In 1950, Gabriel Byrne was born in Dublin, Ireland, as the eldest of six children. His father worked for Guinness and built barrels until wood came out of fashion when he was 52. His mother was a hospital worker and nurse.
At the age of 12, he went to a Catholic seminary in Birmingham from which he was expelled with 17 for inappropriate behavior. Despite his strong religious upbringing, Gabriel Byrne is considering himself as an atheist by now. He attended University College Dublin to study archeology and linguistics and worked in a broad variety of jobs, such as archaeologist, cook, and Spanish school teacher. He got into acting at 29, when he joined the London Royal Court Theatre. He never attended drama school.
He holds the honorary patronage of the University Philosophical Society of the Trinity College in Dublin (2007) and of the Aisling Ghear in Belfast, the only theatre company fully working with the Irish language (2008). Also, he has an honorable degree of the National University of Ireland for his 'outstanding contribution to Irish and international film' in Galway (2007).
He was married to the actress Ellen Barkin
, whom he met on the set of Siesta in 1987. With 37 he followed her to the United State where he had never set foot before. The couple has two children, Jack Daniel, born in 1989 and Romy Marion, born in 1992. Byrne and Barkin divorced in 1999, following an amicable separation.