Will going public actually SAVE Jonathan Rhys Meyers?
He’s an intensely private man but as his wife Mara shares their miscarriage news after he hits the booze again, we ask...
THE SCENE, sadly, was not all that unusual. Jonathan Rhys Meyers, dishevelled, drunk and incoherent in an airport being led away from the departure area by security, after being deemed too intoxicated to fly.
At least this time the Hollywood star wasn’t threatening to kill anyone. Instead eyewitnesses said he seemed so out of it in Dublin airport last Saturday morning, that he was unable to cause any serious hassle. They described how he spent some time either staggering around or leaning against a wall for support before being helped to a seat by an airport policeman.
He’s been here before of course. Previous alcohol fuelled public incidents, of which there are several, include the one at JFK Airport in New York, where he was banned from ever flying with United Airlines again, or at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris when he tried to take on three policemen and the time he was arrested in Dublin Airport in 2007 for being drunk and disorderly.
But what sets this most recent episode apart from all the others, aside from not getting into a physical altercation this time, is how, in the aftermath, the public have been made aware of the most personal information about the usually intensely private 40-year-old actor.
Just a day after the depressingly familiar photographs of Rhys Meyers falling around an airport appeared in the newspapers, his wife Mara Lane posted a lengthy entry on Instagram, where she has more than 22,000 followers. Alongside a sepia-coloured photo of a kneeling young girl reaching out towards a lion, she revealed how the couple has recently lost their second child through a miscarriage.
‘Child was very very much wanted (right now especially by J, so he took the news particularly not so well) and we are still working with coping skills over here... when life throws us curve balls such as these,’ the posting reads. ‘Depression is a real concern from past abuse as well as alcoholism which he was born with. He has been able to turn any ugliness and hurt in his life into art and is the strongest person I know.
‘I do not know anyone who has been through what he has been through and reached his level of successes. It does seem though that every time we seem to be making so much progress... sometimes it’s like two steps forward, one step back.’
It’s a heartbreaking, raw and honest disclosure. One that addresses not only their recent loss, but also touches on the demons that seem to have followed Rhys Meyers since he was a little boy growing up in Cork. The issues that he appears to have coped with, at regular stages throughout his life, by drinking himself into oblivion.
While his wife followed up her initial Instagram with another posting on Tuesday night, thanking people for their support and understanding, Rhys Meyers has remained silent.
According to Lane’s messages he was on his way into a detox centre, so it could be that he is simply offline and busy getting better.
‘He is safe and with his sober living companion and bodyguard to get into a detox closer to home,’ she explained. ‘Since he was denied hospital help twice in Ireland because of an already two month wait period.’
But you do have to wonder, once he has finished at the centre and has returned home, to where he lives with his wife and their infant son Wolf, who was born last year, and is fully cognisant of the level of Lane’s social media sharing about his personal life, what will he make of her extraordinary candour?
After all, this is a man who has rarely, if ever, opened up fully about the extent of his troubled background. There have been snippets along the way of how tough his life was, growing up in a council house with his mother, who had a serious drink problem of her own. And of course his relationship with Christopher Crofts, the gay, wealthy dairy farmer, who took him in as a teenager and helped nurture his fledgling acting career. More of that later.
But Rhys Meyers’ story has always seemed to change over the years — you have never been sure if what is out there is part of some fairytale, rags to riches story, possibly rewritten and reshaped to hide an even more sordid and unhappy truth.
At the beginning of his career he gave glimpses into his upbringing, describing his mother as being not very ‘responsible’. There were mentions of how at times he had to steal food as she’d spent all her dole on drink. And some reports claimed he ended up in an orphanage, or was taken in by social services.
However his mother, Geraldine (Ger) O’Keeffe, angrily refuted these claims. ‘We did not have any money, it was difficult but we made the most of it,’ she said. ‘There was always food on the table, clothes for the kids and holidays. Lies that Johnny grew up in an orphanage are not only untrue, but very hurtful. It’s not easy being an actor’s mother. My boys were never taken from me by social workers, placed in care or an orphanage. They had a happy childhood because they got a lot of love.’
Given her own issues with alcohol, her recollection of Rhys Meyers’ childhood was perhaps understandably different from the picture that the actor once shared.
But it’s clear he has also at times presented very different versions of his life to the public. Indeed in an interview with our sister newspaper, The Mail on Sunday, while promoting the TV series The Tudors, he insisted his drinking had been ‘blown out of proportion.’ It was shortly after he’d been photographed while out on another epic bender just after his mother died in November 2007.
‘I haven’t even thought about drinking since my mother passed away. Drinking is not the way forward for me at all,’ he said. ‘I never even drank till I was 25 anyway. I was in Thailand on my own, filming. I was a bit lonely and I started drinking.’
