Long Live King Henry the Sexy! Macho Man: Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Inset: As King Henry VIII

Daily Mail (London), October 19, 2007 | Go to article overview

Long Live King Henry the Sexy! Macho Man: Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Inset: As King Henry VIII


Byline: Chrissy Iley

YOU wouldn't imagine that with his androgynous sculpted face and sharpcheekbones, Jonathan Rhys Meyers would be an obvious choice to play fat,beardy, gouty Henry VIII.

Rhys Meyers is most famous for his Golden Globe-winning, rather vulnerableportrait of Elvis Presley. He was also Scarlett Johansson's weak lover in WoodyAllen's Match Point. Before that he was a pansexual Bowiesque rock star inVelvet Goldmine, and dazzled opposite Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible III.

On screen he's kissed Ewan McGregor. Off screen there have been Toni Collette,model Glenda Gilson and Dublin socialite Chacha Seigne, to whom he was engaged,and most recently Reena Hammer, heir to the Ruby & Millie cosmetics brand.

Apart from an appreciation of women, it seems that 30-year-old Jonathan hasmore in common with the monarch. A commanding presence for a start. 'I playHenry as a human being. He was the best king England ever had,' he saysloyally. 'He is perceived as a misogynist, but he gave people independence andgave England its greatest Queen [Elizabeth I]. Henry's court was the fastestcourt in the world. If you weren't in the court, you were nobody. It was themecca of entertainment.' Suddenly it all begins to make sense. The Tudors, onBBC2, is history sexed-up and dumbed down, but it's bodice-rippingentertainment, addictive, filled with life or death sexual power play.

The producers needed Rhys Meyers to make it look like a rock 'n' roll circus.We see the young king as athletic and energetic, lusting for women and supermacho, easily bruised and always taking his clothes off, either to wrestle(with the King of France) or romp (with his mistress Mary Boleyn).

'I had to make him dangerous. Living in his court was extraordinary. Everyonewanted the king's attention. When he gave it, it was like basking in sunlight.When he turned away, you were back in the shadows fighting everyone else to gethis attention.' For as long as Rhys Meyers is playing Henry he is Henry,completely holding court in his trailer. Like him, he is volatile and easilybruised. He brings to the monarch a rawness and vulnerability, but also asexual confidence, though he stressed the many sex scenes were not as fun toshoot as they look.

Successful and soft-spoken, he has a slight Irish lilt. But growing up inIreland he was far from privileged. His parents split when he was three, andhis mother struggled to get by on child support.

He brushes it off: 'Show me somebody that wasn't poor in Ireland when I wasgrowing up. There was no money. My mum was on the dole. I did not use atelephone until I was 14.' He was born in Dublin, but his family moved to Co.Cork when he was a out

He was born in Dublin, but his family moved to Co. Cork when he was a baby. Headored his mother, but she was also young and irresponsible and struggled tomake her social security money last the week.

He once said: 'Acting is for me because I'm not happy with myself.' Now hetells me it wasn't about art. 'I had a passion for money because I was deprivedof it. I didn't want to be poor, and it's as good a motivation as saying I wantto express myself. I wanted the dosh,' he says with a naughty flash of hiseyes.

One gets the impression that he was always naughty. HE GOT expelled from aChristian Brothers school. 'I wasn't bad. I just didn't want to be there so Ididn't go.' What did he do all day? 'I spent a lot of the time in the poolhall, but that was where the Christian Brothers would look for you afterschool, so we'd always be diving out the back door. There would be nothingexcept a big cloud of smoke where we once were.' At 15 he was out of school.It's been said in the past that he then got into stealing because he needed toeat. He once said: 'I was an exquisite thief.

God Himself could have come down and I would have lied to him with an honestface.' Then his life took a turn. A talent scout for David Puttnam's War Of TheButtons found him at the local pool hall and asked him to audition. …

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