NEW YORK — It took a notoriously overweight, lusty and powerful British king to turn actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers into the next big thing.
The 30-year-old Irishman, and Versace/Hugo Boss fragrance model, previously got our attention with several roles: As an androgynous glam-rocker in Velvet Goldmine; as the pillow-lipped soccer coach in Bend It Like Beckham; as the king of rock ‘n’ roll in the TV mini-series Elvis; and as the social-climbing tennis-playing sociopath in Matchpoint.
But it is Rhys Meyers’ terrific turn as a young — and slim — Henry VIII on the CBC mini-series The Tudors that has made him a household name.
His intense glare stares out from the current cover of Details magazine with the headline “Jonathan Rhys Meyers wants to rule Hollywood.”
In the accompanying article, the two-time rehab visitor (this year alone) talks about how his “Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole days” of boozing were behind him and that “drink doesn’t fit into the groove of where my life is going.”
Given that he was arrested in a Dublin airport on Nov. 18 for public drunkenness and disturbing the peace, he obviously has had a relapse. Even sadder, three days after his arrest his mother died in hospital at age 50.
Rhys Meyers’ latest film role is a far cry from his current realities.
In the fairy tale-like family flick August Rush, he does his own singing in his portrayal of an Irish musician whose one-night stand with a cellist (Keri Russell) leads to the birth of a musical prodigy (Freddie Highmore).
“There’s a lot of really hard-hitting movies out there at the moment, a lot of real thinkers, a lot of sort of like political (films) that really, really make you think,” Rhys Meyers told reporters at an early-November media conference. “August Rush really has its place because you can’t watch that type of movie all the time, and people don’t want to.
“It’s not getting better out there, number one, so sometimes it’s nice for, like, two hours to just remember being positive and being creative. I think this movie has a great healing quality to it. So it does have a lot of open vulnerability, where if you want to be cynical or you want to be critical or ‘that’s not plausible,’ well, fairy tales aren’t plausible.”
Rhys Meyers has been in an on-again, off-again relationship with heiress and London-based student Reena Hammer since 2004; she accompanied him to his mother’s funeral. Rhys Meyers said he does believe in love at first sight, just as his August Rush character experiences.
“But it’s a very strange thing,” he said. “It wasn’t like thunderbolts and lightning. It was kind of like a sickly feeling and it was kind of uncomfortable, really, because it was just very factual. It was like, ‘The sky is blue. When it rains you’re wet.’ I was in love.”
Rhys Meyers, who just finished shooting the second season of The Tudors in his native Dublin, said he doesn’t get any heftier despite some initial controversy over his casting.
“I put on a stone (14 pounds) in muscle but I couldn’t really put on the weight, and when I said I’d do the series I said, ‘Listen if you’re looking for a guy to put on 200 pounds, I’m really not that guy, ’cause my frame wouldn’t hold it.'”
Still, he promises viewers won’t be disappointed with Henry’s coming hijinks.
“It’s almost like in the first season we laid the rope, in the second season it gets pulled,” said Rhys Meyers. “It’s very vicious. The fall of the Boleyn family is incredible. Some great directors like Jon Amiel came in to shoot the last two episodes. It’s magnificent.”
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