In her teens, Fricker aspires to follow her parents’ footsteps into journalism. Before becoming an actress, she is assistant to the art editor of The Irish Times, with hopes to become a reporter. At age 19, she becomes an actress “by chance,” as her feature film career begins with a small uncredited part in the 1964 film Of Human Bondage, based on the 1915 novel by W. Somerset Maugham. She also appears in Tolka Row, Ireland’s first ever soap opera.
One of Fricker’s first TV roles is as staff nurse Maloney in Coronation Street, debuting on January 10, 1977. Fricker comes to wider public attention in the United Kingdom in another nursing role, as Megan Roach in the BBC One television drama series Casualty, appearing in 65 episodes. After making cameo appearances in three additional episodes, Fricker’s final appearance as Megan is in August 2010, when her character takes a lethal cocktail of drugs to end her life.
Fricker finds international acclaim after she wins the 1989 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Christy Brown‘s mother in My Left Foot, becoming the first Irish actress to win an Oscar. The film is a triumph for Irish film making. Daniel Day-Lewis wins best actor for his portrayal of the disabled Brown while director Jim Sheridan receives numerous Best Director nominations at various film festivals.
She rejoins Sheridan to make the 1990 film The Field, starring alongside Richard Harris as Maggie McCabe. She continues her television work during this period, starring in the Australian-produced short series Brides of Christ (1991). She then co-stars in the 1992 TV miniseries Seekers alongside Josette Simon and produced by Sarah Lawson.
Buoyed by her Oscar win, Fricker goes on to appear in several high profile Hollywood films, most notably in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. The following year she portrays May Mackenzie in So I Married an Axe Murderer, and next portrayed Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character’s motherly caretaker Maggie in Angels in the Outfield. One of her last Hollywood film roles comes with A Time to Kill, as Ethel Twitty, loyal secretary to Matthew McConaughey‘s Jake Brigance. She then focuses almost exclusively on film and television work in Canada and the British Isles.
In July 2014, Fricker tentatively retires from acting. Previously married to director Barry Davies, Fricker currently lives in the Liberties in Dublin.