“Rhys carries around all these contradictions,” says Roger Michell, the director of Notting Hill and Enduring Love. “He's gawky, yet graceful. He's smelly and Welsh and yet he's handsome and winning.”
A fascinating collection of inconsistencies and paradoxes, Rhys Ifans has become a star despite the humblest of beginnings.
Born in 1967 in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, Wales, it wasn’t until he took up acting that Ifans found what made his lifeblood flow. He started at a young age, attending amateur dramatics classes with his parents when they couldn’t find a babysitter.
Then, aged 11, he got his first lead at the newly opened Theatre Clwyd, playing Rat in Toad Of Toad Hall. It was love at first croak.
“My work is my way of expressing myself without being arrested,” Ifans tells The Telegraph. “I have found an arena where I can be extreme and subversive and poignant and challenging without being called an idiot or a lunatic.”
After training at the Royal Scottish Academy, Ifans presented Welsh kids' programme Sdwnsh (‘Mash’) in 1990, and appeared in a variety of Welsh language TV shows, while also performing at London’s Royal National Theatre.
For a time, he even dabbled in music, fronting the Super Furry Animals before the band came to fame. But it was Ifans’ turn in movie Twin Town (1997), in which he co-starred with his brother, that he finally got noticed.
Next, Notting Hill (1999) sealed the deal. As Ifans disappeared into his character of a grubby, sex-starved Welshman, the world realised this was an actor who needed to be watched.
“Rhys is an actor of enormous range,” says Mr. Nice director Bernard Rose. “Also, he is a great comedian, too. But I think Rhys could play anything you put on his plate. He is a real actor. He can do things in a scene like put his teeth out... he can go really deep like that.”
Ifans is an actor with a restless energy, always searching for the next thing to pump him up. “I am who I am,” the actor told The Telegraph back in 2006, before going on to describe himself as 'lazy', 'chaotic', 'anarchic', 'sentimental', 'shy', 'arrogant' and 'a misfit'.
In other words, the perfect man to play Howard Marks in a movie…
Next: Mr. Rose