I never met Matthew Rhys, never spoke to him, don’t know him in any other way than as a great actor, who captured my attention in “Heart of America”. This bio is based on loads and loads of interviews I read on Matthew. Given either by him and/or Ioan Gruffudd to journalists and articles written about him.
So, Mr Rhys, if there is anything in here that is incorrect, try to remember what you said that particular year, sue a journalist or have a good talk with Ioan. J
Or let ME know. (But I will not hold my breath on that last option.) J
Compiled with love, not for money.
Best quote about Matthew Rhys I read: “ There is nothing that Matthew Rhys is afraid of, no wordplay gives him pause; he is capable of anything.” – Jon Robin Baitz.
Who am I to disagree? J
Slowly it became 2002 and by now Matthew considered giving up acting. Although his performance is usually highly regarded, the movies themselves fail one after the other in the eyes of the critics.
“Yes, in all honesty. This is the kind of profession where many do give up, because of the insecurity that comes with it. There are moments which are pretty dark because you get a stinging review. For me, there's been no formula that has got me through that. Usually, it's advice from older actors that helps. You can't take it as personally as some reviews can be or it will get inside your head.”
Trivia: In 2002, the worst review he could remember was someone saying that he walked like a chicken in “Sorted”
Trivia: During an interview he chose his hands as his favorite feature: “They’re quite big and I like the shape and proportion.”
Also in 2002, he finished shooting opposite Jamie Bell, in a first world war film called Deathwatch . “It’s loosely based on a story from World War I. This platoon of men gets separated from their troops after a night-attack. I play an inept doctor who panics a lot.” The movie is combination of a ghost-story, a horror movie and a war movie and features Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Kris Marshall and Laurence Fox.
He returned to Cardiff to act as president of the day at the Urdd Eisteddfod.
And following this, he got offered the part of Tiny in ‘The Associate’. Back to the theatre then. "It is a hell of a play. Two young fly-by-night decorators come to do up an old guy's house. A strange relationship evolves and things take a turn for the more sinister. It is a cruel play but done in an extremely comic way. I loved the play when I first read it and my part, Tiny, is a gift. This is the first time I will have toured with a play and I am very excited."
2002 also saw the premiere of Abduction Club co-starring Daniel Lapaine. Matthew has Sophia Myles as a love interest. Although usually the abductions committed by such clubs were quite violent, (abductions would take place and rape would follow quickly after. A lot of abductors were hanged for it.) the film itself is a romantic comedy.
About this character, Strang, Matthew said: "That was an incredibly fun movie to make. Running around on horses, giving it loads of swashbuckling with the old swords. We had a great time making that movie - when it wasn't pouring rain, that is. We'd do a short scene, then the skies would suddenly open up, and we'd all be huddled under a tree for the next hour or so waiting for the next dry spell. And I thought Wales got a lot of rain..."
Matthew was no exception either when he found himself volunteering to do a death-defying jump from a cliff.
“There's one scene where my character has to jump off a cliff into the sea. I really wanted to do that jump myself, because the director would brief us and tell us to make it active and exciting. I remember looking up at the cliff and thinking, 'I don't know what the problem with this insurance thing is, I can do the jump'. But it was a different story when I stood on the edge. I thought 'No way'. When I saw our stunt guy jump from the cliff, I realised I got the better deal.
We stuck with a recurring theme, which was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, with me as Sundance. Not that I like to compare myself to Redford, but in character terms, he's the quieter of the two. He would rather punch people than talk - a man of action. He's one of those characters that I grew up loving. I was a sucker for McQueen, Eastwood and all those boys. For me, it's a return to boyhood fantasies. When you're young, you always want to gallop around on horses, shoot guns, have sword-fights and get the girl. I used to pretend to gallop in my garden. I mimed and acted out everything!”
