Teri Hayden obituary: trailblazing agent who guided the careers of some of Ireland’s most successful actors

She had a sense that Irish theatre, TV and film was about to explode, though there was little evidence for this at the time

Born April 26th, 1948

Died April 18th, 2024

Teri Hayden, who has died after a long illness, was a trailblazing agent who guided the careers of many notable Irish actors including Brendan Gleeson and Gabriel Byrne.

Her clients have won Golden Globes, Baftas, Tonys, Oliviers, Emmys and Academy Award nominations, as well as several Iftas.

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In the early 1980s, Hayden saw an opportunity in the growing demand for actors’ representation in Ireland. Coming from a background of economics and finance, she intuited that Irish theatre, TV and film was about to expand, though there was little evidence for this at the time.

Soon she had become Ireland’s premier agent, and rapidly won respect and recognition in a then mostly male preserve. She was never one to seek the limelight but was a fearless negotiator, determined to secure the best possible deal for her clients. She was also responsible for anonymously brokering projects, even when she had no stake in the production.

Despite the offer of a lucrative buyout by a big Hollywood agency, she refused to surrender her independence. Hayden was inordinately proud of her profession and regarded it as a privilege to represent her actors both at home and abroad.

Last year, according to Deadline, Gleeson dedicated his Ifta win for best supporting actor in The Banshees of Inisherin to Hayden, “who has led me through this minefield of a profession that we embrace for years and years”.

In online tributes, the actor Pauline McLynn called her “a wondrous woman”. The former director of the Abbey – now chief executive of the Digital Hub – Fiach Mac Conghail wrote that she was “indomitable in support of her actors and she was an important part of the Irish theatre, TV and film industry”. The actor Deirdre Donnelly wrote: “Teri was my agent for over 40 years, and I owe her so much. She was always supportive, loyal and reassuring – a consummate professional. And as a person, she was a warm, humorous and, of course, glamorous lady.”

A long-time feminist, without ever acknowledging the label, she believed utterly in the equality of the sexes. Yet she was often, like many women in business, judged with disapproval and sometimes outright anathema. In private she was marvellous company, with a mischievous sense of humour and the most loyal of friends. She was a dependable source of truthful life advice.

She was born Teresa Marie O’Connor into a middle-class Irish republican family in Derry in 1948, and completed her secondary education in Ballycastle. She later emigrated to Manchester, where she studied economics. She moved to Dublin to work in RTÉ, where she met Hilliard Hayden, the father of her two children, Karl and Lisa. Their marriage ended after 13 years.

Soon afterwards, she married Brian Palfrey, a chief executive, writer and producer from Coventry who had settled in Dublin. They recently celebrated 42 years together. The couple had a beloved second home in France, both being committed Francophiles. It became their sanctuary and retreat. Just weeks before her death she said she had had a blessed life and was grateful for its blessings as well as its setbacks. She believed gratitude brought contentment and acceptance of the unpredictability of life’s ups and downs.

Teri Hayden is survived by her husband, Brian; her son, Karl (who is now the director of The Agency, the company she founded); her daughter, Lisa; and her five grandchildren.

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