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Rea, Stephen (1943-)


Main image of Rea, Stephen (1943-)

Rumpled, intense-looking Irish actor who came to prominence in the 1980s and 1990s, particularly in films directed by compatriot Neil Jordan. The son of a working-class Protestant family, he came to serious international attention with his role as an IRA 'volunteer' in The Crying Game (d. Jordan, 1992). He studied at the Abbey Theatre School and his career on stage, screen and TV got underway in the 1970s.

He entered films in a tiny role in the horror movie, Cry of the Banshee (d. Gordon Hessler, 1970) and had his first leading role in Jordan's Angel (1982), a dark thriller in which he plays a saxophonist with a travelling band who gets involved in murder, first as witness, later more dangerously. He brought a kind of rough-hewn charm to Loose Connections (d. Richard Eyre, 1983), a romantic comedy somewhat short on charm; and gave several more notable performances in Jordan's films, including The Company of Wolves (1984), Michael Collins (US, 1996) and, best of all, The End of the Affair (UK/Germany/US, 1999), in which the finely calibrated pain of his cuckolded husband arguably dominated the film.

His comic gifts have been sharply exploited in his turn as a conceited fashion photographer in Prêt-à-Porter (US, d. Robert Altman, 1994) and as the keyboardist of the former rock band about to reunite in the very funny Still Crazy (UK/US, d. Brian Gibson, 1998). He is now in constant demand for films made all over the place; playing Leopold Bloom in a new version of Ulysses (d. Sean Walsh, 2004) may well prove his most challenging assignment so far, but his versatility is not in doubt.

Brian McFarlane, Encyclopedia of British Film

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Thumbnail image of Company of Wolves, The (1984)Company of Wolves, The (1984)

Hugely imaginative exploration and reinterpretation of fairytale myths

Thumbnail image of Life is Sweet (1990)Life is Sweet (1990)

Mike Leigh comedy about a dysfunctional restaurant-owning family

Thumbnail image of Days of Hope (1975)Days of Hope (1975)

Ken Loach TV drama spanning the 1910s and 1920s

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