Family & Companions
Before moving to the USA from her native Ireland, the intense, attractive Fionnula Flanagan made her feature debut as Gerty McDowell in Joseph Strick's fascinating but uneven filming of James Joyce's "Ulysses" (1967). On Broadway, she won critical acclaim and a Tony nomination as Molly Bloom in "Ulysses in Nighttown" (1974), co-starring Zero Mostel and staged by Burgess Meredith. Flanagan has also toured in her one-person show, "James Joyce's Women," in which she played among others, Nora Barnacle Joyce, Sylvia Beach, Harriet Shaw Weaver, and Molly Bloom. The play was adapted as a feature film in 1984, produced by Flanagan and her husband, Garrett O'Connor.
Her career, though, has not been limited to appearing in works by her countryman, but has also encompassed stage, screen and television. In 1968, the petite, auburn-haired Flanagan moved to America and landed her first stage role in "Lovers." She segued to the small screen where she has had the most success to date. Flanagan has appeared in numerous TV longforms, beginning with the 1973 ABC remake of "The Picture of Dorian Gray." She was the Irish maid of the famed, but acquitted suspected murderess in "The Legend of Lizzie Borden" (ABC, 1975), won an Emmy for a supporting role in the ratings winner "Rich Man, Poor Man" (ABC, 1976), and was the wife to writer William Allen White, mourning their teenaged daughter's death "Mary White" (ABC, 1977). That same year, she created the role of Molly, a widow finding her way on the frontier in "How the West Was Won," a role she reprised in the series spin-off. Flanagan was mother to Valerie Bertinelli in "Young Love, First Love" (CBS, 1979) and starred in George Lucas' TV-movie, "The Ewok Adventure" (ABC, 1984). She played mother again, this time to one-armed baseball player Pete Gray (Keith Carradine) in "A Winner Never Quits" (ABC, 1986). Other notable roles include the tough-talking lieutenant in the short-lived drama series "Hard Copy" (CBS, 1987), was a smooth-talking madam in "Final Verdict" (TNT, 1991), and portrayed a widow seeking answers about her husband's death in a rafting accident in "White Mile" (HBO, 1994).
While her feature film work has been sporadic, Flanagan did receive particular notice as a nun in the Oscar-winning short "In the Region of Ice" (1976). Her other credits have ranged from John Huston's "Sinful Davey" (1969), as the daughter of the Duke of Argyll, to several maternal roles. Among the latter are as Molly Ringwald's mom in "P.K. and the Kid" (lensed 1982, released in 1987), as Mary Stuart Masterson's overbearing parent in "Mad at the Moon" (1992) and as John Cusack's mother in "Money For Nothing" (1993). She had one of her best screen roles in another motherly part, as a gruff Irish Catholic whose son is imprisoned for terrorist activities in Northern Ireland in "Some Mother's Son" (1996). After returning to series TV as the matriarch of an Irish-American family on the CBS drama series "To Have and To Hold" (1998), Flanaghan garnered additional praise as the morally grounded wife of a scheming villager (Ian Bannen) in the genial comedy "Waking Ned Devine" (1998). She offered perhaps one of her best turns as the slightly creepy housekeeper in "The Others" (2001). She added memorable humor to the role of Teensy Melissa Whitman in the independent feature "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" (2002), a light-hearted film about a group of women who set out to mend a broken relationship between their "Ya-Ya Sister" and her daughter.
The following year, Flanagan displayed her serious side by taking on the role of Nurse Grace in Antione Fuqua's "Tears of the Sun" (2003). An epic tale dedicated to, as director Fuqua stated, "all the men and women you protect us and go into places and do great things about which too little is said." She then played the adoptive mother of four boys (two black, two white) seeking revenge for her murder after a grocery store robbery in "Four Brothers" (2005). Directed by John Singleton and starring Mark Wahlberg, Andre 3000, Tyrese Gibson and Garrett Hedlund as the avenging sons, "Four Brothers" was a straight-forward and often violent revenge thriller that either pleased or disappointed critics for its simplistic narrative. She then had a terrific supporting turn as the domineering, disapproving mother of a preoperative transexual (Felicity Huffman) who seeks shelter with her estranged family while traveling cross-country with the newly discovered son she fathered in her early life as a man in "Transamerica" (2005).
Cast (Feature Film)
Writer (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Made early film appearance in "Ulysses"
Moved to the US; made New York stage debut in "Winners"
Made TV-movie debut in remake of "The Picture of Dorian Gray" (ABC)
Played Molly Bloom in "Ulysses in Nighttown" on Broadway
Won Emmy as Clothilde in the miniseries "Rich Man, Poor Man" (ABC)
Performed in one-person show, "James Joyce's Women" in Los Angeles
Appeared as regular in series "How the West Was Won" (ABC)
Starred in film version of "James Joyce's Women"; also executive produced with husband
Was regular on short-lived series "Hard Copy" (CBS)
Made stage directing debut at The Abbey Theatre with "Away Alone"
Produced and directed "Hidden Fire", a training film for L.A. firefighters
Starred opposite Helen Mirren in "Some Mother's Son"
Co-starred in the Irish comedy "Waking Ned Devine"
Returned to series TV as co-star of the CBS series "To Have & To Hold"
Cast as the housekeeper in the thriller "The Others"
Co-starred in "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood"
Cast in Antione Fuqua's "Tears of the Sun"
Played the matriarch whose sons are out to avenge her death in John Singleton's "Four Brothers"
Starred opposite Felicity Huffman in the indie-drama "TransAmerica"
Cast as Rose Caffee in the Showtime drama "Brotherhood"