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Jonathan Rhys-Meyers Biography


Home > Actors > R > Rhys-Meyers, Jonathan > Biography


Birth Name: Jonathan Rhys-Meyers
Born: 07/27/1977
Birth Place: Dublin, IE


Born Jonathan Michael Francis O'Keeffe on July 27, 1977 in Dublin, Ireland, Rhys Meyers was raised in Cork, where he was thrown out of school at age 15 and worked the streets as a young grifter. Acting entered his life when he was spotted by a casting director cruising local pool halls for teens to appear in "The War of the Buttons" (1994). A lucky break put Rhys Meyers on the acting path, but it was his own dogged determination that brought him a fruitful career even after he failed at his audition for "The War of the Buttons." The event spurred the headstrong teenager to prove he could succeed in the field, beginning his relentless pursuit of work and steady stream of auditions. His first job was in a Knorr soup commercial! Soon after, he made his first big screen appearance with a bit part in 1994's "A Man of No Importance."

Rhys Meyers followed up with a more significant role, the title character in little-seen "The Disappearance of Finbar" (1996), before landing the notable role as the assassin of Irish revolutionary "Michael Collins" in the 1996 Neil Jordan film. The young actor kept busy with the fantasy/comedy feature "The Killer Tongue," a 1996 Spanish/English co-production, and made his U.S. television debut that same year as a young Samson in TNT's biblical epic, "Samson and Delilah." In "The Maker" (HBO, 1997), Rhys Meyers was a teenager whose long-lost older brother (Matthew Modine) turns him on to a life of crime; a role that showcased the actor's ability to quickly learn and capably deliver an American accent. Also that year, he was featured as a relentless bully torturing Brad Renfro in "Telling Lies in America," Guy Ferland's look at the 1960s radio payola scandal. The controversial British television movie "The Tribe" (1998) followed shortly before he undertook the notable role of a young man in a wealthy 19th Century English family who competes with his father for the affections of "The Governess," a Sephardic Jewish woman posing as a gentile. While the film was somewhat formulaic, Rhys Meyers was riveting as the rebellious and misguided love-struck child of privilege.

Next up for the young actor was a featured turn in Todd Haynes' highly stylized "Velvet Goldmine" (1998), an engagingly indulgent look at early 1970s glam rock. Rhys Meyers starred as fictional pop icon Brian Slade, a fast-rising star whose descent was even quicker, following a botched publicity stunt, wherein he faked his death. Perfectly suited for the role due to his appropriately lithe and lanky frame and sexually ambiguous beauty, the actor delivered an emotionally understated performance but served as an interesting contrast to the vibrant visuals and theatrical music. Rhys Meyers capably handled the character's transitions from struggling visionary to up-and-coming hot property to crazed fallen star done in by a broken heart and an out-of-control ego. Playing opposite Ewan McGregor's Iggy Pop-esque Curt Wild in one of the more unexpectedly sweet (and remarkably attractive) romantic screen pairings, Rhys Meyers did much of his own singing in "Velvet Goldmine," and camped it up most impressively in several music video scenes interspersed throughout. That film, along with an off screen liaison with co-star Toni Collette, raised the young actor's profile considerably, with the press coverage surrounding the fashionable film landing him in dozens of British magazines.

Generating less buzz was his featured role in Mike Figgis' "The Loss of Sexual Innocence" (1999) and his unsettling turn as the volatile young boyfriend and criminal partner of Rupert Everett in Michael Radford's "B. Monkey" (filmed in 1996; released in the USA in 1999). Higher profile projects followed in 1999, including a memorable supporting role as a sadistic and unstable Bushwacker in Ang Lee's Civil War-era Western "Ride with the Devil" (1999). Rhys Meyers delivered an admirable reproduction of the archetypal villainous Southern accent and gave an appropriately chilling performance in this well made but long-winded feature. He next gave a strong co-starring turn opposite Anthony Hopkins, playing Chiron, son of Tamora (Jessica Lange), in "Titus" (also 1999), Julie Taymor's contemporary take on the minor Shakespeare tragedy, "Titus Andronicus."

