Jonathan Rhys Meyers “does” Paris
By Roger Moore
Orlando Sentinel, January, 31 2010

Jonathan Rhys Meyers knows Paris. A jet-setting star of TV and film with homes in his native Dublin, as well as London, Los Angeles and Morocco, the 32 year old has spent so much time in La Ville Lumiere (City of Light) that he can imitate the locals, if not pass for one.

But the Paris where he filmed his new movie, From Paris With Love, (opening Friday) wasn’t the “touristy” Paris. Oh no. These were the “bad” parts of town.

“Listen, they exist in any city, and if they didn’t, Paris would be very boring. A MUSEUM,” he declares. “The possibilities are endless in a city like Paris, possibilities for grandeur and beauty and history and art and culture. And great touristy things like The Eiffel Tower, which is also quite beautiful; Place de la Concorde, the Arc de Triomphe, the Musee D’Orsay, the Louvre.

“But Paris is also places like where we filmed, in Montfermeil (east of the city), which is just like going to any ghetto in the world. Except that people go, ‘Bonjour? Wassup? You lost? You like dooope? Ees cool, man! Soup-AIR cool!'”

That black Cadillac Escalade his character roars through the movie in? It fit right in. It’s a signature vehicle there, as here.

“Dude, EVERY French wanna-be rapper wants to be ‘Le SNOOP Doggy Dog,’ with Le Bling and they all drive Le Escalade Noir (black), with bad roues et jantes (wheels and rims). They want those massive rims because American culture stretches to everywhere.”

Often ebullient off-screen and “imminently watchable” (Christian Science Monitor) and “smoldering” (Tom Shales of The Washington Post) on screen, Rhys Meyers isn’t going to experience the city the way most of us would. He stayed in the four-star Hotel de Crillon (10 Place de la Concorde), one of the world’s oldest luxury hotels, “an old palace where Marie-Antoinette used to come take her piano lessons. Very grand, luxurious, but a little too hoity-toidy for me.”

“I’m on the set at five in the morning in a track suit and big boots, and back to the hotel at eight in the evening in the same get-up and all these chic French ladies are in the lobby in their Chanel and Louis Vuitton. They hear there’s a movie star staying there this week and they’re expecting Cary Grant. They didn’t get him.”

“But the hotel is right in the heart of the historic city, so it wasn’t like ‘What did you see in Paris?’ Man, what didn’t I see! It’s all right next door once I got off set — the Louvre, everything!”

Rhys Meyers took his meals at French super-producer and action auteur Luc Besson’s restaurant Market (15 Avenue Matignon) “a really cool place to hang out. And, well, I was working for Luc on the movie, after all.”

Though he lives in the States much of the time, he polished his American accent (he plays a U.S. Embassy officer teamed up with an agent played by John Travolta) while watching American tourists. And he has some advice about how Americans might approach that next trip to Paris.

“Listen, Parisians have that arrogance about them. But that’s their character. So what you do to cope is raise your own arrogance level so that you can fit right in. Now I have no problem with that at all. But Americans don’t think that way…Americans abroad can be so easily offended, when you don’t mean to offend them. The trick is to be just as arrogant as the French are!”

He doesn’t mind roughing it a bit, and we’re not just talking about his tabloid exploits and a couple of ensuing trips to rehab. The movie star gig, which Rhys Meyers hastens to call “a privilege,” is not all four-star hotels and French cuisine. Making The Children of Huang Shi (2008) in China, for instance, was “fantastically hard,” because of the conditions, the hours and the fact that “Chinese food in China is VASTLY different from Chinese food everywhere else.”

But he’ll go back to Paris any time.

“Well, not Montfermeil,” he says. “Been there. Seen it.”

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