Byline: Rhys Meyers
Is Jonathan Rhys Meyers drunk again, or has he gone all Hollywood on us? One minute he is talking about his birthday - he's just turned 33 - and the next, he's waxing lyrical about, erm, butterflies. 'It's time to start thinking seriously about things,' insists the star of The Tudors. 'I wouldn't want to do the 20s again, you know? You go through your 20s sort of like a chrysalis in many ways, stretching into your own skin and trying to bust out of a cocoon. You want to be a butterfly and you just think of everything as, "Ooh, what fun can I have here?" But, after a while, you realise that things are getting in the way of you growing up and being who you really want to be. And when you look harder at exactly what it is that is getting in your way, you quite often find that it's yourself.'
So is it the drink talking, or just the self-help manuals? With Rhys Meyers it's impossible to tell because he has form for both. His first stint in alcohol rehab was in California in 2007, which he entered quietly after a reported 'gruelling work schedule' - Hollywood-speak for losing the plot. He had admitted to a friend that he needed help to beat his drink problem. But, just seven months after this very public attempt to clean up his life, he turned up drunk and abusive at Dublin Airport for a flight to London, and wasn't allowed to board the plane.
To be fair, there were extenuating circumstances - his mother, who had her own demons, was dying at the time - but the police were entirely unsympathetic and arrested him on charges of public drunkenness and breach of the peace. He topped that little escapade by being photographed drinking cider in the street - at 10am.
When we meet in a Los Angeles hotel, he is polite, clear-eyed and, apparently, completely in control. It's hard to believe that this thoughtful and measured young man is the same Rhys Meyers. Yet, just a few days later, he's back in rehab, saying openly that he hopes it is for the last time. So what is going on? Unfortunately, Rhys Meyers is fast acquiring a reputation for being exactly the person he feared he would become. He said recently, rather poignantly - not to mention colourfully - 'I just don't want to be that f****** a******* sitting in the pub and someone turns around and says, "See him there at the end of the bar. He could have made a f****** fortune, but he went over to Hollywood and he just f****** p****d it up against the wall."' The saddest part is, he seems to be doing exactly this but is powerless to stop it.
Dublin-born but raised in Cork with his three younger brothers - mostly by his mother (his parents separated when he was three) - he admits that he was something of a rebel. He was expelled from school at 16 for truancy, and took to spending his days in a pool hall. There he struck up an unusual friendship with Christopher Croft, a farmer. The openly gay fatherof-three offered Rhys Meyers a job on his farm and put a roof over his head. The pool hall is also the place Rhys Meyers was discovered by a casting agent.
To this day, he credits Croft - whom he has described as a 'nice man' - with giving him some stability in his life. But he's unwilling to discuss the exact nature of his relationship with Croft, or his mentor's dark side. Last year, Croft was arrested in Morocco - where, coincidentally, the actor keeps a home - for drugging and sexually abusing a 15-year-old homeless boy.
Whatever the truth, by the end of his turbulent teens, Rhys Meyers was already making waves professionally. His first role was in the 1994 comedy A Man Of No Importance, which was released when he was just 17, and he has been working, more or less steadily, ever since. …