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IFTA Rising Star Winners: Where are they now?
01 Apr 2016 : Seán Brosnan
Previous Rising Star winners Sarah Greene, Jamie Dornan and Gerard Barrett
With the 2016 IFTA Film & Drama Awards just over a week away (Saturday, April 9th) – we take a look at the past eight recipients of the IFTA Rising Star Award (sponsored by the Irish Film Board), all of whom have delivered on the promise shown when they received the accolade.


Saoirse Ronan won the IFTA Rising Star Award in 2008 for her role as Briony Tallis in ‘Atonement’, a performance which also saw her collecting the Best Supporting Film Actress award. Saoirse’s film debut, the role also won her international acclaim including BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations and at thirteen, becoming one of the youngest Academy Award nominees ever.

Ronan built on the acclaim earned in ‘Atonement’ by leading films such as Peter Jackson’s ‘The Lovely Bones’, Joe Wright’s ‘Hanna’ and Neil Jordan’s ‘Byzantium’ before earning Oscar, Golden Globe and IFTA nominations for her performance as young immigrant Eilis in John Crowley’s ‘Brooklyn’. Upcoming projects include Chekhov adaption ‘The Seagull’, ‘Loving Vincent’ (opposite Aidan Turner) and ‘On Chesil Beach’.


Michael Fassbender won dual honours at the Irish Film & Television Awards in 2009, collecting both the Best Film Lead Actor and Rising Star Awards for his role as prisoner Bobby Sands in the film ‘Hunger’. The awards ceremony was the culmination of a year in which the actor had exploded into the mainstream with the film’s success, both in Ireland and internationally where he was honoured by organisations such as BIFA and BAFTA for his performance.

Like Ronan, Fassbender also had a terrific year in 2016, earning Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations for his turn as late Apple tycoon Steve Jobs in Danny Boyle’s ‘Steve Jobs’. He has built up a rapport with ‘Hunger’ director Steve McQueen and subsequently starred in his feature films ‘Shame’ and ’12 Years A Slave’, garnering an Oscar nomination for his work on the latter film. Other acclaimed film roles include ‘Slow West’, ‘Macbeth’, ‘Frank’, ‘Prometheus’ and ‘Inglorious Basterds’. He is one of the busiest actors working today and upcoming projects include ‘Assassin’s Creed’, ‘The Snowman’, ‘X Men: Apocalypse’, ‘Trespass Against Us’ (opposite Brendan Gleeson) and ‘The Light Between Oceans.


Tomm Moore is an Irish filmmaker and illustrator who was the recipient of the IFTA Rising Star Award in 2010 for his directorial debut feature animation ‘The Secret of Kells’. The hand-drawn animation film took several years to make and showcased an intricate modern Celtic Irish style. The film won a surprise Academy Award nomination after a limited release in the US, taking its place alongside major Hollywood animation studios Pixar and Disney.

Moore followed ‘The Secret of Kells’ with ‘Song of the Sea’, which was made with as much pain-staking detail as the former. ‘Song of the Sea’ received acclaim and was also nominated for an Academy Award in 2015. It also became the first feature film to win the IFTA Award for Best Film. Upcoming projects of Moore’s include ‘The Breadwinner’, which will be directed by Nora Twomey and Exec Produced by Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie.


Domhnall Gleeson won the IFTA Rising Star Award in 2011 along with the Best Television Lead Actor Award for his performance as Bob Geldof in the TV Movie ‘When Harvey Met Bob’. The award was the culmination of a breakout year in 2010 which saw him gain a higher international profile with appearances in films such as ‘Harry Potter and The Deathly Hollows’ and ‘Never Let Me Go’, as well as starring roles in domestic titles such as ‘Sensation’ and ‘Your Bad Self’.

Since 2011, Gleeson has continued to make a mark on the world stage, a fact indelibly evident in 2016 with four of the films that Gleeson starred in (‘The Revenant’, ‘Brooklyn’, ‘Ex Machina’ and ‘Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens’) garnering Oscar nominations. He is also a double IFTA nominee in 2016, receiving nominations for Best Actor Film (‘Ex Machina’) and Best Supporting Actor Film (‘Brooklyn’).


