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 and the responsibility it brings. 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-year-old 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.
Gifted was shot in less than a week and the tight turnaround was appealing: 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. 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.
. ? Gifted is on Sky Arts on Thursday at 9.30pm
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