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Rhys Meyers, Jonathan (1977-)


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Strikingly attractive, almost to his detriment, and increasingly versatile, Jonathan Rhys Meyers' career has gathered momentum, especially in the last few years. He was born on July 27th 1977 in Dublin, and, after a tumultuous childhood, was talent-spotted by a company advertising Knorr soup. His first screen appearance, at the age of 17, came in a bit part in A Man Of No Importance (Ireland/UK, d. Suri Krishnamma, 1994), but his acting debut proper came in the pivotal role of Michael Collins' assassin in Michael Collins (UK/Ireland/US, d. Neil Jordan, 1996). , His brief but charismatic cameo established him as a name to watch, especially after he was described by Jordan as being like 'a young Tom Cruise'. His next substantial part came in the title role of the snowbound Irish-Scandinavian oddity The Disappearance of Finbar (Ireland/Sweden/UK, d. Sue Clayton, 1996), but the role which established him as iconic, rather than merely another good-looking young actor, was his charismatic riff on David Bowie as the rock star Brian Slade in Todd Haynes' Velvet Goldmine (UK/US, 1998). He also performed his own vocals on some of the songs.

For the next few years, Rhys Meyers appeared more interested in taking small parts in prestigious films than the leading roles he might have been expected to pursue. Unfortunately, many of these did not receive the attention that they deserved. He was excellent in the overlooked Jewish drama The Governess (d. Sandra Goldbacher, 1998), effective in small roles in Mike Figgis' The Loss Of Sexual Innocence (US/UK, 1999) and B. Monkey (UK/Italy/US, d. Michael Radford, 1998), but hardly registered in Ang Lee's Civil War drama Ride With The Devil (US, 1999) or in Julie Taymor's Titus (US/Italy, 1999), both of which proved more successful with critics than audiences. The ambitious Gormenghast (BBC, 2000), in which he played another leading role as Steerpike, also proved not especially popular, and he seemed fated to appear in unmemorable B-movies with titles like Tangled (US, 2001).

A renaissance began with an atypical role as Joe, the inspirational football coach in Bend It Like Beckham (UK/Germany, d. Gurinder Chadha, 2002), and then as the tragic younger brother of Clive Owen in I'll Sleep When I'm Dead (UK/US, d. Mike Hodges, 2003). Although his appearances in Vanity Fair (UK/US, d. Mira Nair, 2004) and Oliver Stone's Alexander (France/US/UK/Germany/Netherlands, 2004) were both fleeting and unmemorable, he returned to the rock star swagger of before with his Golden Globe-winning portrayal of Elvis Presley in Elvis (CBS, 2005). He also faced his greatest challenge as an actor to date as the charming, Machiavellian schemer Chris Wilton in Woody Allen's Match Point (UK/US/Luxembourg, 2005), where he rose superbly to the challenge of making the protagonist both seductive and loathsome. His forthcoming appearance in Mission: Impossible III (US, 2006), opposite his 'older self', Tom Cruise, should maintain his high profile.

Alexander Larman

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Thumbnail image of Tribe, The (1998)Tribe, The (1998)

Poliakoff drama exploring cults and the consumer society

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