Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Famous Welsh Hollywood film stars and actors...

Aside from being one of the only people in L.A. who isn't an aspiring actor, musician, script writer or the like, the other thing that really confuses people here when I talk to them is when I tell them I'm from Wales.
The Welsh flag
You can see the blank expression on their faces, then I slowly explain that even though I've lived in London for ten years, I'm not English, but actually Welsh. Still blank.

Unfortunately most Americans do tend to think that the UK or Great Britain is actually called 'England' anyway, regardless of whether you're English, Scottish, from Northern Ireland or Welsh.

Welsh Actor Anthony Hopkins
Then I mention Diana, Princess of Wales (and even though she wasn't Welsh, the Americans knew and loved her) and I try to remember any other famous Welsh international personalities to help explain where I'm from.

So that's what this blog entry is all about, famous Welsh Hollywood film stars and actors.

First up is Sir Anthony Hopkins, most well known for his Oscar-winning portrayal of Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs alongside Jodie Foster.

Born in Margam, Port Talbot, Wales in 1937, he was knighted in 1993 for his contribution to stage and screen.

His numerous Hollywood movies include Hannibal and Red Dragon, the Silence of the Lambs sequel and prequel, The Mask of Zorro (alongside fellow Welsh actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, more on her later), Meet Joe Black, Fracture, Shadowlands, Remains of the day, Howard's End and many more.
Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra

Apparently Hopkins was influenced and encouraged to become an actor by fellow Welshman and Hollywood icon, the late, great Richard Burton. 

The twelfth of thirteen children, Richard Burton was born in 1925 and died in 1984. He came from a Welsh speaking household in Pontrhydyfen, near Port Talbot.

At one time the highest paid actor in Hollywood, he starred opposite Elizabeth Taylor as Marc Antony in Cleopatra in 1963.

He was married five times, twice to Elizabeth Taylor (consecutively) and starred in a plethora of hollywood movies including The Wild Geese, The Night of the Iguana, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, alongside Clint Eastwood in Where Eagles Dare (1968), the narrator in Zulu, and about 60 more films.

Next up is the star of Marvel Comics Fantastic Four movies, Ioan Gruffudd, who played Mr. Fantastic in the two films.
Ioan Gruffudd as Mr. Fantastic

He was born in 1973 in the Welsh village of Llwydcoed, near Aberdare in South Wales.  

He has starred in many Hollywood movies including parts in Titanic (Fifth Officer Harold Lowe), as Lancelot in King Arthur, Beales in Black Hawk Down, but really came to fame playing the role of Horatio Hornblower in the British made-for-TV Hornblower films.

Gruffudd is apparently close friends with newer Hollywood star, Matthew Rhys, star of the ABC TV series Brothers & Sisters.

He plays gay brother and lawyer, Kevin Walker, in the Emmy-Award winning TV show.  Matthew was born in 1974 (a very good year) and raised in Wales' capital city, Cardiff.

He has starred in the movie Titus with Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange, plus alongside Brothers & Sisters cast member Rachel Griffiths (of Muriel's Wedding fame) and fellow Welshmen Jonathan Pryce and Ioan Gruffudd in UK movie Very Annie Mary.
Matthew Rhys as gay lawyer Kevin Walker in Brothers & Sisters
One of our most famous female exports is the lovely Catherine Zeta-Jones. Born in Swansea in 1969, she came to fame in the UK as Mariette in the popular 90's TV series The Darling Buds of May.

Catherine Zeta-Jones as Velma in the musical movie Chicago
How things change, as she went on to great success and won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her stand-out performance as Velma Kelly in the 2002 movie musical Chicago.

She has also starred in Hollywood movies The Mask and Legend of Zorro, EntrapmentTraffic, Intolerable Cruelty, The Terminal, No Reservations and more.

However, she may actually be more famous for marrying a man 25 years older than she is, Hollywood leading man, Michael Douglas.  Married in 2000, they have since had two children together.

Another well known Welsh thespian is Jonathan Pryce.  Born in 1947 in Holywell, Flintshire in Wales his big breakthrough came in Terry Gilliam's 1985 cult classic, Brazil.

Since then he's starred in big budget movies such as the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, as pictured as Governor Weatherby Swann in this image copyright (2006) Walt Disney Pictures.  

Jonathan Pryce as Governor Weatherby Swann in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead man's Chest - Copyright (2006) Walt Disney Pictures
His resume is quite diverse as he's played Bond baddie, media mogul Elliot Carver, in Tomorrow Never Dies, and starred opposite Madonna on the big screen musical Evita.

He's also no stranger to the treading the boards and starred in the 2001 UK stage revival of My Fair Lady as Professor Higgins, plus acted in Oliver!, Miss Saigon, Hamlet and more.

Another talent to emerge from Wales is Rhys Ifans, who most well know for his humorous performance as 'Spike' (pictured below) opposite Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant in the romantic comedy Notting Hill.
Welsh actor Rhys Ifans as Spike in Notting Hill

Born in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire in 1968 he has since appeared in movies such as Hannibal Rising, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, The Shipping News and Vanity Fair to name but a few.

Lastly, I just wanted to mention a Welsh composer, singer and actor that you may have heard of - Ivor Novello.  Born in 1893 as David Ivor Davies in Llwyn-yr-Eos (Grove of the Nightingale), Cowbridge Road East in our nation's capital, Cardiff, he found fame in West End musicals and Hollywood movies alike.

Remembered by the Ivor Novello Awards for songwriting each year by the UK record industry, he is also famous for his gay lifestyle, including affairs with poet and writer Seigfried Sassoon.  He died in 1951 leaving a lasting legacy of film and song.

And there you have it, a quick round up of some notable Welsh personalities.  It's not the most extensive or in-depth look at Welsh celebrity, but it may give you a small understanding of the talent that has come out of our perfectly formed country.

Other notable Welsh entertainers you may have heard of include singers Tom Jones and Dame Shirley Bassey, comedian and magician Tommy Cooper, classical singer turned pop star, Charlotte Church, and Welsh rock bands Manic Street Preachers and Stereophonics, to name but a few.
Map of Wales, UK
I'll leave you with a map of Wales so you can get an idea what it looks like in relation to the UK and where our famous celebrities are from.

Hwyl fawr am nawr!
(Goodbye for now, in Welsh no less)...

Why not check out some of their performances on DVD in the U.S.A:
Why not check out some of their performances on DVD in the UK:

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