Stars you may not know were in The Long Good Friday

As the brutal gangster drama returns to the big screen, we count down the actors who got early exposure in Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren's 1980 classic


Seminal British gangster flick The Long Good Friday gets a re-release in cinemas today, giving another generation the opportunity to see crime boss Harold Shand (Bob Hoskins) trying to salvage his empire as he battles a mystery syndicate with a bloody vendetta.


The film gave Hoskins his breakthrough role with both his performance as Shand and Helen Mirren’s as his parter Victoria earning huge critical plaudits. 

But did you know that many stars in the making also got an early gig in the movie? We present the now-familiar faces caught up in the chaos of The Long Good Friday 35 years ago…

PIERCE BROSNAN (1st Irishman)

A pre-Bond Pierce Brosnan proved himself to be handy with a gun as the hitman who turned the tables on Bob Hoskins’s Harold in that classic final scene. Earlier in the movie, he also did away with Colin (Paul Feeman) in a brutal swimming pool-set murder scene. Two years later, Brosnan had the starring role in US detective hit Remington Steele and then made his 007 debut in 1995’s Goldeneye.


Right-hand man Jeff came to a particularly grisly end thanks to an explosion of Harold’s temper. But Derek Thompson’s career went on to have remarkable longevity. Following a supporting role alongside Jill Cascoine in police drama The Gentle Touch, he went on to star in hospital drama Casualty. Nurse Charlie Fairhead was in the BBC1 medical show’s opening episode in 1986 and remains in the cast to this day.


Sherry may have stumbled across a security guard nailed to the floor of a warehouse. But within a couple of years, Gillian Taylforth had swapped that fetching headscarf for a pith helmet in order to join Christopher Biggins in the much lighter On Safari! By 1985, she’d joined the cast of EastEnders to play Kathy Beale, a character who was miraculously resurrected earlier this year during the soap’s 30th anniversary.


Police informant Errol the Ponce got a very rude awakening by Harold and his henchmen. After being disturbed mid-way through a sex session, Errol was interrogated by Harold’s cohort Razors, who slashed a machete across his bare buttocks. Thankfully, Paul Barber suffered no such indignities playing Denzil in Only Fools and Horses, although he had a further brush with nudity as Horse in The Full Monty.


You have to give this kid credit: he actually dared to ask the fearsome Harold for money to watch his car. Thankfully, Harold seemed impressed by the kid’s entrepreneurial spirit. In the early 1980s, Dexter Fletcher was proving to be a regular in British films, appearing here and in The Elephant Man and The Bounty. But it was in 1989’s Press Gang where he really made his name, going on to feature in The Rachel Papers; Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Layer Cake.


Dave, a detective sergeant, certainly enjoyed socialising with the criminal fraternity. After all, he was right there when Harold made his impassioned “I’m not a politician” speech to his “trusted friends”. It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it performance, but Howman would of course become more well known to TV viewers as wisecracking house painter Jacko in Bush Strokes during the mid 1980s. He’s now playing Danny Dyer’s screen dad Buster Briggs on EastEnders.


McNally can be glimpsed as getting friendly with Paul Freeman’s ill-fated character Colin in a Belfast bar scene. But the actor would go on to hit Hollywood where he’d feature as Joshamee Gibbs in all Pirates of the Caribbean films. In 2011, he featured alongside his real-life wife Phyllis Logan in ITV’s Downton Abbey.


Acclaimed actor Paul Freeman launched his film career with this film, although his character was done away with in the first 10 minutes when he was knifed by Pierce Brosnan’s hitman. Freeman though carved out a niche playing screen guys thanks to his uncanny talent for foreign accents, most notably as Indiana Jones’s arch rival Rene Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

You can watch the original theatrical trailer for The Long Good Friday below