Asked if he would marry a woman for her money: (cheekily grinning) “If she had an extensive luxury car collection, than absolutely.” But then continued more seriously, “Not really. I like equality.” And does he have women cashing in on his fame? “No! When you say ‘I’m an actor’ they think you’re either unemployed or living off their tax…. Saying you’re a fireman is best.”
Trivia: He would like to kidnap Catherine Zeta Jones, but he fears Michael Douglas might not approve.
Trivia: from an interview with Alice Evans, one of Matthews co-stars in Abduction Club and, in 2002, Ioan Gruffudd’s girlfriend:
“Is it true that Ioan sleeps with his Hornblower sword next to his bed? – Yes, it's a really smart sword, but very heavy. It's tucked into a little niche by the bed. Hornblower is very important to Ioan - he says it's grounding to have it there. It's also for self-defence of course, although it's not very sharp.
There was one time when his flat-mate, Matthew Rhys, came home when he was meant to be in Wales. Ioan thought he was a burglar. He was hiding behind the door, waiting to attack him with his sword, and scared the shit out of Matthew. “
And Ioan’s take on it was he was in his room, not wearing anything and suddenly he heard this crash, he went downstairs and grabbed his Hornblower sword and went to clobber the 'burglar' on the head with the sword but realised at the last moment it was Matthew. No matter how the story is told. Matthew must have been terrified! J
In October 2002, Matthew and Ioan Gruffudd headed a guest list at a charity ball to help people with spinal injuries. The charity, called Trust PA, was being launched at a gala ball in Cardiff in memory of a young rugby player who was paralyzed in a rugby match and later died.
Paul Andre Blundell - known as PA - was a former Wales rugby player who died in January five months after suffering spinal injuries while playing in a rugby game. He was 26, had been playing for Keynsham RFC at a match against Maidenhead RFC in September 2001 when the accident happened. It was the first league game he had played in following a badly broken leg which had kept him out of the game since the previous year.
He was a personal friend of Matthew’s. Matthew had known PA since the age of five when they met in primary school. He had spoken of the great shock he felt seeing his friend, who was a sports fanatic and very fit according to the actor, left paralysed by his injuries. “To see him helpless in bed with pipes and everything else coming out of him is something I’ll never forget. It was frightening.”
He had been making good progress, and was very positive about the future according to his family. But he died very suddenly five months to the day after his injury from a pulmonary embolism (blood clot) which killed him instantly.
Both, Matthew and Ioan, agreed to be official patrons of the trust. Matthew would in an 2000 interview tell about Paul Andre that when he was 13, he and PA raided his (PA’s) parents drinking cabinet of vodka. “Needless to say, it got very messy and we got very ill. We tried using yoghurt to settle our stomachs and stop us feeling sick. Funnily enough, it didn’t work. It was just horrible, really horrible.
When you throw money into a charity box you never really think about it, but I saw the treatment that Paul had to undergo and the pain he was in, so you can understand why people get involved with charity work"
At the same time he lent his voice to the character of Lleu Llaw Gyffes in Y Mabinogi, based on the legendary Welsh folk story.
It's Lleu's 18th birthday and he and his friend Rhiannon and younger brother Dan put aside their teenage troubles to take a celebratory boat trip along the coast. That's when they discover the magical portal beneath the waves which leads them back to a legendary time, the time of Mabinogi...
The Mabinogen are medieval Welsh legends about brotherhood, adolescence, conflicts, resolutions, acts of brutal violence and magic. The original tales break down into four specific "branches" or "strands" and the inter-woven narrative makes it ferociously difficult to translate them into one story.
The film toured around the country on a limited run between November 2002 and February 2003 and received mixed reviews.
In December 2002 he teamed up with Rhys Ifans and Ioan Gruffudd to lend his voice to a one-off Christmas Eve show for S4C. Made by US animators Rainbow Studios, Donner followed the plight of one of Santa's reindeer as he battles to overcome his unlikely fear of flying. His fleet of reindeer is gathered in an army boot camp where strict sergeant major Blitzen (Ifans) looks to prepare them for their big night. But all does not go according to plan when Skeezer (Rhys), a mischievous elf cast aside for his naughty antics, causes havoc for poor Donner (Gruffudd).
