10 Things You Never Knew About 'My Left Foot' and 'Home Alone 2' Actress Brenda Fricker
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Brenda Fricker made history in 1990 when she became the first – and to date only – Irishwoman to win an acting Oscar. Her performance in My Left Foot as the stalwart mother of Christy Brown (Daniel Day-Lewis), a courageous young man born with severe cerebral palsy, remains incredibly touching.
Before My Left Foot, Fricker was best known for playing matriarchal staff nurse Megan Roach in BBC medical drama series Casualty; afterward, she appeared in movies including 1992's Home Alone 2: Lost in New York – as the beloved Central Park Pigeon Lady – and 2011's Albert Nobbs with Glenn Close.
Though Fricker described herself as "semi-retired" in 2014, she's just signed up for a juicy-sounding role in Holding, ITV's upcoming adaptation of Graham Norton's poignant debut novel. It's filming now in West Cork, Ireland, so here's a guide to Fricker's life and career to whet your appetite.
1. Her Oscar statuette is a little damaged because she threw it in a swimming pool.
Fricker shared the hilariously random story during a 2020 appearance on Ireland's The Late Late Show, revealing that after she realized what she had done, her trophy was saved by some heroic Japanese tourists!
2. She told Al Pacino he was going to win at the 1991 Oscars... and then he didn't.
Fricker clearly meant well when she bumped into Pacino backstage, but when she opened the envelope containing the name of that year's Best Supporting Actor winner, her prediction turned out to be off. With characteristic good humor, she shared the somewhat awkward story on Ireland's The Tommy Tiernan Show earlier this year.
3. She's tipped rising star Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose, Judy, Fargo) for success.
"I think Jessie Buckley is far and away the best talent I've seen coming up in Ireland for a long long time," Fricker said during her The Late Late Show appearance. "She has it all. I know there's programs being made about the X-factor but, whatever it is, she has it. She can sing, she can get rid of her Irish accent, and she's got great dignity on the screen – I'd put my money on her."
4. She nearly missed out on her Oscar-winning role in My Left Foot.
The reason? She was busy filming Casualty, which she appeared in from 1986 to 1990. "I was busy doing Casualty at the time and I wasn't pushed about doing film at all," Fricker said at a panel event attended by the Irish Independent. "But my husband moved mountains and got the dates changed."
5. She once played Joseph Gordon-Levitt's foster mom.
Fricker starred opposite Gordon-Levitt, who was just 13 at the time, in the 1994 Disney sports movie Angels in the Outfield.
6. She became close to Macaulay Culkin's family while shooting Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.
"I remember when we were shooting that the trailers were all parked in front of the hotel by Central Park and his mum was in one of them and I just went in to say hello to her," Fricker recalled during an Irish radio interview last year. "We ended up kind of becoming quite friendly and she was telling me that they didn’t even have a washing machine before Macaulay was picked up for that film."
"They were so poor and they had 10 children or something," Fricker continued. "So she was struggling to handle the whole thing, God love her."
7. She divorced her husband, TV director Barry Davies, in 1988 because of his drinking problem.
"I drank enough for about 14 women in my day, but I gave up after it got a hold on Barry and he started turning into a nasty drunk," she told the Daily Mail in 2012. "Now, I might have a Bloody Mary once a year and that’s it.”
"But I adored the ground he walked on," Fricker then said of her ex-husband, who sadly passed away in 1990. "I divorced him to frighten him, and it worked and he admitted that he was an alcoholic. We still walked along holding hands even after we were divorced."
8. She credits music therapy with curing her longtime depression.
Fricker now listens to two hours of Mozart each morning to keep the so-called "black dog" at bay. "It is an extraordinary thing to go through. Fifty years of your life battling with this devil every day and suddenly it’s gone. In the old days you would call it a miracle,” she said in 2016, according to the Times of London. "You see the world with clear eyes for the first time; you walk down the street without being terrified; you can think clearly. It’s wonderful."
9. She's incredibly self-deprecating about her career.
According to Irish Central, Fricker once remarked: "Of all the films I've made, only three do I remember where I felt I'd moved forward as an actress: Cloudburst, My Left Foot, and [1990 Irish drama] The Field."
In 2011's Cloudburst, she and Olympia Dukakis play an older queer couple who embark on a Thelma & Louise-style road trip after Fricker's character is moved into a nursing home. It's an underrated indie drama that's well worth seeking out.
10. And finally, she famously called out the hypocrisy of the British press by saying: "When I'm lying drunk at an airport the press call me Irish. But when I win an Oscar, I'm classified as British."
"I did say that," Fricker told the Daily Mail in 2012. "And I was drunk at the time, but I certainly wasn't lying at the airport."
Do you have a favorite Brenda Fricker performance or anecdote?