He was born in Dublin, Ireland, started studying acting when he was 14 years of age and entered the Abbey Theatre school of Acting after secondary school. He became a member of the Irish National Theatre and after that spent eight years in England, touring with several theatre companies. His first television appearance was in ''Z Cars'' on BBC television in 1978.
He also guest starred on shows like Remington Steele and Moonlighting before embarking on a successful film career. He got a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor for his role in The Snapper.