The Amazing Spiderman swung into London for its UK premiere last night with Rhys Ifans in tow as reptilian villain The Lizard. But here Nathan Bevan recalls as earlier encounter with the former hell-raiser in which he was anything but cold-blooded
I’VE met Rhys Ifans twice, but it’s extremely unlikely he’d remember our first encounter.
It was the night his rock band The Peth descended on Cwmaman in 2008 to play a charmingly shambolic gig at the local workingmen’s club and he’d been pinballing around the audience with eyes as wide as saucers and a massive grin on his face prior to a single note being played.
The late Stereophonics drummer Stuart Cable, who’d been holding court at the bar, introduced us while Ifans just stood there, miming playing a one-armed bandit-style slot machine (which included him inserting an imaginary 10p and pulling the invisible lever) before wandering off.
Later, the gig having gone down a treat with the equally sozzled Cwm crowd, my other half tried to get her photo with Ifans but couldn’t quite locate her camera before he was whisked away by minders from the horde of sweaty, enthusiastic fans wanting to shake his hand and say hello.
I told Ifans about this when I interviewed him almost exactly a year later, and he laughingly recounted the band’s tour bus slaloming its way through the double-parked back roads of the Stereophonics’ spiritual home.
“Cwmaman was the first gig where we had a proper music crowd turn up,” recalled Rhys, previous gigs on The Peth’s whistle-stop tour of rural Wales having been in village halls so remote they’d had to wait for the local mums’ yoga classes to finish before going on stage.
“The only problem was we couldn’t find anywhere to leave the bus, plus there was nowhere to charge up the battery for the lights and stuff on board.
“Then this old woman comes across the road, and she was absolutely ancient by the way, and goes, ‘Do you need any ’lectric, love?’
“So we plugged the bus into her house and did a collection for her after the gig – she got about £400 and is probably still paying her leccy bill from that money even now,” he laughed.
Meeting in the kitchen of Ifans’ mate’s terraced house in the Riverside area of Cardiff, the rather odd setting for this chat with a Hollywood actor was made all the more bizarre by the fact that, days before he and his group are due on stage in front of 72,500 Oasis fans at the capital’s Millennium Stadium, Ifans was hobbling about on crutches.
Given the very public benders he’d been photographed indulging in following his split from actress Sienna Miller, could it have been the result of another night of drunken revelry perhaps, or a clash with some paparazzi?
“Er, actually I broke it playing football against some children,” he said, somewhat sheepishly, the previous night having been spent not on the tiles, but getting an MRI scan at the local hospital.
“And I didn’t even have the ball at the time, that’s the most embarrassing bit,” Ifans added, ruffling his bed-head hair and sparking up another cigarette.
“It’s probably the most un-rock and roll accident you could get, but at least I got to put it in a champagne bucket for an hour to help the swelling go down, so I guess that made up for it.”
As we talked – about the regenerative powers of the humble Welsh cake in curing a hangover, his love of ’70s Essex punk band Crass and his hope that the nurses who recently treated him would turn up at the Peth show in uniform – “I did ask,” he grinned – what struck me most about him was his warmth.
He seemed genuinely chuffed at the reaction his band was getting (too often actors’ attempts at being rockers are dismissed out-of-hand, and rightly so in most cases) and gave a blushing smile when I told him that my girlfriend’s scuppered photo opportunity with him was a disappointment on par with the time she missed out on meeting with US cult favourite Sam Rockwell when he was filming Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy near Ebbw Vale in 2005.
Which meant, according to the contract of our relationship, the only name left on the list of celebrities she’d be allowed to run away with should the occasion arise was Daniel Craig.
“You can tell her I’ve had a go on him already,” roared Ifans – the Ruthin-raised star having locked lips with Craig in 2004’s Enduring Love – before asking if a photo of me and him together might prove some sort of compensation to her.
So we posed and smiled for the camera and, later on, I showed the pic to the missus in the hope she’d be pleased.
“Oh, he’s bigger than I remembered,” she said, before looking across at me and screwing up her face.
“You look really small by comparison, like a ventriloquist’s dummy sitting on his knee.”
And, as she fell about laughing, I remember thinking: “Daniel Craig, she’s all yours, mate.”