"Skeezer's a real wide boy of a character. He's there to cause trouble for Donner and I've tried to convey his personality and character in the voice. As an actor I find voicing animated characters quite a challenge. It's very technical and timing is imperative, but I also find it very enjoyable."
Atsain producer Pat Griffiths said: "I'm delighted that Matthew, Ioan and Rhys were available to return to Wales to take part in this production. Their contribution gives added value to Donner as an animation for both children and adults."
Just prior to that Matthew joined singer Cerys Matthews, Ioan Gruffudd, Velvet Underground founder member John Cale, actress Siân Phillips, Rhys Ifans and Nia Roberts for Dal: Yma/Nawr: a film about the diversity of the Welsh literary, musical and poetic offerings.
The title translates as "Still Here Now" and it is a 73-minute documentary style film that has been filmed in a number of formats - film, video, using computer graphics - to try and add a visual depth to match the range of works. The film, commissioned by the Welsh-language broadcaster S4C took seven months to complete and was most shot in Wales, although other locations include London, New York, Los Angeles and Nashville.
In 2003 he got his chance in Los Angeles, playing in one episode of Columbo. Columbo Likes the nightlife starring Peter Falk, with who he worked in ‘The lost world’, and Jennifer Sky, Julius Carry, Douglas Roberts, Carmine Giovinazzo and Steven R. Schirripa. Story: When a tabloid reporter with more than a few enemies turns up dead in an apparent suicide, Lt. Columbo gets suspicious, especially when he finds the reporter was blackmailing Justin Price (Rhys), a rave promoter who's about to open a big-time club, and Vanessa Farrow (Sky), an up-and-coming young actress. Things get even more complicated when someone else goes missing: Tony Galper, the man who was bankrolling Justin's club, who just happens to be the son of a notorious mobster … and Vanessa's ex-husband. Matthew has the 'honor' of being the last murderer caught by Columbo. Peter Falk never reprised the role again and he died in 2011.
He also appeared in Partners and crime (aka Violent Crime) with Jennifer Esposito. It was the pilot to a series about two Boston female detectives, with Rhys as their male colleague and he had to practice hard to not sound too Welsh, but more from Boston. Even joking that RADA did not prepare him to play a cop just out of uniform who suddenly finds himself in the thick of the Boston Police Department.
The series however was not picked up and Matthew was pragmatic about it: “I wasn’t surprised. It was another American cop show and we can only really have so many of them.”
He appeared in episode 5 of the ITV series POW, about a POW camp during World War 2, where he plays Alfie Harris, a British spy searched by the SS for the information he has. Filmed in Lithuania, one of Matthews main concerns was whether he would get on with the other members of the cast, who had been already established there for several months of filming. However, he needn’t have worried.
"…, in all honesty, they really couldn’t have been a more welcoming bunch of guys. The location was incredibly authentic, although you can’t for a second imagine the horrors that the real POWs faced during the war in Germany.”
Matthew and the rest of the crew also enjoyed the nightlife of the capital Vilnius, as not only were there plenty of bars, but the beer was very cheap!
In October 2003 Matthew went back to the theater to play “First Voice” in Under Milk Wood co-starring Lisa Palfrey and Nia Roberts. This was to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the writer's death. Under Milk Wood was premiered at the Poetry Centre in New York on 14 May 1953, Thomas played the part of First Voice. There were 14 curtain calls before Thomas stepped out alone for the final round of applause, and he was said to have tears on his cheeks.
Dylan, aged 39, died six months later in a New York hospital after a drinking binge. The play was originally written for the radio and was first broadcast weeks after Thomas' death in 1953. Richard Burton played the narrator, or First Voice, and set the example. Matthew Rhys, felt that Burton casts a long shadow.
"It's always slightly intimidating, that you're recreating a part that has been set in stone by Richard Burton and people remember the part because of him.”