The actor continued to work steadily on both sides of the pond, frequently appearing in high-profile films including Christina Ricci's long-delayed adaptation of "Prozac Nation" (2001); as the central character George Amberson in Alfonso Arau's telepic adaptation of author Booth Tarkington's - and legendary director Orson Welles' - "The Magnificent Ambersons" (2002); and as J , the romantic Irish soccer coach, in the smash Brit import "Bend It Like Beckham" (2002). After distinguished turns in the TV movie adaptation of "The Lion in Winter" (2003) opposite Patrick Stewart and the Netherlands-produced fantasy-romance "The Emperor's Wife" (2003), Rhys Meyers had a banner year in 2004, with roles in director Mike Hodges' noirish "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" opposite Clive Owen and in director Mira Nair's adaptation of Thackeray's "Vanity Fair" starring Reese Witherspoon. After an acclaimed performance as the King in the popular CBS miniseries "Elvis" (2005) - for which he won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Miniseries or a Motion Picture Made for Television - the actor delivered one of his finest performances when he appeared in writer-director Woody Allen's high-minded morality drama "Match Point" (2005). In the drama, he played a social-climbing tennis pro in London who would "rather be lucky than good" but finds his comfortable, status-granting marriage to a doting wife (Emily Mortimer) imperiled by a torrid affair with a sensual but demanding American actress (Scarlett Johansson).

In "Mission: Impossible III" (2006), Rhys Meyers was part of Ethan Hunt's (Tom Cruise) field team trying to rescue an operative (Keri Russell) from a remorseless weapons dealer (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Still on a roll, the actor took his first stab at television, playing King Henry VIII in Showtime's 10-part series "The Tudors" (2007-2010), a lavish, detailed production depicting the brutal monarch before his break from the Catholic Church and the expansion of his waistline. Rhys Meyers portrayed the typically portly king in the days when he was an accomplished sportsman, avid gambler and unrelenting womanizer, and for his sizeable efforts earned a Best Actor Golden Globe nomination in 2008. He repeated the feat the following year, earning his second consecutive Golden Globe nod in the category, though he faced stiff competition from Hugh Laurie and Jon Hamm.

With "The Tudors" enjoying critical success, Rhys Meyers maintained a busy schedule, interwoven with work in feature films, even as he increasingly battled personal demons and issues with alcohol. The romantic melodrama "August Rush" (2007) paired him with Keri Russell as the birth parent of a musical prodigy (Freddie Highmore) he never knew existed. The actor's ongoing success, however, was tainted by a stint in a rehabilitation clinic, followed a few months later by his arrest at the Dublin International Airport in the fall of 2007 for public drunkenness. Rhys Meyers returned to rehab once more in early 2009 for several weeks, only to be arrested again in June of that year, this time at Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport. It was while waiting for a flight at an airport bar that the troubled actor became intoxicated enough to be refused service, at which point he allegedly attacked a waiter and threatened to kill members of the staff. The following year saw his return to theaters opposite John Travolta in the comedic action-adventure "From Paris with Love" (2010), as a U.S. Embassy employee caught up in the shenanigans of a wild card spy (Travolta) attempting to foil a terrorist threat.

As "The Tudors" completed its final season, Rhys Meyers checked himself into a treatment facility for a third time, after yet another altercation at an airport bar in the spring of 2010. The incident occurred during the early morning hours at New York's JFK Airport while the actor drank heavily prior to his flight bound for Los Angeles. His drunken rant, directed at several employees, garnered Rhys Meyers the ignoble distinction of being banned from flying American Airlines for life. Sadly the spiral continued when Rhys Meyers was rushed to the hospital in June 2011, after an apparent overdose of an undetermined medication. Although he initially refused treatment and was later released, speculation of a suicide attempt ran rampant in the press.




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