Best co-starring performances: Braveheart (1995), Michael Collins (1996), 28 Days Later (2002), Gangs of New York (2002), In Bruges (2008)

There's something about Brendan Gleeson that just puts you at ease. A large man in stature, the Dublin, Ireland, native should be an intimidating presence, yet he's usually flashing a big cheese grin or providing main film characters with emotional support of some kind, even if—like he does in the underrated, comedic crime flick In Bruges—he's busting guns.

Used to its greatest measure in Danny Boyle's new millennium horror classic 28 Days Later, Gleeson's teddy-bear qualities afford him the always bankable pleasure of being cast as someone's loving father, or that reliable, tension-breaking best friend.

In last year's critically adored independent dark comedy The Guard, he meshed those qualities with hilarious profanity and cold smugness to play an Irish policeman who cavorts with hookers and takes down an international drug smuggling syndicate. Unsurprisingly, The Guard was made in Ireland—Hollywood deal-makers aren't about to give Gleeson a leading role anytime soon. All good, since directors in every other cinema market appreciate the man's chops. No unease here.