“Being Irish is special,” says actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers who paid tribute to Ireland as he accepted an Irish Post Legend Award in London last night.
The Hollywood star, who was accompanied by his glamorous girlfriend actress Mara Lane, revealed his will always have a special place in his heart for his native land.
The Cork actor, who has starred alongside some of the biggest names in the movie business, spoke of his love for the peace and quiet of the Irish countryside where he grew up on a farm.
“There was something about Irish country people, something about the land that really made me very proud,” he said.
Born two months premature in the Liberties of Dublin, Jonathan found fame as a teenager starring as an assassin in Neil Jordan’s 1996 biopic Michael Collins.
He recounted his audition with the director, and how as a nervous 17-year-old he believed he’d blown his chances to be cast - until inspiration struck from an unexpected source that is.
While having a nerve-calming cigarette outside the audition hotel, he said: “There was a taxi outside the door and the window was open. There was something on the radio, I only heard the last couple of words of what was said, it said ‘Between my finger and my thumb the squat pen rests; snug as a gun. I'll dig with it’. And that was Seamus Heaney.
“So I walked back in to the room and said ‘Neil, I’m from Cork, if you want me to f***ing kill Liam Neeson, I’ll kill him!” he joked.
The Golden Globe winner was presented with his Legend Award by Lord of the Dance creator Michael Flatley.
“What a star you are,” Flatley said. “You don’t get to the top of the world in anything without lots of talent, I suppose a little bit of luck, but mostly a mountain of hard work. And the most handsome guy in Hollywood, of course he’s from Ireland.”
From playing Dracula to King Henry VIII, and acting on the big screen opposite the likes of John Travolta and Tom Cruise, Jonathan admitted life hasn’t always been an easy journey.
“I’ve had so much rejection,” he said. “I went to Hollywood and was told no, no, no, then some people said yes, then some people said no. I’ve had ups and downs, I’ve fallen down as much as I’ve gotten up, I think you do that in life. But I’ve always remembered at the core of it that being Irish is special.”
Coming from a family of musicians, Jonathan explained his desire to act was borne for a need to make his mark on the world.
“For me when I first started it was something to do as a job because I wanted to get out. This was the typical Irish story, I wanted to get out of Ireland, I wanted to do something,” he said.
He spoke of his approach to acting and his admiration for John Ford, the Irish-American director famous for his Westerns.
“You’ve got to think about the people that inspire you,” Jonathan said. “I’m inspired by the director John Forde. Somebody interviewed him and asked him how you do that shot where John Wayne really rides out of the desert, and he says ‘I used a camera’, that’s it!
"So when people say to you do you do something that’s really, really complicated, or do you do something that’s really, really difficult, you trust the people you’re working you. I appear in films I don’t make them, I appear in other people’s movies.”
He added: “You have to trust the people that you work with. I’ve worked with some brilliant people, people that are really kind, and we’re not just the talking about the directors and the producers and the people on the higher echelons.
"We’re talking about some mornings I’ll walk onto the set of the Tudors and my driver Alan from Dublin who will be the one who’ll get me through the day.”