All Dressed Up
by Stephen Garrett
Esquire, January 2006
WHETHER AS A MOODY glam rocker in 1998’s Velvet Goldmine , a rugged soccer coach in 2002’s Bend It Like Beckham , or as the King himself in 2005’s CBS miniseries Elvis , twenty-eight-year-old Irish actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers has angled his brooding visage and stormy screen presence into one of the most promising careers of the past decade. Now Woody Allen’s London-set Match Point signals potential fulfilled. In it, Rhys Meyers plays an Irish striver who trades a tepid pro-tennis career for the British high life: a posh job in finance, a taste for Puligny-Montrachet, and marriage into the upper crust—as long as his low-class extramarital affair doesn’t sabotage everything.
ESQ: You committed to Match Point without even reading the script. Considering Woody Allen’s recent track record, that could have been a disaster.
JRM: When you’re offered a Woody Allen film, there’s no leap of faith involved. I think audiences will realize upon seeing Match Point that he’s done something extraordinary at an age when most directors couldn’t be bothered.
ESQ: Can such a die-hard New Yorker really do justice to London?
JRM: Woody nailed a certain type of London. It’s not that huge a difference from upper-class Manhattan. New York is the last European city before you hit the West. It has all the same cultural flavors: that international feel and, at the same time, that same sense of civic pride and individualism.
ESQ: Your character in Match Point is your most mature to date. Have you shaken off the more youthful, laddie roles?
JRM: In the last year, I’ve taken a trampoline bounce into adulthood, and I’ve enjoyed it. I’m going to revel in getting older. For an actor, the roles that will make a mark happen from age twenty-eight to forty-five.
ESQ: How will you maintain that longevity?
JRM: My biggest addiction now is the gym. I’m in there two and a half hours a day, seven days a week. If you want to be in for the long haul, you have to be up to it. And you can’t go out all night chasing girls and partying.
ESQ: You mean the Irish boy from Cork is a teetotaler?
JRM: I don’t drink anymore under any circumstances. My favorite actors—O’Toole, Richard Harris, Richard Burton—they never fulfilled their potential. You’d see absolute brilliance, but they burned the candle at both ends. When I’m seventy, then I’ll fucking James Joyce it and have a bottle of Midleton Rare with you. But not until I’ve completed what I feel I need to do with my life.
ESQ: So no vices? I thought you were a chain-smoker.
JRM: Oh, me cigarettes are me cigarettes. The greatest pleasure I have is coming out of the gym and, while I’m waiting for me old protein shake, I’ve got a fag in me mouth. I do it on purpose, you know? It’s the best fag of the day.
ESQ: Do you indulge on clothes, too?
JRM: I spend money on the extraordinary pieces I find, but I hate spending money on clothes. I’m not a rich actor.
ESQ: What designers do you prefer?
JRM: Anna Sui is one of my best friends, and she has been very generous in giving me clothes over the years. And John Galliano has dressed me for everything from Cannes to the Emmys. He’s just spectacular. His whole sense of personal style is just beautiful.
ESQ: What’s your opinion of Hollywood style?
JRM: Fashion in Los Angeles is appalling. You’re limited because of the weather. I could never live there, because my fashionista sense would die. But I think the sexiest and biggest fashion thing that I’ve heard of recently is all these Chicanos in East L.A. who wear Smiths T-shirts. You see these really fucking handsome Latino guys with really loose pants and bandannas hanging down the back—and they’ve got a Morrissey infatuation!