Erin Richter
August 08, 1997 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Having debuted as a reluctant IRA soldier in 1984’s Cal, having stood with Daniel Day-Lewis as a member of the Guildford Four in In the Name of the Father, having played the hunger-striking Irish martyr Bobby Sands in Some Mother’s Son and a Catholic widower whose attempt to sidestep sectarian violence ends tragically in Nothing Personal, John Lynch probably isn’t planning on doing any more pub crawling in Protestant sections of Belfast. Three years ago he walked into a bar with Nothing Personal costars James Frain and Ian Hart. ”They told us to get out or they’d put us out,” Lynch recalls.

Becoming the unofficial face of suffering Irish nationalism was never Lynch’s intention. An Irish citizen raised in Northern Ireland, in a home he describes as not very political but ”hugely aware” of the British presence, the soulful 35-year-old actor has bowed to opportunity. ”It would be false of me to avoid [these roles],” says a newly wed Lynch, phoning from the Dublin home he now shares with film director Mary McGuckian (Words Upon the Window Pane). ”It’s where I grew up. It’s the environment that’s informed me.”

Recent years have seen Lynch getting out more — he was Robin Wright’s romantic savior in Moll Flanders, and he played a lovestruck schizophrenic in the new-to-video Australian award-winner Angel Baby — but don’t expect him to stray as far afield as, say, Hollywood. In the Name of the Father director Jim Sheridan considers him ”Ireland’s best young actor,” and Lynch seems content with being a big fish on small sod. ”I think there’s enough going on for me here,” says Lynch, who started out in Gaelic school plays before studying theater at London’s esteemed Central School. ”I’m in a lucky position. I can choose what I want to do. Within the American framework, it can get very silly and grandiose and about dollar signs and various other things.”

Such as the glare of publicity when you costar with Gwyneth Paltrow in Sliding Doors, a romantic dramedy that Miramax has slated for a November release. What’s a shy Irishman to do when fame comes calling? Lynch, who wrote a biopic of soccer legend George Best that he hopes McGuckian will shoot next spring, already has the maneuver mastered: ”I’ll duck it!”

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