Jonathan Rhys Meyers Premiere Magazine
Jonathan Rhys Meyers // Premiere Magazine // June 2006
Jonathan Rhys-Meyers possesses an alien beauty so startling that to see him walk into an almost empty Manhattan coffee shop is like spying a tropical bird in a blizzard. The 28-year-old actor, quietly dressed in dark jeans and an oversize cardigan while on break from filming Kirsten Sheridan‘s August Rush, still exudes the blue-eyed, pillow-lipped charisma that helped get him discovered in an Irish pool hall at the age of 16. Since then, audiences have been mesmerized by his diverse onscreen personae: the writhing blue-haired rocker-who sang his own songs-in Todd Haynes‘s 1998 Ode to Clam Rock, Velvet Goldmine; the sexy coach in the sleeper hit Bend it Like Beckham; the wicked George Osborne in Vanity Fair. Last year, he morphed into Elvis for a CBS miniseries (which won him a Golden Globe) and into a chilling and ambitious ex-tennis pro for Woody Allen‘s Match Point. Now, Rhys Meyers is poised to join the biggest of the big boys; he’s costarring alongside Ving Rhames, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Laurence Fishburne, and a guy by the name of Tom Cruise, in May’s Mission: Impossible III.
"I don’t want to do anything with sci-fi. Star Wars? Star Trek?
I’d rather eat turpentine and piss on a brush fire." — JRM
So, we know you can’t divulge any plot points in Mission: Impossible III, but can you at least tell us what it is like to work with Tom Cruise? What’s it like inside the Tom bubble? Number one, he’s not just an actor on the set, he’s my boss, and you couldn’t ask for a nicer boss. You know how you always dream about that boss—the one that really thinks about you every day and wants to know if you are happy? Tom’s that guy.
He has a great reputation for his professionalism on set. That’s why he’s still the biggest star in the world [after] two decades. It’s an education [to work with him]. If you’re a young actor in the movies and you are starting to become successful and you really want to know how to handle your fame, work with Tom. He respects people, he knows absolutely everyone’s name, he’s kind to everyone, and it’s a lot of hard work—I’m sure by the end of the day he’s exhausted. I think it was Anthony Hopkins that called him a Tom-aton. I swear to God, he has so much energy that there’d be no lighting problems in California … you just have to plug up to Tom’s right hand.
(Continued after the jump, more scans in the gallery)
What factors are involved when you pick a project? Directors, always the directors—because I can learn from them. I’ve worked with some of the best directors in the world—not always on their greatest film, but it doesn’t matter. A great director can make an okay script into a good film, but a great script won’t go anywhere in the hands of a mediocre director. It can only be mediocre.
What did you know of Mission Impossible: III’s director, J.J. Abrams? It must have been quite a challenge for him to take on this franchise with this cast. He did it so naturally—like water off a duck’s back. I think J.J. is going to be like the next Spielberg. He’s a stadium director. You know how there are stadium rock bands like Aerosmith and Bon Jovi? J.J. is like that. He loves a big show.
You never had any formal training. How difficult was it for you to learn while on the job? It’s hard because I made all my mistakes publicly, and I grew up in front of the camera. I was once on the set of a film called B. Monkey, with Rupert Everett and Jared Harris, and they were looking at me and were like, "You haven’t trained, have you?" Critics can be really cruel. I got great reviews for Match Point, but I got four or five in England that really tore me to bits.
Do you read all of your reviews? Only the bad ones. And you read the bad ones, and you think, "Yup, he’s right! He’s the only f****** critic that understood it. I was shit. I was f****** wooden and more wooden than wood."
Do you go back and watch your old films? Oh, God, no. It’s f****** horrible—like a nightmare. Like watching your baby photos.
Do you have directors you are eager to work with? On the top of my list is Fernando Meirelles. I think he’s fantastic. I’d love to do a film with Steven Spielberg, Milos Forman, Neil Jordan, Jim Sheridan, Ridley Scott. There’s a young South African director, Sunu Gonera—I might hook up with him next year. I’d love to do something with Ang Lee again. I could sit here all day, there are so many.
It sounds like you watch a lot of films. I’m more of a DVD guy than a cinema guy. But that’s because I’m a smoker and there’s no way I can pop into an AMC for three hours. [He leans into the tape recorder.] But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go to the cinema. Go to the cinema! See my movies! I like watching really crappy movies—I mean, I like watching good films too, but like I love watching Pretty Woman, Dirty Dancing, Sixteen Candles. You live in London, where the tabloids are legendary. Do you find it difficult? Yeah, they’re f****** pricks. They’re pricks to everyone, though. And you’re always going to have a hard time being an Irishman in England. But I don’t give a bullocks. They don’t really even have a movie industry— they just have really talented actors who have to come to America to act. At the end of the day, I don’t get paid in sterling, I get paid in dollars.
Would you ever try acting onstage? I don’t know. If I did, it would have to be on some tiny little stage in Oslo or something where no one can see it, because I’d probably be really bad. What I would like to try is directing. I suppose I want to do it because I just want to see someone else suffer. [laughs] I think I’d definitely be a sadomasochist director; I’d have my beautiful actresses crying their hearts out in their trailers, and the actors running to call their agents. Oh, yes, I’d definitely be in the Sam Peckinpah school.
How’s that? Cruel. If they move, kill them! [laughs]
Is there a certain type of film you’d like to take on? I don’t like sci-fi—I don’t want to do anything with sci-fi. Star Wars? Star Trek? I’d rather eat turpentine and piss on a brush fire.
So it sounds like you’re pretty content at the moment.
All you have to do is work on yourself, and be happy and grateful for the good things that you have. And I am. I’m grateful these days for my life and for the things I have. I’m going to take the opportunities I have, and I’m going to ride it into the dust. [laughs] What else can I do?