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John Kavanagh (born c. 1940s) is an Irish actor who has acted on the stage, in over twenty films including Cal (1984), Braveheart (1995) and Alexander (2004), and in numerous television programs. His awards include being nominated for the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Play in 1989 for his role in a revival of Juno and the Paycock.
John Kavanagh had attended the Brendan Smyth Academy since he was 19 years old and following it, attended Abbey Theatre. In 1967 he joined the company and stayed with them for 10 years before becoming freelancer.
Kavanagh began his career with the Irish comedy Paddy (1970), where he played the small role of Willie Egan. That same year, he played another small role in the World War II film The McKenzie Break (1970), about a P.O.W. camp in Scotland whose prisoners are preparing an escape. A singer as well as an actor, Kavanagh played the lead in the Irish stage production of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris in the 1970s (alongside his sister Anne Bushnell). He also starred in the subsequent television production, which aired in December 1978.
The next twelve years brought Kavanagh no new films, though he continued to act on stage. Finally, he decided to return to screen acting with the theatrical film The Ballroom of Romance (1982), which put him in a romance with actress Brenda Fricker. The film was followed up with the small film Attracta (1983), and the made-for-television movie The Country Girls (1984), starring Sam Neill.
Kavanagh's next theatrical film was one of the most famous films of his career: the Irish film Cal (1984), starring Helen Mirren and John Lynch. The film was about a young member of the IRA (Lynch) who is seeking to get out of the organisation. He meets the widow of one of the IRA's victims (Mirren) and they begin a love affair.
Moving on from this film, Kavanagh acted in a number of films and television series. He participated in the thriller The Fantasist (1986), the crime drama Bellman and True (1987), the action film Joyriders (1988), and the independent film 4 Play: In the Border Country (1991), among others.
Kavanagh's career picked up considerably in the mid-nineties. He acted alongside such classic actors as Mia Farrow and Jim Broadbent in the John Irvin film Widows' Peak (1994). Kavanagh then guest-starred in the Sharpe series (starring Sean Bean and Hugh Fraser), where he played the holy man Father Michael Curtis. That same year, he acted in Braveheart (1995) as one of the nobles who routinely changed sides from Scotland to England in the Scottish wars of independence. Kavanagh next acted in Some Mother's Son (1996), a prison film written by Jim Sheridan, and reunited with Brenda Fricker in Pete's Meteor (1998).
After a number of smaller films, Kavanagh acted in another historical epic: the Oliver Stone film Alexander (2004), starring Colin Farrell, Val Kilmer and Anthony Hopkins. Kavanagh played the role of Parmenion, the old general who questions Alexander's actions. After a plot to kill the young leader is foiled, Parmenion is accused of being the mastermind behind it and is murdered. While the film was a triumph overseas, its domestic box office was a fraction of the budget, and it received negative reviews for a number of reasons. After this, Kavanagh acted in Brian De Palma's murder film The Black Dahlia (2006) which failed at the box office.
Kavanagh rebounded with the successful television series The Tudors (2007). Starring fellow Alexander cast member Jonathan Rhys Meyers, the series plays out the story of England's turmoil in the time of Henry the Eighth and his life as he breaks from the Catholic Church. In 2012 Kavanagh was cast in Michael Hirst's TV series Vikings.
John Kavanagh is the father of actress Rachel Kavanagh and musician Jamie Kavanagh. Kavangh's sister, Anne Bushnell, was a jazz, blues and cabaret singer.
- 1970: The McKenzie Break – The Police Inspector
- 1982: The Ballroom of Romance – Bowser Egan
- 1984: Cal – Skeffington
- 1995: Braveheart – Craig
- 1997: The Butcher Boy – Doctor Boyd
- 1997: The Informant – IRA Chief
- 1998: Dancing at Lughnasa – Father Carlin
- 1998: This Is My Father
- 2004: Alexander – Parmenion
- 2006: The Black Dahlia
- 2006: The Tiger's Tail – Harry
- 2007: Closing the Ring – Reverend Smith
- 2013: In Secret – Inspector Michaud
- 2013: The Bachelor Weekend – Fionnán's dad
- 2016: Florence Foster Jenkins – Arturo Toscanini
- 2019: Supervized - Windsor
- TBA: Riverdance: The Animated Adventure
- 1984: Caught in a Free State – Colonel Brian Dillon
- 1991: Children of the North – Seamus Reilly
- 1993: Lovejoy: Irish Stew – Hennessey
- 1995: Sharpe's Sword – Father Curtis
- 1997: Painted Lady - Michael Longley
- 2007–08: The Tudors – Cardinal Campeggio
- 2008: Inspector George Gently – Doyle
- 2013–2020: Vikings – The Seer & Pope Leo IV
- "The accidental actor". The Irish Times. 20 July 2000.
- O'Kelly, Emer (6 February 2017). "Theatre: Jacques Brel is alive and in a nice semi-d". Irish Independent.
- "'Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris' (1978)". RTÉ Archives.
- "Irish Actors David Pearse & John Kavanagh Cast In 'Vikings'". Irish Film and Television Network. 4 September 2012. Retrieved 17 June 2019.