This holiday moviegoing season, it will be pretty hard to ignore Domhnall Gleeson, the Irish actor who will appear in three high-profile movies: The Revenant, Brooklyn, and, a little film called Stars Wars: The Force Awakens . Perhaps, you've heard of it? He'll be playing resident baddie General Hux, who is part of the First Order, the new dark side organization that has sprung from the ashes of the Empire. In most of Gleeson's films — he's been in a total of 21 since 2005 — he's played the good guy, winning you over in bit parts like Bill Weasley in 2010's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Parts 1 and 2 or as the romantic lead dealing with his family's time-traveling secret in 2013's About Time.
With his flaming red hair, Gleeson's rather easy to spot (and easy on the eyes), but, since he never seems to play the same character twice, you may not even register the fact that you've seen him before. This is where that stops though, since The Force Awakens is bound to make him a household name — or at least help people learn how to pronounce it. (For the record, it's like "tonal" with a D instead of a T and, as he told Entertainment Weekly, the M is just there to confuse Americans.) As General Hux, Gleeson is about to make bad look very good.
Gleeson is a character actor with the ability to steal any scene he's in. In the movie Frank, he even manages to steal the spotlight away from Michael Fassbender. No easy feat, being that Fassbender wore an oversized papier-mâché head throughout that film. But scene-stealing may be in his blood, being that his father, actor Brendan Gleeson, is also known for transforming character roles into memorable moments in films like Braveheart, Gangs of New York, 28 Days Later and in the fourth, fifth and final Harry Potter films where he played Hogwarts professor Mad-Eye Moody. Gleeson taking this role — his first true villain — is like a master's class in character acting. What better way to make your mark as the bad guy than in series known for turning its villains into names that should strike fear into everyone?
Though all will be revealed soon, General Hux is someone we know little about. What we do know right now though, is that he commands their main base Starkiller — a nod to Luke's nickname in the original series — and is young, confident and ruthless. There's certainly no doubt that he's bad, as Gleeson told the Independent, “If a good guy is wearing that overcoat, we're all in trouble.” It will be interesting to see what Gleeson brings to the role, since it's clear from the photos he's not in a Darth Vader-like mask or carrying a lightsaber. He's a different, more slicked-back kind of evil that has people to do his bidding for him. Perhaps he's our new generation's General Palpatine while Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver, is more of a Darth Vader type. Their relationship seems to be as complicated as those past characters. "He’s kind of opposite Kylo Ren. They have their own relationship, which is individual and unusual," Gleeson told Entertainment Weekly. "One of them is strong in different ways than the other. They’re both vying for power."
I can imagine from looking at some of Gleeson's other roles that he won't let this bad guy become a caricature. In the 2014 sci-fi thriller Ex-Machina, Gleeson plays the nerdy, but nervy computer designer that could have just been a stereotypical computer guy. Instead, Gleeson surprises you. It's safe to say he'll surprise us as General Hux too.
While the release of Star Wars is bound to change his career in ways we, and he, cannot even imagine, Gleeson still seems more comfortable being called a character actor rather than a star, and he's interested in good roles than where his name appears on the marquee. "If a character actor is someone who can play different kinds of roles and not just the same thing all the time," he told Esquire UK recently. "Then bring it on." He may not be playing a Jedi, but the force certainly seems to be strong with this one.