Matthew is a fan of Dylan Thomas' work because "his imagination is wonderful and he's such a wordsmith, and those two things combined make for something like Under Milk Wood. I'm very proud of the fact that this has become a timeless piece and people still want to come and see it 50 years on from his death.”
Under Milk Wood clinged a bit to him that year as he’s also featured in a 50th anniversary BBC4 production of the play which used original recordings of screen legend Richard Burton. [recorded 1963], with newly recorded voices of not only Matthew but also Sian Phillips, Glyn Houston, John Humphrys, & other Welsh stars.
Rhys said, " They played Richard Burton's voice, then we joined in. To be in a play with that voice is very exciting. It was quite bizarre, but I have to say I was happy to be on the same cast list as him!
I play the part of Mog Edwards, who is, as he says himself, 'a draper mad with love'. He's in love with Myfanwy Price and they have this quite intense relationship by post. They never seem to get it together, so there's a lot of unrequited passion.
We were given the cast list on the first day and you look at it and it reads 'Voice Number 1: Richard Burton' and then you look down and there's your own name on the same cast list. It was fantastic to say 'Look Mam, I've worked with Richard Burton'. That was quite a proud day - playing opposite Burton.”
The CD is called ‘A season of Dylan Thomas’ and aside from the new version of Under Milk Wood, with the voices of Richard Burton and Matthew, Matthew can also be heard reading ‘A story’ from Dylan Thomas’ book ‘Portrait of the artist as a Young Dog’.
Trivia: The part of Mog’s beloved Myfanwy was played by Lisa Palfrey, who played Matthew’s sister Gwenny in “House of America”.
At the same time Matthew and Ioan revealed that their 10 years of flat-sharing would soon come to an end. Rhys said his friendship with Gruffudd was still as strong as ever, having shared a home for longer than many couples remained married. “The reality is we don't see much of each other because of work. We've lived together for 10 years, but Ioan has a serious girlfriend now so I don't know how much longer it will last." He denied there had been any tension between the two. "There are no issues between us whatsoever. If there were we wouldn't still be living with each other."
Trivia: Matthew gets annoyed at directors who disliked his Welsh accent. "Most people are accepting of my accent, but occasionally directors have said, 'Do you mind not using it?' And you go 'Why? Why can't he be Welsh?' I'm intensely proud of my Welshness and, although there are times when you want to test yourself and use other accents, if the accent isn't important then why shouldn't you use the Welsh one? There have been occasions that, just to be stubborn, I'll say 'Well why not?' and use it."
He also had the leading role in a movie called Fakers. It is a fun and colorful movie in which he plays Nick Edward, who owes an amount of 50.000 pounds to a crime-lord (Art Malik) and he believes he’s a dead man, because he is unable to pay the amount back.
In an attempt to win over the heart of Eve (Kate Ashfield), he gives her brother Tony (played by Tom Chambers) who’s a sketch-artist who copies other people’s works, a box with sketch material. As it turns out, the box belonged to Antonio Fraccini, and it contains a ‘lost’ sketch of the artist. But it’s not worth more than 15.000.
Nick talks Tony into forging the drawing and he and Eve set up a plan to sell the drawing to five Art Galleries in the same district, within 1 hour… And to try to get away with it…
From April to October 2004 he was in the play Romeo and Juliet, playing the part of Romeo.
“Initially, when I heard I'd got the part I was a bit daunted! I suppose joining the RSC is a bit like playing football in the Premiere League. The Company has a phenomenal reputation. An amazing role-call of actors has worked here and you can't help but wonder if you can ever match up.
I had to keep pinching myself at first but thankfully, as soon as I started rehearsals, I felt at home. It's a very actor-friendly environment: everything is designed to enable the actors to give the best performance they can.
It's been an amazing opportunity to refresh skills I learned at drama school. I loved working on the fights in rehearsal - it was the highlight of my week. I've worked with Terry King before: he taught me at RADA. That was my highlight of college life, getting my certification in stage combat.
