News Column

Ifans was Gifted a role that made him cry

June 8, 2013


Rhys Ifans's mother has a set of questions that she asks him whenever he accepts a new role. "My mum says, 'Are you naked? Are you swearing? Are you having sex?"' "' he explains, laughing. "So she's going to be over the moon with this one!" The 'one' in question is his role in Gifted, which marks a departure from the tatty grey Y-fronts of Spike in Notting Hill and the vodka-smashing antics of Eyeball Paul in Kevin And Perry Go Large.

Instead, Gifted is a moving one-off drama for Sky Arts, which sees Ifans as Chris, a sensitive man with a rare talent. In the film, Chris starts a relationship that forces him come to terms with his gift. It was something that Ifans instantly warmed to.

"I read it and just went, 'Oh, God bless'," says Ifans. "I thought, 'What a beautiful story'. I hate watching anything I'm in but it moved me to tears."

While Gifted shows Ifans in a new light, it was Notting Hill that gave him his international breakthrough. Even 14 years on, it's the scene of Ifans' 6ft 2in frame posing for photographers in a pair of dishwater-coloured pants that springs to many film fans' minds at the mention of the movie.

Since then, the 45-yearold has exchanged Spike's briefs for roles in the critically acclaimed Enduring Love and Vanity Fair, as well as Harry Potter And The Deathly Hollows: Part 1, as Xenophilius Lovegood.

Last summer, Ifans graced the big screen as a scientist-turned- giant-lizard in The Amazing Spider-Man.

Film is Ifans's medium of choice but he enjoys the discipline of TV. As a teen, he loved the TV adaptation of Roald Dahl's Tales Of The Unexpected which, with its opening sequence of dancing female silhouettes, was "like porn for a young Welsh boy".

More recently, Ifans and his actress girlfriend Anna Friel have adored watching Channel 4's gritty American drama Homeland.

"I could never watch Homeland as a box set. What I loved about it was the anticipation for that nine o'clock slot every Sunday night, which is something I hadn't experienced since being a teenager.

"You'd be in the pub -- and it takes wild horses to drag me out of the pub on a Sunday afternoon -- but we'd go back for that, and the next day we'd discuss it.

"What I think is beautiful about film, theatre or television, is when it's collective -- when we can share our experience with it. We love to gossip, point the finger and judge people, and we love being proven wrong." " Gifted was shot in less than a week and the tight turnaround was something that appealed: "It's so intense and refreshing. And then you do something like Spider-man, which takes about 24 years, most of which you spend in a trailer," he says, laughing. "With this, there was no point in having one -- you're working all the time. You just learn your lines and get to work. You can't be a diva and make films like this.

"Even the guys who were doing the lighting had read the script. If you're doing a huge Hollywood blockbuster, they don't know what the story is about until they're watching it at the cinema, so everyone's committed in a different way."

Committing to acting takes up much of Ifans's time, but his other love is singing -- and he fronts his own band Y Peth. The dishevelled blonde hair, leather jacket and rock swagger were replaced with a gentle sing-song in Gifted, however.

"We had a little debate about what song should be sung and it was Angela (the writer) who said her favourite song was Mr Bojangles," Ifans recalls.

"I was like, 'I'm a rock 'n' roller you know', but it's a heartbreaking piece of music and so appropriate to this film."

Taking on the role meant that Ifans would be working with Welsh stage actress Sian Phillips.

"Sian was another draw. The first year the Sian Phillips Award (which commemorates Welsh actors at the Welsh Baftas) was created, she gave it to me for Not Only But Always, and that's on a higher place on my mother's mantelpiece than my Bafta award."

Despite the high praise for his performances, Ifans remains grounded.

"I just work hard and do my job," he says. "I'm good to the people I love and that's all that matters."

Gifted is on Sky Arts this Thursday, June 13

(c) 2013 Belfast Telegraph. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.

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