Bullett Media offers an inspiring interview with Gabriel Byrne, of whom they note:

Gabriel Byrne is hardly just an actor. He’s a humanitarian, Ireland’s first Cultural Ambassador, and a rare figure of informed dissent.

Yes. That is an appropriate accolade. I am sure Mr. Byrne is pleased to be appreciated as a talented actor and as an activist in support of his own country. But I hope that he enjoys this acknowledgment of his other role, the role that is harder to define, to put one’s finger on. This interviewer nailed it. A rare figure of informed dissent.

A quote from the end of the article:

There’s a tremendous reserve of compassion and humanity among the vast majority of people, but allowing ourselves to do nothing builds and builds and builds until what was once a great country is broken. Which isn’t to say there’s not really anything you can do. The smallest thing can be important. Setting out to save the world is impossible for all of us— setting out to change a society is impossible— but I really believe in the power of conversation, of recommending a book, of going to a march, of speaking out, of being at a dinner party and giving your point of view, even at the risk of disapproval. These are the ways that we can stand up for ourselves.

Here is the beginning. The link to the entire interview is below. Mr. Byrne is eloquent as always, but there is something cautionary in these observations that demands our attention. Perhaps not “demands.” More a gentle pricking of our conscience and our soul.

2011: The myth of the Good Soldier is dead. Apathy, the modern plague, has struck the heart of the country like an asp. One wouldn’t expect in an actor such a Faustian sense of dissatisfaction, but Gabriel Byrne is hardly just an actor. He’s a humanitarian, Ireland’s first Cultural Ambassador, and a rare figure of informed dissent. Here, the Golden Globe winner surveys America’s problems with an eye toward their solution.

Gabriel Byrne by photographer Diego Uchitel

BULLETT: I was watching the video introductions you made for the Ireland on Film series at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan. You were talking about how Hollywood was making all these films like The Quiet Man and The Informer before Ireland had a film industry of its own, and you saw your culture as the product of another—through this mirror. Was there was ever a point in time where you did the same thing with masculinity, where you saw one specific actor or film and were like, That’s the kind of man I want to be, that’s it.”

Gabriel Byrne by photographer Diego Uchitel

GABRIEL BYRNE: When you’re younger, the image that you are drawn to is usually of an actor or a singer, somebody you think embodies how you yourself would like to be perceived. And then as you grow older you realize that what you’re looking for isn’t any external reflection, but you begin to crave, envy, or desire the inner qualities of certain people. I suppose there comes a time when you become disillusioned with the kind of characters that actors embody on the screen, and you realize that you have to grow up and grow into other qualities: kindness, generosity, compassion, courage. The kind of cinema courage with which I usually associated isn’t the kind of courage I would now be drawn to. There are many ways in which I am brave, but there are also many ways in which I am a coward, and I think all of us have that dichotomy, where we can be physically brave and still be moral cowards. It’s much more difficult to be morally brave and to really stand up for what you believe in, and not in a sentimental Hollywood way, but in everyday life. I don’t look to movies for their definitions of masculinity because I think they’re pretty limited, to be honest. To me, Hollywood films seem like storybooks: I’ve outgrown them. They’re there and sometimes I flip through them, but I don’t find my inspiration from them anymore.”

Read the rest of the article and please comment. If you are interested in changing the world in some way, what book would you recommend to a friend? What film? What might YOU say at a dinner party?

And in closing:

In his review of the film Fahrenheit 451  for The New Yorker, Richard Brody observes that director Francois Truffaut “turns the story of repression into one of obsession–the emotional and intellectual drive to read and to own books–and into a manifesto for the unity of cinematic art in the age of the sound film: images make the world fascinating, but people are made interesting by their words.”

Indeed.

4 Comments

  1. Great interview, and I like that he is critical about Hollywood movies and about the way many American are thinking. If I was in a dinner party with American people I would ask them to read more European books and to be more interested in the world outside USA. As a Norwegian I would try to drawn attention to that small countries can have good systems and good ideas too. And that it is vital to be interested in the world outside the country you live in.

    Hope you are not angry at me now…

    • Nora, I could not agree with you more! One of the recurring themes of Gabriel Byrne’s interviews is the need for everyone to open up–to other countries, other art, other stories–and to be aware that the world is a lot bigger than one’s backyard. One of the most fun things about running this website is the array of fans from all over the world who have been drawn to it. We are truly global!
      Now, to the question of books and films that will broaden our vistas a bit and also make us think about personal power and moral bravery: I recommend the book “To Kill a Mockingbird” (people stand up and make a difference in their world) and the film “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (a man learns to see the world he has been oblivious to all his life).
      I love that Gabriel Byrne makes us think about these things!

  2. To kill a Mockingbird is also one of my favorite movies,
    and I think it was Gregory Pecks favorite movie to act in too. So girls, I agree with you about that book, and that movie!
    And we also have a Gabriel and Gregory connection too, because Gabriel got the first Gregory Peck award
    in Dingle, if I remember right.

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