Filmmaker John Michael McDonagh won the IFTA Rising Star Award in 2012, along with the Best Director & Script Awards for his feature film directorial debut ‘The Guard’. The film, telling the story of an off-centre Irish policeman, played by Brendan Gleeson and his relationship with a specially-assigned FBI officer (Don Cheadle), became the highest-grossing film of all time in Ireland. ‘The Guard’ received universal acclaim, gaining Golden Globe, BAFTA and Satellite Award nominations with The Hollywood Reporter describing the film as “exceptionally accomplished” and The Times recommending it as “without doubt the strongest debut film of the year”..

McDonagh’s second feature was ‘Calvary’ –starring Brendan Gleeson – which once again sweeped the IFTA’s in 2014 winning Best Film, Best Actor (for Gleeson) and Best Script for McDonagh. His third film is crime comedy ‘War on Everyone’, starring Alexander Skarsgard and Michael Pena, which received positive reviews after its’ world premiere at Berlinale in 2016.

See below for a clip of John Michael McDonagh winning Best Script at the 2014 IFTA Awards.


Writer/director Gerard Barrett won the IFTA Rising Star Award in 2013 for his feature film debut ‘Pilgrim Hill’. The film, made on a budget of just €4,500, explored the life of an isolated farmer in the rural South of Ireland and his struggles with loneliness whilst caring for his sick father. ‘Pilgrim Hill’ won international acclaim for this sensitive portrayal with Variety calling it “invisibly scripted...a massive tragedy told in a minor key”.

Barrett’s second film ‘Glassland’ premiered at Sundance in 2015 to acclaim, with Barrett receiving a Grand Jury Prize nomination for the film. Starring Jack Reynor and Oscar nominee Toni Collette – the film went on to receive six IFTA nominations – including Best Film and Best Director and Script for Barrett. The filmmaker’s third film will be ‘Brain on Fire’ – based on the best-selling novel of the same name – which stars Chloe Grace Moretz in the lead role.


Jamie Dornan won the IFTA Rising star award and the Lead Actor in Television Award for his portrayal of serial killer Paul Spector in the critically acclaimed BBC/RTÉ drama series The Fall, alongside Gillian Anderson. His performance received rave reviews with The Guardian calling it “extraordinary”, as well as garnering a BAFTA nomination.

Since 2014, Dornan has seen his stock rise considerably. He landed the lead role of Christian Grey in the Box-Office hit ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ – which made over $570m worldwide. He also reprised his role as serial killer Paul Spector in ‘The Fall’, garnering another IFTA nomination in the process. Upcoming projects of Dornan’s include two ‘Fifty Shades’ sequels, Richie Smith’s siege drama ‘Jadotville’, WW2 film ‘Anthropoid’ (alongside Cillian Murphy) and a third series of ‘The Fall’.

See below for Jamie Dornan winning Best Actor TV for ‘The Fall’ on the same night he won the IFTA Rising Star Award.


Actress Sarah Greene won the Rising Star IFTA Award and the Supporting Actress Drama IFTA Award for her multi-layered and highly praised portrayal of humanitarian and children’s rights activist Christina Noble in the feature film ‘Noble’. Greene’s performance drew very positive critical responses from publications such as The Irish Times who wrote that “Sarah Greene is nothing less than magnificent as Christina in late adolescence and young adulthood.”

Greene has been busy since her win last year, starring alongside Bradley Cooper in ‘Burnt’, as well as playing Hecate Poole in Irish shot series ‘Penny Dreadful’ as well as May in period drama ‘Rebellion’. She is one of only a handful of double IFTA nominees at this year’s IFTA Film & Drama Awards, garnering nominations for her lead performance in ‘Rebellion’ and her supporting turn in ‘Penny Dreadful’.

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