Brenda Fricker is an Irish actress who has starred in various film and television roles including My Left Foot and Home Alone II. She is noted for her performances that provoke emotions from her audience and has won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in the widely acclaimed 1989 film, My Left Foot.
Fricker was born in Dublin and hoped to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a journalist. She gained a junior position at the Irish Times before her career took an unexpected turn into acting when she was offered a minor role in Of Human Bondage, the 1964 film based on the W Somerset Maugham novel of the same name.
Fricker then went on to appear in Tolka Row, Ireland’s first ever soap opera in the early sixties. She became a household name in Britain following her part in the BBC drama Casualty, in which she played the matriarchal figure Megan Roach. She stayed in the role for 65 episodes before leaving in 1990, stating that the character had “started off with a wonderful sense of humour, but lost it all and all she ever seemed to do was push a trolley around and offer tea and sympathy.”
Oscar winning performance in My Left Foot
Her biggest role came in 1989 when she played Daniel Day Lewis’ mother in My Left Foot. The film is about a boy that suffers with cerebral palsy, but overcomes it to go on to become a painter using just his left foot, the only part of his body he can move. The film is set in working class Ireland and Fricker’s character has financial troubles as well as the responsibility of taking care of her family. Fricker won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress as well as being nominated for several other prestigious honours.
Her next big role was in the sequel to the Macaulay Culkin film Home Alone, where a boy is forced to defend his home from burglars after he is mistakenly left on his own by his family. Fricker played the pigeon woman in the sequel, Home Alone II Lost in New York, which had a similar plot to the first movie.
Fricker’s character is a homeless woman who befriends the isolated boy. She offers words of wisdom about the real values in life, and also saves his life at the end of the film.
Key roles in emotional stories
Fricker went on to play several more emotive roles including the mother of Veronica Guerin, the Irish crime reporter that was murdered by drug lords. Fricker played Bernie Guerin, the mother of Cate Blanchett’s character and title role.
Other productions that Fricker has appeared in include Maeve Binchy’s drama about a nursing home, How About You, and as a police Ombudsman in the 2004 film Omagh, about the 1998 IRA bombing in Northern Ireland.
In 2012, Fricker played Dotty in Cloudburst, a film about two lesbians travelling to Nova Scotia to get married that won awards all around the world.