 

Branagh’s extensive film and TV credits also include Frankenstein (1994), Sleuth (2007), Wallander (2008), Thor (2011), Jack Ryan (2013) and Cinderella (2015). 

Although he moved to England when he was nine, Branagh still considers Belfast his home and is very proud of the successful TV and film industry that has grown up in Northern Ireland in recent years.

“It’s absolutely amazing what’s going on here, and the standard is incredibly high,” he said.

 

Adrian Dunbar

Adrian Dunbar was born and brought up in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, in Northern Ireland’s picturesque lakelands.

He has appeared in notable films such as My Left Foot, The Crying Game, and The General, and co-wrote and starred in the 1991 film, Hear My Song, nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the BAFTA awards.

His many television credits include Cracker, Tough Love, Inspector Morse, Kidnapped, Murder in Mind and Ashes to Ashes.

About his deep connection with Fermanagh, Dunbar wrote: “We are the boys and girls of the lough. The powerful draw of the silver lake, the way the mist hangs a couple of feet above the lough on a hot summer's morning, and the blue, blue, electric blue of the kingfishers and dragonflies.”

 

Bronagh Gallagher

Bronagh Gallagher came to the attention of the world as Bernie, the feisty backing singer in the smash hit film The Commitments. 

The actor/singer from Londonderry has also appeared in such films as Thunderpants, You, Me & Marley, Pulp Fiction, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Last Chance Harvey and Sherlock Holmes.

She has recorded several albums, runs her own record label and continues to gig regularly. Despite travelling the world and now living in Dublin, she still loves to come back to home city, whose writers, such as Seamus Heaney and Frank McGuinness, have been an inspiration to her.

 

Geraldine Hughes

Despite having starred alongside Hollywood royalty such as Clint Eastwood and Sylvester Stallone, and now living in New York, Geraldine Hughes still considers Belfast her home.

“I love to tell people I’m from Northern Ireland,” says the star of memorable films such as Gran Torino and Rocky Balboa. “People here are pretty special.” 

Gallagher left Belfast when she attained a private scholarship to the University of California in Los Angeles where she earned a BA from the School of Theatre, Film and TV.

She has had numerous television roles in top American dramas like ER, and in 2005 she wrote and starred in the critically acclaimed and award-winning play Belfast Blues. 

 

Stephen Rea

Born in Belfast, Stephen Rea is a BAFTA and IFTA award-winning actor and an Oscar nominee.

He starred in The Crying Game, and had parts in top movies including V for Vendetta and Interview with the Vampire. More recently he has given memorable performances in a number of TV series including Dickensian, War and Peace and The Honourable Woman.

He is a frequent collaborator with top Irish film maker Neil Jordan, and has long been associated with some of the most important writers in Ireland.

In 1980 he helped establish the Field Day Theatre Company in Derry with Tom Paulin, Brian Friel, Seamus Heaney and Seamus Deane.

 

Amanda Burton

Multi-award-winning actress Amanda Burton comes from Ballougry, County Londonderry.

She is best known for her high-profile television role as Sam Ryan in the BBC crime series Silent Witness, but made her name initially as Heather in the Channel 4 soap opera Brookside. 

Burton also had principal roles in The Commander, Waterloo Road and Peak Practice, and her most recent role is in TV thriller, The Level.

“I had the most wonderful parents and the most idyllic childhood,” she has said, recalling wandering in storms and walking on the beautiful beaches near her childhood home.

 

Terry George

Director and screenwriter Terry George is a fearless figure in the world of cinema having worked on a number of films dealing with difficult or controversial subjects.

The Belfast man, who now lives in New York, made his debut on the film In the Name of the Father, which was nominated for seven Academy Awards.

George was named Young European Director of the Year in 1996 for his screenplay of the film Some Mother's Son and in 2004 he received a second Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay for Hotel Rwanda.

He finally achieved an Oscar with his short film The Shore (2010), which he wrote and directed. 

