Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Siobhan O'Connor

'We knew them before they were famous' - Inside scoop on the early lives of Paul Mescal, Colin Farrell and more

Ireland is having its moment with a record 14 Oscar nominations this year.

The haul includes nine for The Banshees of Inisherin and a Best International Film nod for An Cailin Ciuin.

Colin Farrell and Paul Mescal are up for Best Actor, with Barry Keoghan, Brendan Gleeson and Kerry Condon shortlisted in supporting roles.

READ MORE: Ireland on storm alert as Met Eireann give exact date brutal winds and torrential rain could strike

Here Siobhan O'Connor talks to those who knew them before they were famous...

Paul Mescal, 26


Here’s the Normal People star as you’ve never seen him before - in the school musical in 2012.

The Maynooth actor took the lead role in the Phantom of the Opera age 16 and had his peers in a swoon.

Deputy principal of Maynooth Post Primary, Philip Blythe, told the Irish Sunday Mirror: “I was the producer. I do remember his audition, you wouldn’t forget it. He was quite nervous I would say.

“He was unbelievable, we knew there and then even though we had 100 other kids to see that nobody would be able to compete with him. At that time he was more into GAA, he was the team captain.”

The musical was the most expensive the school had ever staged and went on to win awards.

Philip added: “The panic on the first night of the show when Paul started singing... we were like Oh my God this is something special.

“I remember after the opening night there was demand coming from all of Kildare for tickets. We were already sold out but we were getting hundreds of calls.

“The whole cast were amazing but there was something special about Paul. I can’t describe it, he was a brilliant actor and performer.

“I remember saying to him afterwards that he’d go far. He just laughed, he’s not someone who would ever say, ‘I know’, it wouldn’t have been his style.”

Philip revealed that Paul’s dad, Paul Snr, was “a great stage actor”.

But he added: “Paul never had an interest in acting until he landed the lead role in Phantom. Up to then he was into GAA but after Phantom it changed his career.

“There’s huge excitement about Paul, more amongst the teachers who knew him and influenced him. It’s pride because that’s what school’s about, broadening the students and letting them find their skills and their niche.

“We’re gunning for Paul here ahead of Colin... but no offence to Colin!”

Kerry Condon, 40


Thurles native Kerry Condon revealed in a recent interview that she never went to acting school, because she “couldn’t afford it”.

The Breaking Bad star attended Ursuline Secondary School and former principal Mary Butler remembers her as “a great girl”.

Mary, now retired, said: “This is two Oscar nominations in two years from past pupils - we had Jessie Buckley last year.

“Kerry was before Jessie, they wouldn’t have crossed paths at all.

“We’re all delighted for her. She gives her work full attention and gives it everything, so it’s well deserved in my view.”

Kerry played Miss Pierce in My Fair Lady and stole every scene even though she didn’t play the lead role of Eliza Doolittle.

Mary revealed: “Everything she did, she did well, in that sense she stood out.

“They both [Kerry and Jessie] had that determination, ambition and drive.

“There’s a great sense of pride in the school now, it’s an unusual thing to have two Oscar nominees in two years.

“Brendan Gleeson has associations with Thurles as well, he would have family here.”

Kerry, whose lengthy CV includes Better Call Saul, Rome and McDonagh’s Three Billboards, said this week she visualised herself with the Oscar.

Mary said: “You’d always have told them to dream big, you wouldn’t have mentioned the Oscars, but you’d say dream big

“Go for what you believe in and what you want to achieve, give it your best shot.

“You’d also want to be realistic with regard to them in an acting career, the opportunities are so limited and there’s luck involved but talent wins out.

“She’s up against it, but even getting a nomination is fantastic.”

Barry Keoghan, 30


Mary Timmons, deputy principal of O’Connells CBS in Drumcondra, Dublin, has been following Barry’s acting journey since he left school.

She said: “He was an amazing student, he was always into acting when he was in school, he was in all the school plays.

“Himself and his friend did a variety act every year which was really good.

“I taught him maths, he was memorable, a kid you couldn’t forget, always into the acting side of things, putting on a show.

“He was a lively character, always a laugh and a joke, a very kind character.

“When it came to the Christmas shows, Barry would be so excited for the month of December.”

The school has a photo of the Marvel star displayed in the window ahead of the Oscars and Mary said they “couldn’t be prouder”.

She added: “We’ve had a few students who have gone into the arts as a result of Barry, they would have looked up to Barry.

“They went on to get small parts in Love Hate all because of Barry.

“We’ve had a couple of kids as extras in Kin too, but when you see someone from across the road nominated for an Oscar, it does inspire kids.”

Mary said Barry’s nomination had created a “great buzz” around the school.

She continued: “There was a bigger buzz when they saw him playing the Joker at the end of the last Batman.

“They were saying ‘Barry is in Batman, it’s iconic isn’t it’.”

“We were so proud, for Barry to be playing that role was so sensational.

“As a small country we know how to punch above our weight.

Colin Farrell, 46


Pop mogul Louis Walsh recalls the first time he met Colin Farrell - and trying to recruit him for Boyzone.

The young Dubliner was a champion line dancer and their paths crossed in The Pod nightclub.

Louis told the Irish Sunday Mirror: “He always had a red bandana on his head.

“He was kind of the boy around town. He was always well dressed, he was always funny.

“All the girls were after him.”

The music manager was putting a boy band together at the time.

He recalled: “He was always very friendly and I told him what I was doing with Boyzone and I said to him, ‘Do you want to try it?’

“He said ‘I’ll try it, why not?’ he was up for anything for a laugh.

“Careless Whisper was the song he tried and he couldn’t really cut it.

“He said, ‘I really want to be an actor anyway’.

“Do you know what I said, ‘Colin it’s too hard’.”

Louis admitted he’s happy to now eat his words.

He added: “He’s done some great work and made some great movies.

“He may not have gotten an Oscar nomination before this, but he’s a great ambassador for Ireland.

“He has star quality is there but also his likeability, he always had the right clothes, the bandana and the earring, he was always good fun.

“Colin genuinely hasn’t changed. That’s the great thing about him. He’s so down to earth.

“Whatever he has got he has earned. He’s just a good guy and it’s nice to see good guys win.

“I admire him for surviving, he’s a great survivor and looking better than ever.

“Why couldn’t he be the next James Bond, look at Daniel Craig, why not?”


Get breaking news to your inbox by signing up to our newsletter

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.