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REVIEW

Ferrell and Gleeson—Vanguard’s Dynamic Duo

20 February 2023
  • Written by
    Brianna Westmacott
  • Photographed by
    Steve Kennedy
Colin Farrell at SBIFF 2023
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Cara croi is an Irish term that roughly translates to “heart friend,” Colin Ferrell explained to a packed theater as he accepted the Santa Barbara International Film Festival Cinema Vanguard Award aside his co-recipient and great friend Brendan Gleeson. Both actors are also nominated for Academy Awards this year for their acting achievement and collaboration in Martin McDonagh’s film, The Banshees of Inisherin. And how apropos, Mr. McDonagh presented the two Irish actors with their awards.

The Cinema Vanguard Award recognizes actors who forged their path in the industry by taking artistic risks in their film contributions. Ferrell and Gleeson have had impressive individual careers and are now working together to jointly wow the crowds. 

Moderator Dave Karger introduced the pair of actors with the analogy of peanut butter and chocolate: they are great on their own, but together they will blow your mind. He proceeded to launch into a montage of their combined accomplishments in film that had the audience laughing and applauding. 

As the actors began to answer Karger’s questions, it became clear that these two were indeed a duo; their natural banter and ease of conversation were quite entertaining to watch. 

Karger asked Gleeson about his beginning days as a school teacher, and Gleeson replied, “I was eaten alive by the pupils. They destroyed me.” After ten years in the classroom, Gleeson changed direction and began acting. Ferrell interjected, “I might have finished school if I had you as my teacher,” as he complimented Gleeson’s dedication and passion for his work.

Karger showed a variety of clips from both actors’ earlier projects. Possibly the most notable bits were Ferrell as the Penguin in The Batman and Gleeson as Winston Churchill in Into the Storm. The actors themselves were unrecognizable as they transformed (with the help of makeup artists) into their characters. Gleeson described his experience playing Churchill, “You only learn things when you cross the road.” Fearlessly heading into unknown territory is something that both Ferrell and Gleeson demonstrate within their acting careers and is another reason they are being bestowed with the SBIFF 2023 Vanguard honor.

Charming and funny, the audience in the Arlington Theater was beguiled by Ferrell and Gleeson’s tales about their work, lives, and friendship. Like The Banshees of Inisherin their first film together, In Bruges, was written and directed by Martin McDonagh. McDonagh is a British-Irish playwright and filmmaker, and when he teams up with these two Irishmen, magic is made. 

Banshees is a dark, comic film that follows the story of two friends, set on a tiny Irish island in the 1920s. Ferrell and Gleeson’s characters have a feud that parallels a torturous breakup, with heartache and break depicted in a uniquely brilliant script. Not surprisingly, the film has been nominated for nine Academy Awards, with McDonagh, Ferrell and Gleeson recognized.

As McDonagh took the stage for the final presentation of the awards, he looked over at the pair of actors seated on the white couch and gave a brotherly, “Hello boys!” welcome to his friends. McDonagh went on to praise Ferrell and Gleeson, and at one moment, the two gentlemen grabbed and shook hands in a congratulatory gesture, each genuinely happy for the other’s accomplishments. No doubt, there will be many more awards for this dynamic duo.

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Santa Barbara International Film Festival photo from State Street