Dracula premieres Friday, October 25 at 10/9c on NBC.
For an actor, to be told that you have finally found the role you were “born to play” should be a real red-letter day. Yet when that role is Dracula, the bloodsucking, whey-faced, tormented prince of darkness, it is a dubious compliment. Not only could it be taken as a mild affront – you give people the creeps – but Dracula is one of the most endlessly exhumed characters in all fiction. What could you possibly do that Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee or Gary Oldman hasn’t?
That was the problem facing Jonathan Rhys Meyers this summer in Budapest, as he filmed a new 10-part adaptation of Bram Stoker’s 1897 classic. I went to the set and everyone I spoke to agreed, in the kindest possible terms, that Rhys Meyers had something decidedly Dracula-ish about him before he’d even been measured for the fangs. When I finally sit down with him, I confess, he makes me nervous: he is skittish, intense, he rarely smiles and he has a stare that can shrivel souls.
“I don’t think Dracula is a role I’m born to play but it’s one where I don’t have to fight how I look,” he says, over the first of several Marlboro Lights. The cigarettes end up dotted with blood – he is still in costume after a rather ghoulish scene.
“I play the bad guy a lot because I look like a bad guy. I look like somebody that has a certain amount of haughtiness, a certain amount of arrogance… I don’t mean to. People are always giving me a hard time because they’re like, ‘His eyes, he looks like a psychotic’. It’s not that; I just have really strong eyes. They stare a lot. They’re not soft.”
Rhys Meyers’s near-transparent irises are indeed astonishing, verging on disconcerting – but they’re not the only thing that gives him, a comparatively slight figure, a big presence. He is, I can testify, a man that people just stare at when he walks into a room, and it’s not just women. In an age when no one quite knows what star quality is, here is someone who definitely has it. (telegraph)