After interviews to promote August Rush in New York recently, recovering alcoholic Jonathan Rhys Meyers fell off the wagon and landed hard on his face.
The Irish actor was arrested for public drunkenness and breach of peace at the Dublin airport last week. Then he was spotted a few days later drinking in North London, apparently grieving for his mother Geri Meyers O’Keeffe, who died recently at a County Cork hospital in Ireland.
For all his success, Rhys Meyers seems to be working out some troubles, yet faltering under the pressure.
Eight months ago, friends and family hoped he had come to grips with his demons when he checked into a rehab centre after wrapping August Rush. Apparently, it didn’t take.
Yet days before his Dublin airport relapse, the churlish, but charming, 30-year-old seemed at peace and enjoying his promising professional life. He portrays a rebel rocker in the just-released adult film fable August Rush and he’s redefining the raunchy Henry VIII in the soapy R-rated cable series The Tudors.
“I just finished shooting it,” says an energetic Rhys Meyers of The Tudors 12-part second season airing next March in the U.S. And, yes, he confirms, they managed to complete the show before the U.S. writers guild strike cut things short.
And, of course, he acknowledges his Henry VIII is wire thin compared to the bulky historical figure. But then the miniseries isn’t especially accurate either.
“I did put on muscle, but I couldn’t really put on the weight,” says the slim actor. “I said to them right from the start, ‘Listen, if you are looking for a guy to put on 200 pounds I’m really not him.’ My frame wouldn’t hold it.”
So what can Tudors’ fans — the first season ran on CBC this fall — look for in the second part? “It’s like in the first season we laid the rope,” he says. “Second season it gets pulled. It’s very vicious, and the fall of the Boleyn family is quite incredible.”
Playing a rebellious guitar-strumming singer in August Rush is more his thing. In the film, he’s a rocker who has one-night stand with a concert cellist (Keri Russell), then discovers 12 years later he has a musically gifted son (Freddie Highmore).
Along the way, Rhys Meyers plays and sings tunes like a seasoned pro.
“Yeah, I can sing and play a little, but I’ve got some brothers,” he says of younger siblings Jamie, Paul and Alan, “who are proper musicians and play in groups.”
Not that their older brother is ever far from a guitar or his music.
“Everybody’s life has a soundtrack,” he says. And so does his. While shooting August Rush, “I would listen to the choral stuff, and found this great organ piece by a guy called Wolfgang Rabson, and felt a little highbrow,” he confesses.
“At the end of the day, though, it was gutter rock ‘n’ roll for me — a lot of The Pogues, Dropkick Murphys. All that removed despondent Irish stuff.”
That ‘s not surprising. The Dublin school dropout — raised by his mother — was headed for a detention centre when he was spotted, at 16, in a pool hall. That would lead to a few London commercials, TV shows, then a career-making role as the assassin in 1996’s Michael Collins.
In North America, he is often remembered as the coach in 2002’s Bend It Like Beckham and for his portrayal of Elvis Presley in the 2005 miniseries Elvis. He also co-starred in last year’s Mission: Impossible III opposite Tom Cruise.
Still, he struggles with his past and with the bottle, and while August Rush coincidently bookends his drinking, then recovery, then relapse, he has fond memories of what the movie represents.
“Sometimes it’s nice,” he says of the film’s happy-ending fantasy, “to remember what it is like to be positive and creative for two hours.”
Even better, he met up with co-star Highmore on one memorable day last month to attend a game of the London-based soccer team Arsenal. Both are fans and both have season’s tickets.
“So we had breakfast at a greasy spoon cafe and had everything on the surgeon’s health warning,” says a smiling Rhys Meyers. “Then we went to the game together, laughing all the way.”
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