Jonathan's past is ever present, and very public
The sight of Jonathan Rhys Meyers drunk in the street isn't new, says Sarah Caden, and it's a pattern set by his past
Published 24/05/2015 | 02:30
Last week, around the same time that Jonathan Rhys Meyers' latest film, Damascus Cover was debuting at the Cannes Film Festival, the Cork actor was photographed staggering in a London street, obviously drunk. Dishevelled and dirty, he wore an inside-out anorak and jeans with the flies undone as he went into a local off-licence and bought two bottles of vodka.
Outside on the street, Rhys Meyers opened one of the bottles, poured some vodka into the cap of the bottle and knocked it back. He dropped the cap on the path, proved himself barely able to pick it up again and went on his way. Not on his merry way, mind.
There was nothing merry about it at all. It would be a sad sight and plight for anyone, but more so for Rhys Meyers, who has been to rehab too many times now, and talked too often about conquered demons for this to be anything other than tragic.
It's a sorry thing to see a man brought down like this, but we find it sorrier still when the flip side of the lows are great highs such as Jonathan Rhys Meyers has enjoyed.
We love the narrative of his dysfunctional childhood when it ends with heart-throb status and a movie debut in Cannes. But we struggle with what has always been the flip side of the Dublin-born actor, who moved to Cork before his first birthday.
Alcohol abuse and self-destructive behaviour have always been part of the bigger picture for Jonathan Rhys Meyers, but we and he, it often seems, can't come to terms with that. We love the fairytale that somehow tallies with his stunning looks, and we are surprised by sadness, time after time, when the dark side of Jonathan Rhys Meyers disrupts his beautiful life.
This is not the first time that Rhys Meyers has been publicly drunk and in difficulty. In 2010, when he was the star of the worldwide hit, The Tudors, he was involved in a fracas at JFK airport, after downing vodkas in the VIP lounge and abusing airline staff. In 2007, he was arrested in Dublin airport in a severely drunken state, where he fell asleep and fell off a seat, unconscious, on to the floor.
A few days later, he was photographed in London, looking unkempt and drinking publicly. It was around this time, however, that his mother, Geraldine Meyers, died, aged only 50, and it is to his childhood with her that the beginnings of his troubles are always traced.
Rhys Meyers has never made a secret of his difficult upbringing, but only when things are going well, as a contrast to his good fortune.
There's all the good stuff: his roles in Bend It Like Beckham, Mission Impossible III, Woody Allen's Match Point, a Golden Globe for his TV role as Elvis, his lead parts in The Tudors and Dracula. It's all good. Until it's not, and it all seems to be a return to a past he can't escape.
He was the oldest of Geraldine Meyers's four sons, born when she was barely out of her teens. His musician father, John O'Keeffe, left when Rhys Meyers was three, taking two of the boys with him and leaving his eldest and other son to fend for themselves, essentially.
In interviews, Rhys Meyers has spoken about how his mother spent all her dole on drink and how he stole money to feed himself, and how he was saved in many ways by Christopher Croft, a Cork farmer who took him in and essentially set him on the road to acting.
There have always been question marks around Rhys Meyers' relationship with Croft, who was convicted and later cleared of drugging and sexually abusing a teenage boy in Morocco, the same year that Geraldine Meyers died. Croft said he ran a very free and liberal household, but he and Rhys Meyers have always said that theirs was a father-son relationship and have characterised Croft as the mentor who made acting a reality for him.
As Rhys Meyers paints his childhood, it's a rags-to-riches tale and he, at least publicly, does not connect it to his own self-destructive behaviour. Until, publicly, he behaves self-destructively.
I have interviewed Jonathan Rhys Meyers and I found him as I have read other print journalists find him: tightly wound, very serious about himself, very mannered. I've seen him in TV interviews just as I found him in person and it has always seemed that his hardest role is assuming what seems to be a very controlled front.
It's a difficult role because, as he proves over and over, it's hard to maintain. Impossible, if Rhys Meyers's repeated falls from the wagon and trips to rehab are anything to go by. In 2013, promoting Dracula and on the wagon, he said: "Now, I don't do nothing. Once you make the decision you have had enough of something, the decision is made you have had enough..."
This year, things seemed to be going well for Jonathan Rhys Meyers. He recently became engaged to American actress Mara Lane, whose Instagram account speaks of a glorious glossy romance and details a trip to Ireland with the actor. In one picture, she is photographed with his granny, a key figure of rare stability in his childhood.
Reportedly, Lane's Californian sunniness was a tonic to Rhys Meyers, as was her willingness to stay by his side during long film shoots abroad, times perhaps when boredom and black thoughts can get the better of a man.
This year alone, Jonathan Rhys Meyers has three films due for release. You would think he should have been in Cannes to take part in the fuss over Damascus Cover, but he was not. Whether a fall off the wagon led to him being left out, or being left out led to a fall of the wagon - who knows?
All that's obvious is that there is a self-destruct button in Jonathan Rhys Meyers that no amount of good fortune, good roles or good people in his life can stop him from pushing.
Last week, the day after the unfortunate drunken photographs were published, Jonathan Rhys Meyers was snapped leaving his home in gym gear, aviator sunglasses and a baseball cap, looking less rough and like a man of purpose. He looked like he dressed to convey that he was fighting back. And you would hope that Jonathan Rhys Meyers will. No matter how many tries it takes.