Rhys Ifans

Rhys Ifans rehearsing for a stage appearance Picture credit: Mark Douet/BBC

RHYS IFANS is a Welsh actor, producer and musician. He is known for his portrayal of characters such as Spike in Notting Hill, Jed Parry in Enduring Love, Eyeball Paul in Kevin & Perry Go Large and Dr Curt Connors/The Lizard in The Amazing Spider-Man. Ifans also appeared as Xenophilius Lovegood in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1.

Ifans had a recurring role as Mycroft Holmes in the CBS series Elementary. From 2016 to 2019, he played Hector DeJean on the US pay-cable Epix network’s CIA espionage thriller Berlin Station for three seasons. He is a member of the rock group The Peth and a former member of the Super Furry Animals.

Ifans was born Rhys Owain Evans on July 22, 1967, in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire. He is the son of Beti-Wyn, a nursery school teacher, and Eurwyn Evans, a primary school teacher, and the brother of the actor Llŷr Ifans. Their first language is Welsh.

Ifans grew up in Ruthin, Denbighshire, and received his primary education at Ysgol Pentrecelyn. He attended Ysgol Maes Garmon, a Welsh medium secondary school in Mold, Flintshire, where he sat his O-levels and A-levels. He attended acting classes at Theatr Clwyd.

Ifans studied acting at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he graduated in 1997.

Rhys Ifans as Xenophilius Lovegood in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1

Early stage work by Ifans included Hamlet at Theatr Clwyd, A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Regent’s Park Theatre, and Under Milk Wood and Volpone at the National Theatre. He appeared at the Donmar Warehouse in 2003’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist. In 2006, he returned to the London stage in Michael Grandage’s production of Don Juan in Soho at the Donmar Warehouse.

In 2016, Ifans played Fool alongside Glenda Jackson in Deborah Warner’s production of King Lear, at The Old Vic. He returned to The Old Vic to play Ebenezer Scrooge in Matthew Warchus’s production of A Christmas Carol (adapted by Jack Thorne) in 2017 and in 2018 was back at the National Theatre to play King Berenger in Patrick Marber’s new adaptation of Eugene Ionesco’s Exit the King.

Ifans appeared in many Welsh-language television programmes before embarking on his film career, including the comedy show Pobol y Chyff, as well as performing at the National Theatre, London and the Royal Exchange, Manchester. In 1990, he presented Sdwnsh (Welsh for ‘Mash’), an anarchic children’s quiz programme. A total of 31 15-minute programmes were broadcast on Welsh-language TV channel S4C.

He narrated the children’s animated series Sali Mali for S4C in 2000.

In 2008, he appeared in Six Days One June, one of three episodes of the TV series The Last Word Monologues, written by Hugo Blick and broadcast on BBC Two. He played a lonely Welsh farmer trying to free himself from a domineering mother.

Following his role as Jeremy Lewis in the 1997 Swansea-based movie Twin Town (starring alongside his brother Llŷr), Ifans gained international exposure as the slovenly housemate Spike in the British film Notting Hill (1999). Reportedly, in preparation for the role, Ifans did not wash himself or brush his teeth.

A clip from Twin Town (Note: strong language)

He played Adrian, the pompous eldest brother in Little Nicky (2000). Other film roles include: Eyeball Paul in Kevin & Perry Go Large (2000), Nigel in The Replacements (2000), Iki in The 51st State (2001), William Dobbin in Vanity Fair (2004) and Vladis Grutas in Hannibal Rising (2007). He played Jed Parry in the film version of Ian McEwan’s Enduring Love, and the lead role in Danny Deckchair (2003) as Danny Morgan.

Ifans revealed in March 2009 that he was to appear in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (2010). He played Xenophillius Lovegood, editor of the wizarding magazine The Quibbler and father of the eccentric Luna Lovegood. In the same interview, he announced that he would play the title role in the film Mr Nice, based on the life of the drug smuggler Howard Marks.

In October 2010, the Associated Press confirmed that Ifans, a self-described “obsessive fan” of the Spider-Man comics as a child, would portray the villain in the Spider-Man reboot film The Amazing Spider-Man. The villain was revealed as The Lizard a few days later, and the film was released in July 2012.

Ifans played Nemo Nobody’s father in Mr Nobody and a villain in Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang. In 2015, he starred in She’s Funny That Way, directed by Peter Bogdanovich.

Ifans was briefly lead vocalist of the rock band Super Furry Animals, before they released any records.

In 2005, he made a guest appearance for the rock band Oasis in the video for their single The Importance of Being Idle (where he mimed to Noel Gallagher’s vocals), for which he accepted the award for Video of the Year at the 2006 NME Awards.

He has also appeared in the music videos for God! Show Me Magic and Hometown Unicorn by Super Furry Animals, Mulder and Scully by Catatonia, and Mama Told Me Not to Come by Tom Jones with Stereophonics.

Since 2007, Ifans has sung with the psychedelic rock band The Peth (peth is Welsh for ‘thing’), featuring Super Furry Animals’ Dafydd Ieuan. They played a number of concert dates in south Wales and in London in the autumn of 2008. In 2009, the band supported Oasis at a concert in the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

In 2002, Ifans caused some controversy, reported in the British media, for his alleged support of Welsh nationalist group Meibion Glyndŵr, a militant group which burnt more than 100 empty second homes in Wales in the 1980s. This was mainly because of comments he made in an interview conducted by Mariella Frostrup for the newspaper The Observer.

In 2005, Ifans won a BAFTA for his portrayal of comedian Peter Cook in the TV film Not Only But Always.

On July 16, 2007, he received an Honorary Fellowship of Bangor University, for services to the film industry.

In 2015, Swansea University awarded Ifans an Honorary Degree. On receiving his award, Ifans said: “It is a great honour to accept this award. Having one’s work acknowledged is always a lovely thing, and having it recognised by such a prestigious university in a city that I have great affection for means the world to me.”

Keen to foster the Welsh language, in September 2012 Ifans became patron of the newly-formed Living Paths Society, to further and develop the Welsh language Wikipedia: Wikipedia Cymraeg.

Ifans has described himself as “a factory-floor actor”. He says: “I learn the lines, I get there on time. I don’t sit around with other actors and talk about the pain and the magic of acting. I’d rather just go down the pub. That’s where the real magic happens. That’s often where the ideas take flight. Very underrated, the pub, in terms of the history of creativity.”