Articles

In Step with….Jonathan Rhys Meyers
By James Brady
Parade, May 1, 2005

Elvis Presley died 27 years ago. But next Sunday, CBS will begin airing a two-night, four-hour miniseries called Elvis, which has the blessing of the Presley estate and the use of its master recordings. It stars a talented young Irish actor, Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

If you don’t recognize his name, you soon may. Rhys Meyers played the soccer coach in that wonderful little movie Bend It Like Beckham and last year was in Oliver Stone’s Alexander. He’s also due to appear in an upcoming Woody Allen film called Match Point.

As a boy in County Cork, Ireland, Rhys Meyers was aware of Presley’s music, he told me, but not much more. Now, having learned to lip-sync Elvis’ singing and to mimic his movements, Jonathan is very much the Elvis fan.

I spoke with him recently and asked about the miniseries.

“It was a happy set,” he said. “A very hard-working set: 14- and 15-hour days.” Is he a singer himself? “I can’t sing,” Jonathan confessed. “Although I would love to have sung a little in this.”

The show takes Elvis from age 18 to 33. “The good years,” remarked Jonathan, “when he was young and full of life.” And the cast is an impressive one: Emmy-winner Camryn Manheim plays Elvis’ mother; Robert Patrick, his dad; and Rose McGowan portrays his onetime love, Ann-Margret. The great Randy Quaid is Col. Tom Parker, the impresario who crafted the Elvis image. “[Quaid] pulls out all the stops,” Rhys Meyers said with enthusiasm.

Finally, I asked how an Irishman from Cork gets his tongue around the Southern accent of a kid from Tupelo, Miss. Jonathan promptly dropped his voice a register for me and let it rip, y’all. Not bad.

Brought up in the Irish port city of Cork, Jonathan Rhys Meyers was discovered at age 17 in a local pool hall.

He has since appeared on American TV in Nicolas Roeg’s Samson and Delilah, HBO’s The Maker and a remake of Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons. Then, in 2002, came his role in Bend It Like Beckham.

I asked if he had been a soccer player. “Just like every kid in your country picks up a slugger [baseball bat],” Jonathan replied, “in Ireland, we all pick up a pair of football boots.” His upcoming Woody Allen flick co-stars the red-hot Scarlett Johansson.

“I can’t talk about it yet,” said Jonathan, but he added: “Woody is a dream director, just a dream.”

Personal
Born July 27, 1977, in Dublin, Ireland. Single.

Television
Includes Samson and Delilah, 1996; The Maker, 1997; The Tribe, 1998; Gormenghast, 2000; The Magnificent Ambersons, 2002; The Lion in Winter, 2003; Elvis, 2005.

Films
include A Man of No Importance, 1994; Michael Collins, 1996; Velvet Goldmine, 1998; The Governess, 1998; Bend It Like Beckham, 2002; I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, 2003; Vanity Fair, 2004; Alexander, 2004.

Bonus Online Content
In this week’s “In Step With,” James Brady chats with actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who plays the King in the upcoming miniseries Elvis. The movie was shot in New Orleans, but included two days of filming at Graceland. What was it like to shoot at Elvis’ home?

“I believe it was the first access to Graceland ever for a movie,” he says. “It’s a beautiful house, not huge and right on the highway. It must have been a palace when he bought it.”

After working almost nonstop of late, Rhys Meyers is looking forward to some time off this summer. What are his plans? “My girlfriend’s father has a new yacht he keeps off the coast of France, near Monaco, and we plan to do some sailing around Ireland,” he says. Does he know much about sailing? “Nothing,” he confesses, “but I think it would be terribly boring just sitting on deck, so I hope they’ll let me work it a bit.”

Special thanks to Meaghan for sending this article.

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