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Richard Harris biopic made by son Jared explores remarkable Irish actor’s life

Now his son Jared, a celebrated actor in his own right, has helped to piece together a biopic of his father’s life

Legendary star Richard Harris© Getty Images

Jared, Damian and Jamie pictured in 1999

Actor Jared Harris followed in his father’s footsteps© ??  `??_/O??

Another side to the Hollywood legend at home with first wife, Elizabeth, and their three sons© ??  `??_/O??

Richard Harris performing on stage

Richard Harris with his sons in later years

Kevin PalmerSunday World

He was one of the most iconic hellraisers in Irish popular culture, yet there was a side to Richard Harris that was only seen by those closest to him.

The Limerick-born acting giant who died a little over 20 years ago is etched into folklore as one of this nation’s finest actors, with commanding performances in This Sporting Life and The Field earning him Academy Award nominations.

Some of his most popular work was produced at the back end of his career, as he played the role of Professor Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter movies, while also starring in 2000 blockbuster Gladiator.

Now his son Jared, a celebrated actor in his own right who won Best Actor at the 2020 BAFTA Awards for his turn in Sky Atlantic drama Chernobyl, has helped to piece together a biopic of his father’s life.

Jared, Damian and Jamie pictured in 1999

“There hasn’t been anything after his passing that really has been written about him, and we wanted to put that right,” began Jared, speaking exclusively to Magazine+about Sky Art film The Ghost of Richard Harris, which airs on November 19.

“Every time I do interviews with the British and Irish press, Dad comes up quite quickly, so there was obviously a big interest there and they always focus on the hellraiser reputation.

“This was the image he had and, in many respects, this was an image he promoted, even if it was not the full picture.

“This was an image he fed to the media because he knew that was a story they would print. So he fed them that, almost to his own detriment, to get the publicity he needed to promote his work.

“Yet that isn’t the Richard Harris we knew, the dad me and my brothers knew.

“So we felt there was a need for a more complete portrait of him, and that’s what I feel we have done here.

“At one point in the film, we hear him say that his life would not be complete without his three sons and those words didn’t surprise us. We knew that people saw him as this mad, drinking and womanising eccentric, but there was never any question in our mind that he loved us,” he continues.

Actor Jared Harris followed in his father’s footsteps© ??  `??_/O??

“He was obviously a different dad to other dads, but he adored us and was devoted to us.

"He would make time when he was working that he would come and see us on our school holidays.

“Then when we got older, our relationship became more substantial in a way because you could sit with him and have a pint of beer and talk about the world. That’s when I really got to know him.”

Another side to the Hollywood legend at home with first wife, Elizabeth, and their three sons© ??  `??_/O??

Jared’s emotions as he revisits his father’s colourful story provides the narrative for a documentary that takes the viewer through Irish life in the 1960s and 1970s, when Richard was based in London, at a time when the IRA bombs were going off in the city.

A passionate voice for a united Ireland, Richard was still loved and adored by audiences in the UK, with his colourful escapades that generally involved models and booze — a constant source of fascination for the media.

This celebrity aura was shielded from his sons Jared, Jamie and Damien, all born to his first wife Elizabeth Rees-Williams.

Richard’s womanising contributed to the collapse of that relationship, but Jared insists his dad’s wild side is not what he remembers him for.

“I never experienced what it would be like to grow up not being the son of Richard Harris, so I have nothing to compare it to,” says the 61-year-old.

Richard Harris performing on stage

.“He wasn’t starry in that way. When we were together it was family time. He wasn’t taking us to red carpet events every other day. We didn’t mix with other actors and celebrities. He was a very private person and family time was important to him.

“When you go out to restaurants or airports, you get an idea of what it was like to be him and he enjoyed the attention he would get. If you were in a restaurant with him and he noticed the table next door were listening, he would push his chair back so they were welcome to listen.

“Then as the story progressed, all conversations in the restaurant stopped and when he got to the punchline, everyone burst out laughing with him.

“He had that something about him that few have,” smiles Jared, also famed for playing Lane Pryce in Mad Men and King George VI in The Crown.

“Frank Sinatra called it the ‘room dropper’ quality and he had that. Not many people have it, but you know the ones that have it immediately.”

​The Ghost of Richard Harris is available on Sky Arts from November 19

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