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Ifans, Rhys (1966-)


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Though he boasts a leading man's good looks, Rhys Ifans' unconventional blend of loutish swagger and bruised sensitivity has seen him mainly cast in character roles. But he has displayed a remarkable range in these, and has excelled on those occasions when placed at the centre of a film.

Born Rhys Owain Evans in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, on 22 July 1967, the son of two primary school teachers, he grew up in the village of Ruthin speaking Welsh as his first language. When he was eight, the Theatre Clwyd opened in nearby Mold, sparking an interest in acting. He later won a scholarship to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, graduating in 1997.

He came to attention the same year in Twin Town (d. Kevin Allen, 1997), in which he and his younger brother, Llyr, played high-spirited, delinquent Welsh siblings. After a small part in the Irish drama Dancing at Lughnasa (Eire/UK, d. Pat O'Connor, 1998), his breakthrough came in Notting Hill (US/UK, d. Roger Michell, 1999), as Hugh Grant's mangy flatmate, a vivid character who stole the film and netted Ifans a BAFTA nomination.

However, his success didn't immediately translate into exceptional roles. At the turn of the millennium he played in mediocre movies including You're Dead... (US/Germany, 1999), Rancid Aluminium (d. Edward Thomas, 2000) and Love, Honour and Obey (d. Dominic Anciano/Ray Burdis, 2000). But he showed his range, proving equally at home as an off-beat romantic hero, in Janice Beard 45 WPM (d. Clare Kilner, 1999), Once Upon a Time in the Midlands (d. Shane Meadows, 2002) and Danny Deckchair (d. Jeff Balsmeyer, 2003); as a tweedy English eccentric in The Shipping News (US, 2001); or as a wild man in Human Nature (US/France, 2001), one of Ifans' more interesting projects from this period.

In 2004, his profile increased sharply with two eye-catching performances: as a gentle but menacing stalker in Enduring Love (UK/US, d. Roger Michell) and as Peter Cook in Terry Johnson's Not Only But Always (Channel 4, tx 30/12/2004), which won Ifans a BAFTA award for his complex portrayal of the brilliant, self-destructive comedian.

He played a naive social worker in Chromophobia (d. Martha Fiennes, 2005), two scheming villains in the otherwise very dissimilar Elizabeth: The Golden Age (US/Germany/UK, d. Shekhar Kapuir, 2007) and Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang (US/UK, d. Susanna White, 2010), a pair of confused human clones in Caryl Churchill's A Number (BBC2, tx. 10/9/2008) and rock 'n' rollers in both The Boat that Rocked (US/Germany/UK, d. Richard Curtis, 2009) and Greenberg (US, 2010). Ifans himself has been vocalist for the Welsh bands Super Furry Animals and the Peth.

He shone in major roles in two patchy films: Mr Nice (UK/Spain, d. Bernard Rose, 2010), an indulgent portrait of the Welsh drug smuggler/spy, Howard Marks, and Anonymous (US/UK, d. Roland Emmerich, 2011), in which Ifans played an elegant Elizabethan nobleman of literary genius.

Ifans was also cast in the blockbusters Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I (US/UK, d. David Yates, 2010), as a journalist-wizard, and The Amazing Spider-Man (US, 2012), as the malevolent Lizard.

Sheila Johnston

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