It's an unwritten law of the universe -- the people who most need our help are always the least likely to ask for it. In fact, psychologists say, the more spectacularly messed up a person is, the more they’re likely to become convinced that it’s everyone else who has the problem.

How else to explain the strange behavior of Irish actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers recently? Last month Rhys Meyers, 32, was permanently banned from flying with United Airlines because he caused such a nasty scene at their private airport bar; news of the incident just broke in the last couple of days.

According to reports Rhys Meyers (who owns homes and apartments in Dublin, London, New York and Morocco), was “pounding drinks” into himself at 7 a.m. before attempting to board the New York to LA flight, and he quickly became “belligerent and disruptive” when he was told he could not take his seat.  According to, he even used the “n” word when shouting at one of the United employees.

Rhys Meyers’ fury at discovering he couldn’t just behave in any old way he likes is the classic symptom of a person who’s already checked out of reality. His insanely angry outburst stems from his refusal to abide by the same social contracts the rest of us do.

Because, after all, rules are for the little people. He’s a star. “Do you know who I am?” he screamed at the attendants.

It was a statement, but it might have been a question. Behavior like this suggests that at some points Rhys Meyers may not know the answer himself.

When a man with a bank balance as impressive as his threatens people who make a fraction of what he does, you quickly lose sympathy. Sure he was drunk, but -- ask an alcoholic -- not everyone who boozes gets completely out of control: it’s either a choice, they’ll tell you, or a necessity.

United Airlines didn’t want to deal with the incandescently angry, self-destructive star for the duration of a six-hour flight, nor do they want to deal with him ever again. The truth is, no one else will either if JRM doesn’t get his act together.

This latest incident is not the first time the young Irish actor and model (who has been the face of Versace and Hugo Boss) has been in trouble for boozing it up in the air. In fact there’s been a pattern.

Every recent Rhys Meyers drunken flare up seems to have unfolded in an airport or on a plane, where his hard drinking is highlighted by confined spaces and the very hard and fast rules that come with them. In other words, when Rhys Meyers is asked to play by the rules he’s been failing spectacularly, which makes you wonder what he’s been up to when he’s out of the public eye.

Most worrying of all is that 1,000-yard stare of his that’s been captured each time he walks a red carpet. Some celebrities learn how to make their peace with the rigors of fame, while others look like they’ve been incarcerated -- Jonathan Rhys Meyers (who was born Jonathan O’Keefe) has been in the latter camp for years.

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.

In Hollywood producers and studios are well used to eccentric behavior from the stars they employ. But actual racial abuse, whether its directed at a person or simply used as an epithet, is considered such bad form it can actually end your career, so if he did indeed use the “n” word during this latest confrontation at United Airlines, it could cost him dearly.

Rhys Meyers is walking on a particularly perilous tightrope this week and his publicists must be working around the clock to contain the fallout.

Some speculate that Rhys Meyers is imploding because his public face conflicts sharply with his private one, and the tension between the two is always erupting. After Elton, a gay U.S. based website, has listed him as number 44 on its Gay Icon List (although he has denied all the rumors about his orientation).

The truth is we don’t yet know what’s behind his self-destructive behavior.  But Rhys Meyers is no fool and fans must be hoping he can still pull it together to fight his own addictions.

As he said himself in an interview just before his latest public drinking binge, “Growing up in Ireland, I saw many a handsome young man walk into the bar with great dreams. Then I saw the same man sitting there 15 years later, still nursing the pint.” Let’s hope he can remember that.