Playing the part of Romeo, which is well known, does fill me with dread! I'm not exactly sure how old Romeo is - 16 or so I suppose. Some of my friends have given me grief saying "You're a bit old, aren't you??" - I suppose I am. Youthful energy is needed and if you see how young Romeo is, how vulnerable, you can forgive his inconsistencies. It's not pity I want an audience to feel but I want them to see that there are situations he can't control. I want his predicament to be real. In rehearsal I did play around with ways of making him more boyish. I tried to make my voice lighter, higher, but I ended up losing it, so I use my own range and a neutralized version of my own accent.
So many productions have set the action in different places and periods, but this isn't a modern production - we are wearing tights, so I suppose this so-called "traditional production" is in fact almost subversive! I have to admit I did resist the idea of wearing tights for a while. My friends had a field day when they heard about my costume.”
Matthew also claimed that his most embarrassing moment was during this production.
“It was a traditional production so all the boys were in tights. Mine were a light powder blue. I had about seven minutes off stage once so ran to the bathroom. I went to wash my hands and it was one of those 'mushroom faucets' that you hit the top of and the water runs for a moment. In my hurry, I hit the faucet hard, a torrent came out of the faucet, over the sink and landed perfectly on my crotch. It looked as if I had quite an accident. The backstage PA said, "Mr. Rhys to stage please, Mr. Rhys to stage." I walked on and the boy playing Benvolio stopped mid sentence as he looked at my sodden jock strap. I could hear people in the audience whisper and giggle. I still shudder”
Early 2005 Matthew was back on the stage, this time for the part of Edmund in King Lear at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford. Corin Redgrave starred as King Lear, Edgar was played by Pal Aron. As Edmund, Matthew schemes his way through the play, causing trouble for Edgar, going after Goneril and Regan. Although he dies trying to save Cordelia, his death is unmourned.
“When I first read the play, I thought Edmund was evil through-and-through. But then I re-read that short speech of Gloucester’s at the beginning (when he’s talking about his illegitimate son) and I was appalled. Gloucester tells Kent, ‘the whoreson must be acknowledged … He hath been out nine years, and away he shall again.’ Should Gloucester be telling anyone ‘there was good sport at his making’? I felt sorry for Edmund because he’s had such a raw deal. So to my way of thinking, he’s not evil at all, just hard done-by, feeling rejected he asks why he is branded with the word ‘bastard’. Edgar, his half-brother, is only 12 or 14 months older than him. They have the same father and yet he is deemed to be vile and despicable simply because he was born out of wedlock. I think his argument is completely justified and so my starting point was to think whatever action he takes is justifiable.
I suppose I’m applying what might be termed modern psychology to the role when, in any given situation, I’m asking how I personally would react. For example, Gloucester says he loves both his sons equally and yet Edgar will inherit the land. Gloucester doesn’t say that Edgar will inherit because he’s the elder son, he says it’s because he’s the legitimate one. For me, that thought quickly gives rise to anger.
The wheel comes full circle though because, when Edgar kills him, it’s he, the wronged brother, who is the avenging angel.”
In May 2005 Matthew read a fairy-tale for a CD produced by a group of teenagers at Blackwood Comprehensive School to help raise funds for the Noah's Ark Appeal. A quarter of the profits made from the CD would go to the fundraising efforts for the Children's Hospital for Wales.
Several traditional fairy tales including Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, and Beauty and the Beast were read by Matthew but also Brian Hibbard (actor and he was in the band the Flying Pickets), TV-presenter Sarra Elgan, Pobol Y Cwm actor Llinor ap Gwynedd and Boyd Clack, who starred in the BBC Wales comedy Satellite City.
Called Tiny Tales with Big Names, the double CD featured stories narrated by the stars in Welsh and English and was aimed at children aged between four and five. The five celebrities did the reading for free.
END OF PART 3
Links to all 6 posts for this bio can be found here