Джонатан Рис-Майерс / Jonathan Rhys-Meyers
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After a temporary wobble, Cork actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers has put his career back on track. Now all he has to do is win an Oscar.
Tara Brady, 09 Dec 2005
Depressing fact of the day. Despite being around for what seems like several decades – didn’t he shoot Michael Collins, like, ages ago? – Jonathan Rhys Meyers is still only 28 years old.
I know a couple of women who ought to ashamed of themselves when I think what age he was during Gormenghast, and the kind of impure thoughts they were vocalising (and how) at the time. Anyways, watching his complicated, scheming anti-hero manouevre through the ranks of contemporary British gentry in Woody Allen’s Match Point, you suddenly realise that he’s only now really old enough to essay such a darkly romantic lead.
“It’s only now I’m ready either,” says the actor. “When I was younger I just craved success too much. People said that I was going places after Michael Collins, but I think if success had come at that point I would have destroyed myself. As it was, I got frustrated and really almost sabotaged my career and my life. But I’ve stopped worrying about it and settled down a bit. It’s a lot easier.”
Happily, Rhys Meyers seems to have made it through the impetuousness of youth and matured into a fine actor. Not that he was ever rubbish. Even in poorly recieved projects – I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, Velvet Goldmine or indeed, Gormenghast – he has frequently and justifiably earned lofty praise for his performances. Match Point, a Hitchcockian thriller with echoes of Plein Soliel however, provided his most challenging role to date.
“He’s not a typical Hollywood protagonist,” explains Jonathan. “He’s more like something from the film noir that Woody grew up with. As a leading man, he’s sort of like a Delon character. There’s something misogynistic and selfish about him, but at the same time you want him to be redeemed. You keep with him. The audience does have sympathy for him and perversely people will him to get away with terrible behaviour.”
While some actors have found Woody’s laissez-faire direction a little too vague, Jonathan was delighted with the set up.
“I wish I could tell you that I was sitting around writing a history for my character,” he laughs. “But if I tried to do that I’d just end up doodling monkeys. It was a very relaxed shoot. On the first day I went up to Woody and said, ‘I’m really nervous here. You’re Woody Allen.’ And he says, (adopts perfect Allen impersonation) ‘Listen, you’re 80% this character. If 20% of you shows up then we’re doing fine.’ It’s funny because I was doing a press conference for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and this real intellectual journalist started asking me about certain pauses and how brilliant they were. I was like, ‘Uh, if you say so - I don’t remember.’”
Of course, the fact that Match Point offered him an opportunity to romp in silk sheets with Emily Mortimer, then land in a cornfield with Scarlett Johansson in the rain didn’t make the shoot unpleasant either.
“It’s a really interesting thing,”says Jonathan. “There’s a totally different chemistry between myself and Scarlett and myself and Emily, and again, I wish I could tell you I put loads of thought into it, but it was really just the chemistry that was there. Scarlett was a 19-year-old single woman and Emily is married with a child. I couldn’t go chasing her.”
Certainly, Match Point seems to have been a less tumultuous experience than Oliver Stone’s Alexander, where Jonathan frequently clashed with the director. And then there was all that dick-waving wildman onset behaviour.
“I won’t lie to you. It was wild. It was mad. Oliver wanted an animalistic set. He wanted something raw and wild. It just didn’t translate to the screen in the end. I’ve had to stay dry since then in order to recover. I was teetotal until I was 25 so I have the capacity of a 14 year old girl. I’m vomiting in bushes after a drink. It was mad and it was very difficult because I idolised Oliver before and I think I just expected too much from him as a director and felt spurned when I didn’t get it.”
With Alexander well behind him, 2006 looks set to be a breakthrough for Jonathan. He’s already been touted for an Oscar for Match Point and in a few months we can catch him dashing about alongside Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible 3.
“I’d love to say that an Oscar nomination would be meaningless but it would be fucking great,” he admits. “When I was nominated for the Emmy for playing Elvis, I thought, fantastic. I’m Elvis and I’m from Cork, like. But really what I’d like is for me, Cillian Murphy and Colin Farrell to all get nominated. Those guys are genuises.”