To aid with any possible Ciaran Hinds withdrawal symptom — as Broadway’s The Seafarer draws to a close on March 30 — fans of the chiseled-cheeked actor need only go to the movie theater. On Friday, March 7, he will be seen as Joe, a dashing designer of ladies undergarments, in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, a period romantic comedy co-starring Frances McDormand (in the title role) and Amy Adams. That film will be followed in the coming weeks by Stop Loss, in which he and stage favorite Linda Emond play the parents of Army sergeant Ryan Philippe, and Mister Foe, a darkly whimsical coming-of-age story in which he plays the dad of Jamie Bell (of Billy Elliot fame). Plus, Hinds can also still be seen around town in the Oscar-winning There Will Be Blood and Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges.
Hinds admits this current spate of movies isn’t part of any grand career scheme. “I never have any idea of the future. We [his actress partner Helene Patarot and their daughter] live in Paris most of the year, so it’s even more amazing,” he says with his trademark slightly off-kilter grin. “I mean considering that I don’t really seek them out, they sort of come to me. Now that I’m past my sell-by date, I enjoy the odd chance to play romantic characters. It’s amazing how people will wait outside the theater to tell me their favorite role of mine was Captain Wentworth in Persuasion.”
Miss Pettigrew, a comedy/fantasy with a serious twist, is based on the eponymous beloved 1938 novel by Winifred Watson. It’s set in economically depressed London on the brink of World War II, where the poor live a Dickensian hand-to-mouth existence in soup kitchens, while the rich are ensconced in tons of art deco. Somehow, as in all good romantic comedies, Pettigrew finds her man, albeit with the aid of a complete makeover and a meal.
As much as he enjoys filming, the RADA-trained Hinds began his acting career with The Glasgow Citizens Theatre after studying law. He has appeared at the Abbey, the Gate, The Royal Shakespeare Company (where he starred in Richard III), and made his first American stage appearance at BAM in 1988 as part of the world tour of Peter Brook’s Mahabharata along with Patarot. “We played at the Majestic [now the Harvey] which was put into that distressed state to mimic Brook’s Paris Theater and then they just kept it that way,” he recalls.
Hinds was not an original member of The Seafarer‘s London cast; his role of the devilish Mr. Lockhart was played overseas by Ron Cook. “The story of how I got into The Seafarer is kind of like most of my career,” he explains. “I was taken to see it for my birthday and I thought Jim [Norton] and Conleth [Hill] were just wonderful. Suddenly, six weeks later I got a call to do the Broadway show, because they needed someone with a green card for the New York run.”
The show marks Hinds’ second visit to the Great White Way; the other time was in his friend Patrick Marber’s play Closer. “Broadway’s a different animal and the stakes are higher because it’s a business,” he says. “But with The Seafarer, it’s been the best of both worlds because it’s such a great cast and we all have such admiration and respect for each other. And the audiences every night are so responsive to us that, even though it’s ending in a few weeks, we’re still up there working at it every time.”
Still, he admits the five month run has been tough on his family. “My daughter Aoife [pronounced Ee-fa] is still in school, so she and her mum came just on holidays; we were together for Halloween and during Christmas,” he notes. As for balancing a career between film and theater, Hinds claims, “It’s really hit or miss and sometimes I get away with it and sometimes it’s just a job. But much more often than not, I’ve been really fortunate in the people I’ve worked with.”