Personal detailsName: Stuart Townsend
Born: 15 December 1972 (Age: 42)
Where: Howth, Ireland
Height: 5' 11"
Awards: No major awards
All about this star
Like pop musicians, British and Irish actors seem to invade America in waves. Back in the late Eighties and early Nineties, it was Gary Oldman, Tim Roth and Daniel Day-Lewis. Come the new millennium, a new crop had sprung up with Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Paul Bettany and - a dark horse coming up on the rails - Stuart Townsend. Townsend didn't hang about. Such was his charisma and innate ability, he was starring in Hollywood blockbusters when his film credits were still in single figures.
He was born on the 15th of December, 1972, in Howth, a quiet fishing village on a peninsula just north of Dublin, near a tiny island named Ireland's Eye. His father, Peter, was a pro golfer, then at the peak of his success. A three-time winner of the British Boys Championship, he'd win three tournaments on the European tour, and appeared in the Ryder Cup teams of 1969 and 1971. He'd also rise back to prominence just as Stuart hit Hollywood, in March 2002 winning the Barbados Seniors Open, his first title since 1978.
Peter took a young Irish wife, Lorna, who'd become one of her country's top models - the pair's work causing Stuart to wait 13 years for his brother Dylan, and 15 for sister Chloe. So Stuart grew up as an only child, enduring the claustrophobic life of a small town where everyone knew everything about everyone. As a child he was a devout Catholic, dragging his rather less zealous mother along to church. Always interested in films (though with no thought at all of a career in acting), he spent much of his time in the local video store - the village had no cinema. He still recalls the sadness he felt when he'd finally watched every movie in the shop. Otherwise he was a pretty wayward teen. He'd get into fist fights on the last bus home (the bus eventually being cancelled forever). He lost his virginity to a married woman while on an exchange trip to France, the woman having a whip hanging over her bed (he was pleased she didn't use it). And he was expelled from school on three separate occasions.
His problem, as an adolescent, was that he had no definite vocation. Like many of his countryfolk, all he wanted was to escape the confines of small-town Ireland, travel far, far away, and never have to work in an office. But there was no way out - not, at least, until he enjoyed a particularly fortuitous twist of fate. In his late teens he was dating a girl who was attending the Gaiety School of Acting in Dublin. Previously, he's said, he thought acting classes were for kids, he didn't realise adults could try it. But, deciding to give it a whirl, he went along for a couple of weeks, found that he liked it and auditioned successfully for a two-year course.
Stuart's debut stage performance was in a school production of Patrick Sutton's Tear Up The Black Sail at the Project. Later would come two productions of Brendan Behan's Borstal Boy at the Gaiety. Stuart would play two small parts in the first, but by the second he'd risen to the status of Behan's best friend. Graduating in 1994, he and his friends set up their own theatre group, Ether For Lunch, and devised a show based on the children's TV show The Magic Roundabout. It was a great laugh, Stuart later saying "You have no idea how much fun it is playing Ermentrude the Cow".
Jealously watching as friends and acquaintances won film roles, many of them in the Irish epic Michael Collins, Stuart's first professional role was in fellow thespian John Crowley's True Lines, a production that demanded seven weeks of improvisation and two of research. It changed constantly - in the first version Stuart's character lived, in the second he died. The play was staged at the Dublin Theatre Festival and, a great success, moved on to the Bush Theatre in London. In the meantime, Stuart gained valuable experience in a number of student films, including the short Godsuit.
Finally, he scored his first film role, in Gillies MacKinnon's Trojan Eddie (tragically too late for his mum to see it - she died, at only 43, in 1994). MacKinnon was then a hot indie property after Small Faces, a gritty but absolutely hilarious tale from Glasgow's fiercest estates. Now he came to Ireland. Trojan Eddie is the name of Stephen Rea's small-time crook, who works for and is wholly dominated by Richard Harris's big boss. Harris is getting married to a much younger girl, but on their wedding day she skips town with her secret lover, Harris's nephew - this is Stuart, whose looks and overt sensuality would often see him playing lovers. Harris is understandably annoyed, especially as they've taken all the wedding gifts, and Rea is ordered to track the naughty elopers down.
It was an accomplished movie, but not a major release. It did, though, secure Stuart the services of a London agent who quickly acquired him a role in London-set Shooting Fish. Here Stuart played a geeky English techno boffin who teams up with fast-talking American Dan Futterman to pull off a series of ingenious scams. Employing as a secretary Kate Beckinsale, who's trying to stop her avaricious fiance from seizing the family home and ruining the life of her retarded brother, it just gets more and more complicated - in the cheeriest possible way. Stuart was excellent, though not keen on the haircut he was given. Director Stefan Schwartz did not think the first version goofy enough, so he took to hacking at Stuart's hair himself.
To get the chemistry going between the two male leads, Schwartz had them go out on Oxford Street and try to sell car alarms that supposedly fired a mighty bolt of electricity through any would-be thief.