Golden Globe winner Jonathan Rhys-Meyers today said it was an honour to play Henry VIII in the new €29m television drama series shooting in Ireland.
The Cork actor, fresh from scooping the gong for his role as Elvis, has promised viewers a very different Henry VIII when the series, The Tudors, hits television screens.
“Henry VIII – he is the most famous King of England I suppose. My Henry VIII is very much my own, it is not a part that people would immediately look at me and say ‘you are going to play Henry VIII’.
“Elvis you kind of see a bit, but you wouldn’t see Henry VIII. So I am giving him a more youthful, more athletic, more volatile Henry,” Rhys-Meyers said.
“I did a little bit of research but not as much as you think. I have to learn his story as I go along, so I have read a lot of what Henry would have read at the time.”
The Tudors, written by award winning Michael Hirst on the life and ties of Henry VIII, focuses on the tumultuous early years of King Henry VIII’s nearly 40-year reign in England, where attempts to father an heir to the throne became one of his main obsessions.
The series will take in his dalliances with female company, including Catherine of Aragon and the Anne Boleyn, who was beheaded in 1536, accused of treason and adultery.
Rhys-Meyers said it was an honour to play the role of a man who was in many ways the most famous King of England.
“It is an honour to play any monarch,” he said, adding that Henry VIII was a great visionary. “I suppose being an Irish man will raise a few eyebrows.”
He added: “He helped develop a nation that would become an empire.”
The actor, who has worked consistently since his breakthrough as the young assassin in Neil Jordan’s 1996 biopic of revolutionary Michael Collins, said the fact the production was being shot in Dublin, Wicklow and Ardmore Studios in Bray was a major enticement.
In the aftermath of the Golden Globe, the actor said: “It is the same as any other part, I try to make it as best as possible.
“But the reality of the situation is people do expect things of you, they expect that type of performance every time. But I like pressure, I kind of eat it up a bit.”
Irish Arts Minister John O’Donoghue visited Ardmore Studios where the cast, including Sam Neill as Cardinal Wolsey and Maria Doyle Kennedy, were ensconced in velvet costumes under the hot studio lights.
“It is really important to point out that unlike other jurisdictions we allow the tax relief for TV productions and this is in my view the reason why we are attracting so many major TV productions at the moment from all over the world.
“I think that all in all we are very very competitive now, we have marvellous production crews,” the minister said.
“All in all we have the talent and we may well be entering into a golden age in the history of Irish film and television production.”
The Tudors is an Irish Canadian co-production for United States network Showtime, with finance from Peace Arch Entertainment and the Irish Film Board.
Around 10 episodes have been ordered of the series which is likely to air on the US network in early 2007.
One of the producers, Morgan O’Sullivan, said the 20-week shoot would continue into October.
“We have over 100 cast so it is very ambitious for series television,” he said, as the dramatic trailer for the series playing in the background vowed that “Being King is only half the story.”
“The tax incentive and increased tax incentives have allowed us to get a bigger bang for our buck that in other locations,” said Mr O’Donoghue.