SXSW 2010 Interview: Actor Rhys Ifans (MR. NICE)

John Mulhern

by: John Mulhern
March 29th, 2010

Rhys Ifans is an actor that always sets himself apart in almost every film he is in. He has a certain charisma that can really pull you into his role and make it hard to forget the performance. Although his earlier memorable roles are from comedies such as NOTTING HILL, LITTLE NICKY and THE REPLACEMENTS, these days he has been focusing on a lot of dramatic films. During SXSW, I had the opportunity to sit with him and talk about his most recent dramatic role in MR. NICE.

You can check out the interview, after the jump!

In GREENBERG you play a damaged recovering addict, in MR. NICE you're very deep in the drug world. What is it about roles like this that attract you?

Well, I don't think it's anything to do with drugs, they just happen to be the emotional currency in these films. I'm not attracted to drug taking at all, or drugs really. I'm kind of attracted to people, or characters, who are kind of on the periphery of society. I guess if you're mixed up on drugs you're on the periphery, or if you're getting away from them you're on the periphery. So drugs is not an issue, I'm an actor.

In the film [MR. NICE], you play Howard Marks from childhood to a much older age, did you have any meetings with Howard Marks to prepare for the role?

Yeah. I've known Howard for 13 or 14 years, we're good friends. I was texting him last night because he's not allowed into the states, it'd be risky for him to enter the United States of America. So he's a really good friend, it was really strange but rewarding experience playing a friend. What I discovered is, for all the vibrato and everything, him being a marijuana pirate, what I discovered is a man who loved his wife and family. That was brutally taken away from him, from archaic American rules.

Was it at all intimidating playing your friend?

It wasn't, it wasn't! Not because of me, but because of Howard. Howard basically gave me carte blanche to make him look good and bad.

How did you get involved in the film?

Well, I met Howard when he came out of prison. I never met him before that. We've kind of been in touch, he came out prison 13 or 14 years ago. I met Howard before he wrote Mr. Nice, the book, and it was a chance meeting at The Super Furry Animals [concert], which is the best band in the world. We met after the gig, and I said to Howard, "Look, if you write this book, I want to play you." I was this two-bit actor at the time, maybe I am now. But we made the deal, and it's actually on video! It's actually been filmed by a cousin of his, where we make this deal. Then 13 years down the line, thankfully Bernard [Rose] came on board and we managed to get the film from the dark recesses of the BBC, which is a increasingly a government mill establishment, and the film has been made. So, revenge is sweet.

What do you want someone to take from the film?

Well, it's an odyssey in the Greek sense. What I want people to take from the film is that huge dramatic journeys are possible in life. Governments, and law enforcements, are our enemy. They are the enemy of every poet.

Has Howard Marks seen the film yet?

Yes he has, we shot it in London. We held hands very nervously, it's so strange watching me play him while holding his hands. He's just over the moon with it. For me, it's my rite of passage as an actor. I played my best friend, and he was really, really happy with it. So I don't give a flying fuck what anyone else thinks about it. If Howard's happy, I'm happy.

Do you have any other projects coming up?

Yeah, several.

Anything you can talk about?

Yeah, I'm just about to start a role in an Emmerich film called ANONYMOUS, again with David Thewlis who is in MR. NICE. It's a film that proposes the possibility that William Shakespeare was not necessarily the author of his work.


Yeah, so that's gonna stir some more shit up! I guess I like to do these contentious movies. I just finished a film with Mitch Glazer with Mickey Rourke and Megan Fox.

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