Jonathan Rhys Meyers tells us about reinventing a horror icon in Sky’s new series, Dracula
You had a very serious air at the Dracula launch party – are you still channelling the character?
Because I have a producer credit, I only finished working on it last night. So I was playing Dracula for six hours yesterday. I can tell you, I have taken the Dracula jacket off now. I’ve been playing the character for seven months.
You were filming in Budapest – did you draw inspiration from the gothic architecture?
Yeah, there’s a certain element of that. Hungarian crews and the city are both amazing. When I first spoke to NBC, we considered doing it in London. I told them, “We need to get everyone out of their comfort zone and bring them all into one place.” Budapest is like Paris, it has that decayed history, and it was also the capital of an empire.
Did you get into Dracula’s wardrobe? We saw your crocodile shoes…
I have a pair of crocodile-skin cowboy boots that are from Texas. What you didn’t see, because my jeans cover them, is that the tops have barbed wire over them. They’re the real deal.
Will he become more rock’n’roll as the series progresses?
I have an idea of where it’s going to go, but I don’t want to tell anybody, because I think it’s going to be quite interesting and explosive. I want to keep it to myself.
Had you been reading the comic books?
I took my influences from reading literature on Vlad Tepes. I read Dracula – the original of course – and Polidori’s The Vampyre, which is not a very good book – he’s a terrible writer. But it has one or two good qualities about the nature of human monsters. The monster is not the story; it’s the human that makes it frightening.
In The Tudors, you play a man and a monster in Henry VIII…
Yeah. It’s also a different human that’s playing it. My Dracula is not that young, impetuous guy any more, he’s much more still and focused. So I’m more still and much more focused. I bring more experience to the thing. I bring whatever joys and whatever pains I’ve had in my life. I lost my grandfather and my best friend during the production, so I had to go to the funerals and then come back to playing Dracula. You take all that emotion and try to blast it out into the camera as much as possible.
Is this your grown-up self coming through, then?
Well yeah, all that tearaway stuff is f*cking bulls*t anyway. Nobody knows anything about my life, to be honest with you. People make up stories about you – I’d be reading with my dad and he’d be like, “But you weren’t even f*cking there that night because you were at dinner with me!”
Do you think you look like a partier?
I don’t look like a partier, I’m a young actor from Ireland. I’m friends with Colin Farrell, and Colin’s a gorgeous lad, he spends his time at home with his kids, and people make up stories about him. It’s the Oscar Wilde thing of the only thing worse than people talking about you is not talking about you. I hate having those stories brought out about me because I live a very quiet life most of the time.
But do you think the rock-star image has helped you get roles in the likes of Velvet Goldmine and Elvis, though?
I don’t know. But I’ve got three Golden Globe nominations and an Emmy nomination, so I have to be there and working. You don’t see photographs of me in nightclubs or at parties.
Did you all get to hang out on the set of Dracula?
We all bonded really well. It’s so easy when everyone likes each other. I had a hell of a lot more to do than some of the other guys, so they had breaks and could go home or hang out and go to restaurants, but I had to film six days a week. So there wasn’t time for anything else. But we’d meet up and go for dinner.
The show has a lot of sex scenes. You’ve said before that you find them quite difficult…
I suppose I was younger when I said that, and I was doing The Tudors and there were so many sex scenes in it. You have to do it, it’s part of your performance. Most people would think, “Oh I couldn’t do that because there are 200 people standing around staring at me.” When you’re an actor, you know that no one is staring at you because they’re too busy doing their own job.
Have you picked up any nerdy fantasy or historical obsessions working on this?
No, no, no. I spend time with my family – I’m building a house for my brother and my godson in Spain. I play music, I write and I paint. I collect Japanese and modern art. That’s what I spend my money on. That’s what I like to do.
Dracula starts 31 October at 9pm on Sky Living