Thu, Dec 13, 2007 - Page 14 News List

Life's a party

Rhys Ifans started as part of rock 'n' roll band Super Furry Animals, then took a 10-year break from music to act.This year, he returns to music with a new group called Perth


British actor Rhys Ifans likes a pint or 10.


I arrive early for my meeting with Rhys Ifans and catch the tail end of a photo shoot. He is all dressed up in a pinstriped suit, open-necked shirt and shiny white winkle-picker boots, but he pulls it off somehow. In fact, he looks a bit like a Brit-rock star from the pre-punk Seventies: laddish, louche, larger than life, disheveled, in all the classy clobber.

In the pub later, dressed down in a leather jacket, jeans and sneakers, Ifans orders the first of several pints of Old Speckled Hen, and immediately nips out into the backyard for a smoke. When he returns, I tell him he seems to belong to another era, when actors worked hard and played harder, and didn't worry about the consequences. "I suppose I do," he grins, glugging on his pint. "I'm definitely pre-gym."

Ifans is perhaps the most rock 'n' roll actor working in Britain today, which isn't saying much, but it's a role he plays with relish. He's good mates with Noel and Liam Gallagher, a friend of Keith Richards' son Marlon and a close confidante of Kate Moss, who, if the tabloids and celeb mags are to be believed, is a bit miffed about his latest squeeze, the reigning femme fatale of London's posh Primrose Hill, Sienna Miller.

In person, Ifans has a certain swagger about him and, blessedly, none of the inflated sense of self-importance that usually attends those in his profession. Instead, he comes across as a bit of a character, laddish but not in an offensive way, altogether Welsh but not a professional Celt. He likes a pint or 10 and is utterly unrepentant about it - an attitude that, much to his chagrin, means he is almost as famous for his partying as his acting.

"I work hard and I party hard," he says at one point. "When I go to work, I know what I am doing and I do it to the best of my abilities. When I party, I take exactly the same rule book with me. Except I might turn up later and outstay my welcome. I really don't know why that interests anybody," he sighs, shaking his head, "given that most of the population behaves in exactly the same way."

Most of the population, though, is not going out with Sienna Miller. Although Ifans has always been linked to the "Primrose Hill set" (Sadie Frost, Moss, Davina Taylor) and is close friends with Daniel Craig and Jude Law, it is only since the news of his and Sienna's "relationship" broke in a series of snatched tabloid shots that Ifans has been pitched into celebrity hell, pursued by paparazzi every time he steps out the door. You can tell how difficult he finds it all by that now-infamous series of snapshots of him gobbing at photographers from the back of a car. Jude Law he most definitely isn't.

Today he is affable, but adamant that his personal life is out of bounds. He wants to talk work, and work only. In his latest role, as Colin, a wet-behind-the-ears social worker in Chromophobia, Martha Fiennes' overblown and oddly muddled meditation on the English class system, Ifans almost steals the show. It's not quite as dramatic a turn as either of his other two big scene-stealing parts, Spike in Notting Hill and Jed in Enduring Love, but it's pretty damn close. The film begins as a black comedy of manners, flirts with being a satire and ends up as a kind of blighted fairy tale. It's down to Ifans and Penelope Cruz to carry the latter strand, he as a bumbling, uncertain ingenue with a heart of gold, she as a terminally ill - but smoulderingly sexy - call girl, all curves, smudged mascara and laddered fishnets.

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