Gleeson was born in Dublin, the son of Pat and Frank Gleeson. Gleeson has described himself as having been an avid reader as a child. He received his second level education at St. Joseph's CBS in Fairview, Dublin where he was a member of the school drama group. After training as an actor, he returned to Ireland and worked for several years as a secondary school teacher of Irish and English at the now defunct Catholic Belcamp College in North County Dublin, which closed in 2004. He was working simultaneously as an actor while teaching, doing semi professional and professional productions in Dublin and surrounding areas. He left the teaching profession to commit full-time to acting in 1991.
Born: March 29, 1955 (age 59), Dublin, Republic of Ireland
Height: 1.88 m
Spouse: Mary Gleeson (m. 1982)
Children: Domhnall Gleeson, Brian Gleeson, Rory Gleeson, Fergus Gleeson
Upcoming movie: In the Heart of the Sea
Gleeson started his film career at the age of 34. He first came to prominence in Ireland for his role as Michael Collins in The Treaty, a television film broadcast on RT One, and for which he won a Jacob's Award in 1992. He has acted in such films as Braveheart, I Went Down, Michael Collins, Gangs of New York, Cold Mountain, 28 Days Later, Troy, Kingdom of Heaven, Lake Placid, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Mission: Impossible II, and The Village. He won critical acclaim for his performance as Irish gangster Martin Cahill in John Boorman's 1998 film The General.
In 2003, Gleeson was the voice of Hugh the Miller in an episode of the Channel 4 animated series Wilde Stories.
While Gleeson portrayed Irish statesman Michael Collins in The Treaty, he later portrayed Collins' close collaborator Liam Tobin in the film Michael Collins with Liam Neeson taking the role of Collins. Gleeson later went on to portray Winston Churchill in Into the Storm. Gleeson won an Emmy Award for his performance. Gleeson played Hogwarts professor Mad-Eye Moody in the fourth, fifth and seventh Harry Potter films. His son Domhnall played Bill Weasley in the seventh film.
Gleeson provided the voice of Abbot Cellach in The Secret of Kells, an animated film co-directed by Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey of Cartoon Saloon which premiered in February 2009 at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.
Gleeson starred in the short film Six Shooter in 2006, which won an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short. This film was written and directed by Martin McDonagh who also wrote and directed In Bruges in 2008. The film, and Gleeson's performance, enjoyed huge critical acclaim, earning Gleeson several award nominations, including his first Golden Globe nomination. In the movie, Gleeson plays a mentor-like figure for Colin Farrell's hitman. In his review of In Bruges, Roger Ebert described the elder Gleeson as having a "noble shambles of a face and the heft of a boxer gone to seed."
He has been married to Mary (ne Weldon) since 1982. He has four sons, Domhnall, Brain, Fergus and Rair. Domhnall and Brain are also actors. His brother, Barry Gleeson, is a well-known singer in An Giln traditional singers' club. Gleeson speaks fluent Irish and is an advocate of the promotion of the Irish language.