Irish movie star Jonathan Rhys Meyers is acting out
As King Henry VIII in the hugely popular Showtime series The Tudors (which is filmed in Ireland) Rhys Meyers is a natural, a volatile, mercurial leader given to sudden inexplicable outbursts. His role looks like a perfect marriage of his creative life and his personal one.
Then in February his successful turn with John Travolta in the movie From Paris With Love also looked like it was turning the dial up on a notch on Rhys Meyers’ ascent to superstardom. Onscreen Travolta and Rhys Meyers had a surprising natural chemistry, so much so you could actually tell they hit it off behind the scenes too.
“Jonathan is a miracle,” said Travolta. “He’s just this amazingly talented gorgeous guy that can do anything. He just approaches a role full bodied and we communicated well. There was no stone unturned when it came to discussing the possibilities together.”
Travolta was right. Rhys Meyers exhibited an unexpected talent for comedy, delighting in sending up his own image.
That playfulness looked like Rhys Meyers’ answer to critics who claim the Irish actor’s acting career has been the longest running audition for the role of James Bond in cinema history. He’s certainly got the stone-faced ladies-man persona down cold, but he also knows how to turn on the Golden Globe winning talent that made his name in the first place (JRM won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Television Film in 2005 for his star turn as Elvis Presley in the CBS biopic Elvis.)
The fact is Rhys Meyers got lucky and he knows it. Blessed with leading man good looks and a knack for picking winning scripts, he’s charted his onscreen course with real savvy.
In the process he’s travelled far from his own humble origins. At 16 years of age, he was a school dropout who spent listless days hanging out around Cork City pool halls on the road to nowhere, Irish style.
All that changed when he was talent spotted by some visiting casting directors. But along with the success came addictions.
In 2005 Rhys Meyers checked himself into the Promises rehabilitation facility in California for his problems with alcohol (his mother, who died last year, was also a heavy drinker). In 2007 he returned to the facility to maintain his sobriety. A few months later he was arrested in Dublin Airport and charged with being drunk and in breach of the peace, and last year in Paris at Charles de Gaulle Airport he was arrested again for being abusive and threatening to airline staff.
The Irish, let’s face it, have a higher threshold for the bad behavior associated with drink, but even Rhys Meyers had crossed it. Clearly he has a significant and ongoing problem.
Of course his fans say cut him some slack. At the end of 2007 he lost his mother Geraldine, to whom he was exceptionally close, and they say he should mourn her and work though his grief in whatever way he can.
There’s something to be said for that point of view. But when his behavior becomes so riotous and loutish that he makes a nasty public spectacle of himself then sympathy turns to contempt.
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