'From Paris with Love' sees John Travolta get his Irish up with Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Rhys Meyers agrees, adding, “I’ve seen John in many films but I didn’t see him like that. My character expects a sophisticated James Bond kind of special agent to turn up, and what he gets instead is a foulmouthed biker boy minus the Harley Davidson.”
Rhys Meyers -- a Co. Cork native who’s won a Golden Globe for his role as Elvis Presley in a TV biopic, and is perhaps most well-known for his role as King Edward VIII in the Showtime series The Tudors -- had his own concerns about his own character, a personal aide to the U.S. ambassador to Paris who wants to get away from administration and hone his talent as a spy.
“We were making a film where I’m playing an American guy in Paris, so if I didn’t have someone like John around to help me I’m not sure it would have worked,” he says.
“I was shooting The Tudors in Ireland on a Tuesday and I arrived in Paris to shoot the film on a Wednesday. So the first time John and I met was on the set, in the scene where our characters meet for the first time. That worked well in the film because it worked well in real life.”
Charlie Wax is the sort of larger than life, one good guy against 1,000 bad guys role that once might have been played by John Wayne or Charles Bronson.
“We decided that full tilt was the only way it would work,” says Travolta, “to be bold with it and go all the way. For research I hung out with some undercover guys in Los Angeles and I got to see what these guys do. I don’t think the character is anything like me at all, but I sure liked acting it.”
As Reese, the mild mannered sidekick, Rhys Meyers also shows a new side to himself. Reese has glamorous dreams about what being a spy is going to be like. But the reality is it’s a dirty job, and only people who have the experience and cynicism that Wax has acquired survive in it.
“Wax enjoys Reese’s naivety,” says Rhys Meyers. “He enjoys seeing him get a punch. He enjoys seeing him shocked by all the shooting. There’s only one way to train somebody and that’s to throw him in at the deep end.”
Travolta’s dramatic new look in the film -- bald headed with a Village People-style goatee -- was the result of a lot of experiments on Photoshopping. The director tried the character with hair, then without it, then scarred and then not, until they found the final look.
“He’s a rogue,” says Travolta. “Even though he does things that we don’t agree with he’s so good at getting the job. You can take that liberty when you’re that good.”
When Travolta looks back now at Saturday Night Fever, the film that first made his name, he sees a little boy.
“I thought I was very advanced and mature in those days, and maybe I was, but I look so young. I’m proud of myself. I had a great start in this industry,” he says.
“Saturday Night Fever and Grease back to back and I got my first Academy Award nomination. I couldn’t have had a better start at 23 years old. As my Irish mother, who was very dramatic, said about my acting abilities to a reporter one night, ‘Porter House, darling, Porter House.’ Meaning top notch, meaning I did well.”
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