Jonathan Rhys Meyers is the latest actor to play the most renowned vampire.
It’s that time of year again when we walk among the dead, uncover goblins in our attics and spy ghostly apparitions everywhere we look.
It’s also the season for the resurrection of our favourite ghoul, Count Dracula, who has haunted screens ever since F. W. Murnau based his Nosferatu on the famous Bram Stoker book.
Many skilled actors have played the eerie bat-man: Gary Oldman, Gerard Butler, Jack Palance, Frank Langella, John Carradine, Rudolf Martin, Leslie Nielsen, Wei-Qiang Zhang, Marc Warren and Christopher Lee (who portrayed him no less than 10 times).
But among the most anticipated is the creature NBC has disentombed, when Irish actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers sharpens his fangs for the network’s new Dracula series.
Robert Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment, describes the show as a new version of Stoker’s classic. “In the world of Twilight and True Blood and all the contemporised vampire stories, we thought we would go back to the original, and the book is still really fresh and really original, and we have an incredible script written by a writer called Cole Haddon. It’s a co-production of NBC Universal and the Sky Living channel in BSkyB and Carnival Films, the company that brings you Downton Abbey, and we’re very excited about it. We’re going right to series.”
Greenblatt and Rhys Meyers are no strangers. They collaborated on the Elvis miniseries for CBS. “I was happy to work with him on The Tudors, and we’re going to bring a sort of Tudors sensibility to Dracula,” says Greenblatt.
“It will be faithful to the period, which is 1896, but it will be sort of looking to the future and hopefully be a really cool, new version of Dracula.”
In this lush version, the Prince of Darkness poses as an American industrialist penetrating London’s high society while he seeks vengeance on those who cursed him with everlasting life.
Known for his roles in Match Point, Bend it Like Beckham, The Tudors and Mission Impossible III, Rhys Meyers is one hot commodity for the stone-cold vampire.
In spite of his popularity, he says, his life hasn’t changed much. “I just feel like I’m working hard,” he says. “And I live a very, very quiet life. I haven’t really bought into that ‘I’m so fabulousness’ of it all yet. I still do all the same things that I used to do. And so nothing really has changed except that I get seen for better parts with better people. And sometimes people are nicer to me,” he says.
“I’m just glad to be doing something that I love doing. And being kind of good at something and being kind of like accepted is nice because it’s taken a long time. I’m enjoying it, but I’m not letting it sort of, like, rule my life ... I like doing the things I always liked to do. I like reading, going to the gym, hanging out with my family. That’s it.”
When he was growing up in Ireland his dad, an itinerant musician, was gone much of the time. He and his three younger brothers were mostly reared by their mum. He says he first used his acting prowess as a means of self-preservation. “You’re a kid, you’re hanging around. Kids do things they’re not supposed to do. You break a window or you’re making too much noise, and then you’ve got to find very quick excuses on the spot. There’s a lot of improvisation when you’re a child.”
He landed his first commercial at 16 but didn’t venture into films until two years later. “It was a good living so it started off by being a job. And then as you become more successful you start to want the craft a little bit more.”
Essaying historical characters like Henry VIII and Dracula (who was based on Vlad the Impaler, Prince of Wallachia in the 15th century) suits Rhys Meyers.
“I wasn’t very good at math but very good at history, geography and English – anything that took a lot of memory and focus I was very, very good at. Anything that took logic I was very, very bad at. I still am.” – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
> Dracula premieres tonight at 8.55pm on Diva Universal (Astro Ch 702).