Gabriel Byrne: The Stuff That Made Me

TV's latest hard-boiled detective dissects his cultural diet

TELEVISION
Television is a writer’s medium first. I’ll always watch EastEnders when I’m in the UK. Yeah, it’s a soap opera and there’s not a great deal of time for dramatic subtleties and complexities, but it can be extremely well written and it can be wonderful to watch terrific actors do often very complex, emotional work. My favourite characters are Alfie Moon and that fantastic actress who worked in Fish Tank (2009), Kierston Wareing.

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INTERNET
I tend not to read the official kind of newspapers; I prefer to go roundabout ways to get my information. I look for people whose work I have respected for many years, like reporter John Pilger and political thinker Noam Chomsky.

FILM
The first movie that really, for me, captured the possibility of imaginative cinema was Fellini’s Amarcord (1973), a beautiful film about memory, community, politics, childhood and humour. I always go to see what Clint Eastwood is up to because he’s a bare-bones film-maker, yet sometimes very profound. More recently, for light relief, I saw Oblivion. I fell asleep. It really was oblivion.

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MUSIC
Bob Dylan is the master for me. His lyrics are beautiful poems and he’s managed to remain above politics and yet comment on American life in a way that’s accessible to everybody.

SPORT
I’ve been a Manchester United fan since I was 11, before they became a brand. My heroes were Johnny Giles and Tony Dunne, who I modelled myself on [as a full back]. I’ve lived in New York since 1987 but I’ve never got into baseball or basketball. I just don’t get it.

BOOKS
Most recently, I read James Salter’s new book, All That Is. A book from James Salter is a kind of publishing event but at 88, he’s lost none of his powers of observation or storytelling. I read John Banville’s Quirke books before I agreed to do the part [in the new BBC adaptation]. It’s Banville writing under the nom de plume Benjamin Black. They’re mysteries set in Fifties Dublin but the mystery takes second place to the characters.