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IT HAS TO BE HUGH
BACK IN 1989, MY LEFT FOOT HELPED Hugh O'Conor's career get off on the right one. Though Daniel Day-Lewis snared an Oscar for his portrayal of cerebral palsy-stricken Christy Brown, The New York Times was equally impressed with then-13-year-old O'Conor's portrait of the artist as a younger man. The Irish teen, it said, had "created a performance that most mature actors can only hope for." Immediately, O'Conor received several film offers—most of which he turned down to focus on finishing high school.
Now a drama student at Dublin's Trinity College, O'Conor is again collecting raves—for The Young Poisoner's Handbook. The 20-year-old O'Conor plays schoolboy psycho Graham Young, who in the 1960s and '70s poisoned family members and others with a toxic metallic element called thallium. Director Benjamin Ross cast him in the role because he was moved by the actor's Footwork.
O'Conor started building his résumé early. At age 9, two years after his concert-pianist father enrolled him in drama classes, O'Conor appeared in Lamb, opposite Liam Neeson. "I learned a lot from Liam," he says. O'Conor got the role in Foot after director Jim Sheridan saw him play Martin Sheen's younger self in 1988's Da.
The actor, whose last major movie was 1993's The Three Musketeers, is sufficiently pleased with Poisoner—"the thing post-My Left Foot I'm most happy with"—to be reteaming with Ross on the 18th-century epic he's writing. Until then, O'Conor, who lives with his family and has a girlfriend he won't discuss, will immerse himself in his studies. And if Poisoner piques Hollywood's interest? "Sure!" O'Conor says. "I wouldn't mind doing a movie over there—or five!"
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