Accepting his Oscar, George said the film was inspired by the people of Northern Ireland and he dedicated it to them saying “they are great talkers”.

 

Colin Morgan

Armagh actor Colin Morgan had a magical start to his television career when, aged just 22, he landed the lead role in the BBC’s internationally successful series Merlin.

More recently he has appeared in TV hits Humans, The Living and the Dead and The Fall, which also stars other Northern Ireland legends Jamie Dornan and John Lynch.

The National Television Award-winning actor has also made many critically acclaimed appearances on the stage, including numerous leading roles in the West End.

He has said that wherever he travels he always brings tea from home, as other teas don’t taste the same! 

 

Ciaran McMenamin

Ciaran McMenamin grew up in Enniskillen, Fermanagh’s island town, and graduated from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

He has appeared in many TV programmes, playing a leading part in the popular BBC series Primeval, and playing roles in 4:50 from Paddington, Marple, The Young Person's Guide to Becoming a Rock Star, The Golden Hour and Jonathan Creek.

His movie credits include To End All Wars (2001), the award-winning Last Confession of Alexander Pearce (2008) and Saving the Titanic (2012).

Now living in London, McMenamin still enjoys coming home to visit family and friends in Enniskillen and to do a bit of fishing in Fermanagh’s famous loughs. 

 

John Lynch

John Lynch’s brooding persona and emotionally charged acting have delivered a highly successful acting career spanning many decades. 

The Armagh-born actor and novelist, who is half Irish half Italian, has had numerous movie leads including Cal (1984), In the Name of the Father (1993), The Railway Station Man (1992), Some Mother's Son (1996) and the part of football legend George Best in the film Best (2002).

TV roles include most recently The Fall and One of Us. 

 

Ciarán Hinds

An internationally renowned and versatile character actor, Ciarán Hinds made his film debut in Excalibur (1981) alongside Liam Neeson.

Since then the Belfast man has notched up over 100 TV and film credits including blockbusters Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Game of Thrones.

Hinds played Joe in The Shore (2011), written and directed by fellow Ulster man Terry George. It won the Best Short Film, Live Action category at the Oscars in 2012.

 

Michelle Fairley

Michelle Fairley was born in Coleraine and grew up in the seaside town of Ballycastle.

She has been applauded for her role as Catelyn Stark in the phenomenally successful Game of Thrones. Her TV appearances include parts in classics such as The Bill, Holby City, Heartbeat, Inspector Morse, Silent Witness and Midsomer Murders. 

Fairley also has a number of movie credits to her name, including His Mother's Son, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows and Ironclad: Battle for Blood.

 

Andrew Eaton

Andrew Eaton is known as the busiest producer in the UK, and with over 50 credits to his name including the recent Netflix sensation The Crown, that’s understandable.

Born in Derry, the seasoned producer has won multiple awards including the British Independent Film Award for Producer of the Year in 2000.

In 1994 he co-founded Revolution Films with Michael Winterbottom, considered to be one of the most reputable and prolific production companies in the UK. He recently left the company. 

Amongst his movie credits is Good Vibrations (2012), which tells the story of Terri Hooley, the record-store owner who was instrumental in developing Belfast's punk-rock scene.

Top things to see and do:

* Do some set jetting on one of the fantastic Game of Thrones experiences or tours. 

* Take a behind-the-scenes tour of Belfast’s fabulous award-winning Lyric Theatre where Liam Neeson began his career.

* Step into the magical literary – and movie – world of Narnia created by Belfast author C.S Lewis, and meet characters from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe at C.S Lewis Square.

* Board a guided cruise around Fermanagh’s loughs to discover mystery and magic.

* Indulge in an immersive on set experience at Castle Ward – aka Castle Black to Game of Thrones fans – courtesy of Clearsky Adventures.

* Enjoy a ‘Thrones-themed’ afternoon tea at Ballygally Castle.  

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