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The Boat That Rocked - Rhys Ifans interview

Rhys Ifans in The Boat That Rocked

Compiled by Jack Foley

RHYS Ifans reacts to being labelled “the most rock ‘n’ roll person in Britain” by director Richard Curtis, and talks about getting into character as a sex-obsessed DJ in The Boat That Rocked.

He also talks about his real life rock ‘n’ roll career with The Peth and what we can expect from him in the new Harry Potter movie, The Deathly Hallows, as well as Nanny McPhee 2

Q. What was it like filming The Boat that Rocked, being off and on the boat – did life reflect art?
Rhys Ifans: With the physical restrictions of being on a boat, you have to get on, and we became a unit very, very soon. We went to boat camp, as Richard [Curtis] called it, a week before we started shooting, and I can’t think of a funnier company of men to spend your time with on the ocean waves.

Q. How are your sea legs?
Rhys Ifans: I was fine. It’s kind of an unknown quantity. They gave us seasickness tablets every morning. I think they were seasickness tablets, either that or they made us very funny. But equally, when we shot all the interior stuff on a sound stage at Shepperton, the set was on a rocking mechanism, and if anything, that was more nauseating than the actual ocean.

Q. Gavin’s quite a subversive character, is that something you brought to the role, or was he fully formed in Richard’s script? And did you enjoy his sexually rampant side?
Rhys Ifans: It’s always a collaboration. Yes, I enjoyed that, but the key to Gavin, for me, is nothing about his sexual appetite, it’s about his love of rock ’n’ roll. I think that’s the common denominator in all these characters, that they love music. The sex and drugs are superfluous in any situation. They’re the first things I’d certainly jettison from my life. Rock ‘n’ roll takes us to places no drug or shag could ever do.

Q. You’re the lead vocalist in your own rock band, Y Peth (The Peth) – what’s happening with the band at the moment?
Rhys Ifans: The next album, Crystal Peth, is demo’d and ready to go. We’ve just got to get into the studio, probably towards the end of the summer. When I’m not filming, I do rock ‘n’ roll, when I’m not doing rock ‘n’ roll, I do filming.

Q. How does performing in the band compare to acting? What does it give you in terms of personal satisfaction?
Rhys Ifans: I love rock ‘n’ roll music, simple as that. It’s a question anyone can ask themselves – what’s the difference between a band and a play? A play doesn’t have a drum kit, but the buzz or the rewards are one of doing a live performance in front of an audience. That’s the bowl you pour your adrenalin into. There’s 10 of us in the band. When we did the first album, it was very studio based, and it was like an experiment. We never sat up one day and went: “Right, let’s start a rock ’n’ roll band.”

It was Dafydd [Ieuan, of the Super Furry Animals] and Chris Jenkins, mainly, who were making good use of their down time and dabbling in the studio. Daf asked me if I fancied coming and doing a bit of singing, and it just became its own beast. Then we decided to start playing live, and that worked, so it’s been a really organic process. I’d say the kind of creative mother-load of the band starts with Daf and Chris, and the rest of us embellish, or are inspired, by what they put on the table.

Q. How do you feel about Richard Curtis calling you the most rock ’n’ roll person in the UK?
Rhys Ifans: Very touched. But I don’t see myself in that light!

Q. What other film work have you been doing?
Rhys Ifans: We finished shooting Mr Nice just over a week ago. I play Howard Marks, who became one of the world’s biggest drug dealers. I first met Howard 13 years ago when he came out of jail, at a Super Furry Animals gig. The film has been really enjoyable to make. We did four splendid productive weeks in and around Cardiff, and then we did another four weeks in Spain, which doubled as Miami, Florida, Afghanistan and Spain itself. We were in Alicante. It was an intensely productive and pleasurable working experience.

Q. Is it a celebratory tale of drugs?
Rhys Ifans: It doesn’t celebrate drugs at all. What makes the story fascinating and engaging is that it’s essentially a journey, an odyssey, that’s re-told by a very eloquent, educated and funny man, being Howard Marks.

Q. Are you thinking of doing more theatre?
Rhys Ifans: Yes, I kind of pine for it every four or five years. You kind of need to be frightened again. It’s like an MOT. To get back to the theatre, you get paid very little, be scared. There’s nothing in mind, yet. What’s been interesting for me is that I get theatre scripts all the time, and it’s a huge commitment to doing theatre. It costs a lot, it’s an Olympian endeavour, if you want it to be, and that’s the only way I can do it, so whatever I choose to do has to be perfect, because it takes too much time and effort and energy and the emotional cost is big. The stakes are high in the theatre. If something comes my way that really moves me to the core, then of course I’ll do it. But theatre isn’t a place to play around.

Q. What other films have you got coming out?
Rhys Ifans: Mr Nobody, with Jared Leto and Sarah Polley. Informers, with Mickey Rourke, Kim Basinger and Billy Bob Thornton. Just finished Mr Nice.

Q. Are you taking any time off?
Rhys Ifans: No. I hit the ground running. I’m working with Ben Stiller now. I fly back to LA on Thursday to do Greenberg, a Noel Baumbach film, with Ben, and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Then I fly back here to do Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, and after that I’ll do Nanny McPhee 2, with Emma Thompson. So I’m busy, busy, busy.

Q. Who do you play in Harry Potter? And is this something quite new for you, to be doing family orientated movies?
Rhys Ifans: I play a wizard. The last few Harry Potter films, I think they’re really cool. I was never a real fan of Harry Potter, but I love how they’ve become darker, and I love how Daniel Radcliffe and his co-stars have grown up through the telling of the story. Harry Potter is a little bit of history; it will be. So it’s been kind of a real honour being asked to be part of a project like that, and though I haven’t got kids myself, a lot of my friends have kids, so it’ll be great to do something they can see. He’s a good wizard – a really great guy. In Nanny McPhee, I’m a bad guy, someone you’d boo and hiss at.

Q. How do you feel when your nights about town are photographed by the paparazzi and appear in the tabloids?
Rhys Ifans: I just don’t buy the tabloids. There’s a war on in Iraq and there’s kids being shot in the streets, that’s what I want to read about in my newspaper. I want to inform myself. I don’t f***ing give a s***t about what I drunk, or where I went the night before. I find it really, really, really, really boring. I go to work and I work very hard. I’m loyal, generous, true, kind, fair – all those boxes are ticked. I’m going to heaven.