Actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers spoke of his love for Ireland after accepting an Irish Post Legend Award in London last week.

“Being Irish is special,” the Cork actor told the audience. He spoke of his love of the Irish countryside where he grew up on a farm. 

“There was something about Irish country people, something about the land that really made me very proud,” he said, according to the Irish Post.

Lord of the Dance creator Michael Flatley presented Rhys Meyers with the award.

“What a star you are,” Flatley said. “You don’t get to the top of the world in anything without lots of talent, I suppose a little bit of luck, but mostly a mountain of hard work. And the most handsome guy in Hollywood, of course he’s from Ireland.”

Rhys Meyers, who has starred alongside some of the biggest names in Hollywood, began his career at the age of 17 with his role as an assassin in Neil Jordan’s 1996 biopic ‘Michael Collins.’

He recounted his audition with the director and how he believed he’d ruined his chances to be cast. He said inspiration struck while he was having a cigarette outside the audition hotel.

“There was a taxi outside the door and the window was open. There was something on the radio, I only heard the last couple of words of what was said, it said ‘Between my finger and my thumb the squat pen rests; snug as a gun. I’ll dig with it’. And that was Seamus Heaney.

“So I walked back in to the room and said ‘Neil, I’m from Cork, if you want me to f***ing kill Liam Neeson, I’ll kill him!” he joked.

Rhys Meyers, who comes from a family of musicians, said his desire to act came from a need to make his mark on the world.

“For me when I first started it was something to do as a job because I wanted to get out. This was the typical Irish story, I wanted to get out of Ireland, I wanted to do something,” he said.

The Golden Glob winner revealed that his journey to be an actor wasn’t easy.

“I’ve had so much rejection,” he said. “I went to Hollywood and was told no, no, no, then some people said yes, then some people said no. I’ve had ups and downs, I’ve fallen down as much as I’ve gotten up, I think you do that in life. But I’ve always remembered at the core of it that being Irish is special.”

He also spoke of his admiration for Irish-American director John Ford.

“You’ve got to think about the people that inspire you,” he said. “I’m inspired by the director John Ford. Somebody interviewed him and asked him how you do that shot where John Wayne really rides out of the desert, and he says ‘I used a camera’, that’s it!

“So when people say to you do you do something that’s really, really complicated, or do you do something that’s really, really difficult, you trust the people you’re working you. I appear in films I don’t make them, I appear in other people’s movies.”

He added: “You have to trust the people that you work with. I’ve worked with some brilliant people, people that are really kind, and we’re not just the talking about the directors and the producers and the people on the higher echelons.

“We’re talking about some mornings I’ll walk onto the set of the Tudors and my driver Alan from Dublin who will be the one who’ll get me through the day.”

Jonathan Rhys Meyers was presented with his prize by Michael Flatley, also pictured is MC for the evening Eamonn Holmes.Malcolm McNally / Irish Post