Jonathan Rhys Meyers
There’s something about me physically which makes me look just a little bit dangerous…
By Patricia Danaher
Irish Sun, April 22, 2013
When Dubliner Bram Stoker sat down to write his horror classic Dracula he could have been channelling actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
Everyone working on the set of the upcoming NBC/Sky series of the same name, which airs later this year, says the Cork native was born to play the role.
It’s the whiff of danger around Rhys Meyers that makes him the perfect seductive vampire.
Speaking to me on the Budapest set of the new series, he’s inclined to agree.
He said: “I have to make him diabolical and erotic at the same time and let it pass between these two things so that it’s a balance between, ‘Oh my God, I’m really repulsed by this but I can’t stop watching.’”
Vampires have been everywhere in recent years, from True Blood to the Twilight phenomenon, but Rhys Meyers does a compelling and terrifying Dracula like you’ve never seen before.
He told me: “There’s something about me physically which makes me look a little dangerous. I have too much of the serpent in me to play someone erstwhile.
“I don’t get offered that many sweet parts because directors have this idea that I always want to be incredibly serious and that’s not necessarily the case.
“Parts like August Rush and Bend It Like Beckham are sadly few and far between.
“I wouldn’t exactly call myself Twilight material! I’m nearly 36 and a bit older than most people think I am.”
It’s hard to believe how much Rhys Meyers has packed into those years.
He’s made more than 30 movies, won a Golden Globe for playing Elvis in Diamond Goldmine and was nominated for another for his unforgettable portrayal of King Henry XIII on The Tudors.
He is represented by the Ennis-born uberagent Hylda Queally, who has clients like Nicole Kidman and Marion Cotillard on her books.
This is Jonathan’s first television show since those five years spent filming The Tudors in Co Wicklow.
He likes moving between film and television, likes being in Europe and is very happy to be working with two Irish actresses on Dracula.
Victoria Smurfit plays a seductive vampire killer, Lady Jane, and Katie McGrath, who worked with Jonathan on The Tudors, plays Lucy Westenra.
Jonathan said: “Katie is an angel who I’ve known for a long time and I’m incredibly fond of her. She’s very grounded and very well educated.
“Victoria has this incredible elegance that’s very different to Katie and she’s very, very powerful. It’s a pleasure to work with women like that. They keep me in line.”
He was in a long-term relationship with heiress Reena Hammer for over eight years, but they split in 2012.
He now lives with Australian model Victoria Keon-Cohen in London.
He’s also reportedly been off the booze for a few years now after a series of embarrassing and very public incidents.
Everyone talks of how calm and focused he is on Dracula and how much he brings to the part.
He said of the filming: “I don’t get much time to go out really. I try to go home to London once a month, but I live very quietly here in Budapest. Some trips to restaurants with people are always nice.
“Hungarian is a very difficult language and mine is non-existent. There’s a charm in trying to communicate with people by not using a language. You have to search a little bit harder.”
Music has been a great passion of his for many years and he confesses that he thinks actors are really frustrated musicians. His father John O’Keeffe is a musician, as are his three brothers, who are in a band called Suzy’s Field.
He said: “It’s a strange thing to say but music allows you to smell things and I think that’s really important.
“Being from a family of musicians, I, of course, love to play music — but I’m not allowed to play with my brothers because I’m not good enough!
“‘You’re an actor,’ they say, ‘go act like you can sing, go act like you can play guitar!’ If I was in a fantasy band, I suppose my ego would say that I would definitely have to be the lead singer.
“Robert Plant would definitely be there. I’d probably have Keith Moon on drums… Django Reinhardt.
“The backing singers would be Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s qawwali party. I would do a few duets with Sade, Billie Holiday and Aretha. Cole Porter would write our music.”
A rich fantasy life indeed, and why not given the range of dark roles he plays?
With all the versions of Dracula there have been, from Bela Lugosi to Gary Oldman, I wondered how terrifying it was to undertake such an iconic role?
Jonathan revealed: “Gary Oldman was pretty spectacular because he brought romance as well as horror and he balanced the pain with the monster. I am not afraid of not being as good as somebody else and I am not afraid of being better than somebody else.
“I think I’m old enough now not to be intimidated by those who have come before me.
“Success has very little to do with me — beyond my performance and paying attention to what is happening on set. Success will be decided by the people who view it.
“We are working very hard to make it as erotic, as entertaining and as provocative as we can possibly make it, so that people can enjoy it.
“I’ve taken my part of my interpretation of Dracula from the book, part of it from the history of Vlad Tepes (aka Vlad the Impaler, who influenced Stoker’s character) himself and partly from my own personal experiences, both the good and the bad. These will all come out.”