The idea that he never drank until he was 25 is greatly at odds with other people’s memories of him starting out in the film business. For instance, those of his ex-girlfriend, Australian actress Toni Collette, with whom he starred in the 1998 film Velvet Goldmine, when he was just 21 years old.
‘There was a lot of hedonism, a lot of getting into the moment,’ she has said. ‘Now I’m much more quiet. I guess that’s what happens when you grow up. You realise getting drunk is just a way of escaping.’
But perhaps it’s not surprising Rhys Meyers has been inconsistent about his history. From the start, it wasn’t easy. His parents were factory workers, barely out of their teens when Ger found herself pregnant and told no one in her family. Instead she fled to Dublin where Rhys Meyers was born two months prematurely, with a kidney defect. Doctors told her to expect the worst, but he survived after months in hospital.
Ger married his father John and the couple had three more sons in quick succession. But John, by then a jobbing musician, walked out on the family when Ger was pregnant with their fourth child.
Her mother-in-law stepped in to help and it was decided Ger would raise the older two boys while Mrs O’Keeffe cared for the youngest two, Jamie and Paul. If Ger was angry about her situation, she kept it to herself when interviewed after her son became a Hollywood star. ‘I was lucky that I had a wonderful family and in-laws,’ she insisted.
In the meantime, Rhys Meyers’ father John settled in Jersey, where he ran a pub for years. His three sons eventually went to live with him and
‘Depression is a real concern from past abuse’
‘He’s been able to turn hurt in his life into art’
formed a band, Suzy’s Field, which is still going and has had a modicum of success. But Rhys Meyers remained in Cork where he got expelled from school for mitching before the Inter Cert exams.
‘Jonny was kicked out at 15,’ his mother explained at a civic reception for her son in Cork several years ago. ‘He was attending North Mon in Cork and he never did his Inter or Leaving Cert. He didn’t want to go back anyway because he hated school. He had a terrible time because he was different.’
At the same gig, Rhys Meyers confirmed how tough he had found it. ‘School was a nightmare in many ways, as it was for many kids,’ he said. ‘I found growing up very difficult, but I defy any young fellow not to feel that. I was very lucky because I got a break and fell into acting almost by chance.’
His break into acting, of course, was helped by the fact that he’s a particularly beautiful-looking man, especially on camera. Huge eyes, razor sharp cheekbones and the sort of swollen, sensual mouth that makes it difficult to concentrate.
But it’s also a kind of delicate, almost androgynous beauty that has drawn people to him since he was in his teens. After leaving school he got a job in a pool hall. Around this time he met Christopher Crofts, who took the young, handsome teenager under his wing. Both men have always denied the relationship was anything but platonic. Indeed Rhys Meyers has described the farmer, who ran a 650-acre property in Buttenvat, as a surrogate father-figure. Crofts agreed to allow the youngster to live with him and his three children, two boys and a girl. Whether these were his biological children or others he’d taken in to live with him has never been clear.
Crofts’ patronage afforded Rhys Meyers the chance to pursue an acting career which would see him star alongside Keira Knightley, Tom Cruise and Scarlett Johansson. Indeed Crofts, for a time, became an almost agent for him, vetting scripts and giving advice. Certainly Rhys Meyers’ mother never saw anything untoward in the friendship. ‘I have the utmost respect for Christopher,’ she said. ‘He came at the right time for Jonathan and was a stabilising influence at an age when he could have got into trouble. He helped stabilise him and gave him a male role model.’
That mentorship role, however, was publicly and irrevocably tarnished about ten years ago. Crofts, who had a home in Morocco for over two decades, was accused and found guilty of drugging and sexually abusing a 15-year-old homeless
boy. He spent more than four months in a Moroccan jail before a High Court judge annulled the rest of his 12-month sentence and charges for inciting a minor to prostitution were dropped. Rhys Meyers always stood by his former mentor, but the intense publicity and scrutiny into his relationship with the dairy farmer has to have had an effect.
Certainly in the years since his surrogate father was jailed, albeit briefly, and since his mother died after a stroke in 2007 at the age of just 50, he has fallen off the wagon with grim regularity. There have been stints in rehab, but sadly his coping mechanisms seem to fail when up against adversity. There is, however, something to be hugely admired about his wife’s openness regarding his most recent tribulations. Losing a child through miscarriage is not always afforded the sympathy it deserves, and often only the mother’s suffering is really considered. That Mara Lane has revealed how brutally bruised her husband has been by their loss helps lift a lid on a phenomenon perhaps not often thought about. And maybe transparency is the key to halting the destructive cycle that Rhys Meyers has been on for the last couple of decades. But quite what he makes of his past and present being laid so bare by the woman he presumably trusts most — well, that remains to be seen...
Family man: The Rhys Meyers with baby son, Wolf
Strong support: Jonathan with wife Mara Lane