Ioan Gruffudd

Ioan Gruffudd Headshot

Actor

Birth Date: October 6, 1973

Age: 50 years old

Birth Place: Cardiff, Wales, UK

Spouses: Alice Evans

Partners: Bianca Wallace

One of the most noted actors to emerge from Wales, Ioan Gruffudd (pronounced YOE-an GRI-fith) made his breakthrough across the pond in America with a small, but recognizable role as a ship officer aboard the "Titanic" (1997). Oddly enough, in the United Kingdom, Gruffudd became one of the most recognized sea officers on the small screen, playing the young, fictional naval officer "Horatio Hornblower" (ITV, 1998-2003). But it was "Titanic" that allowed Gruffudd to stake a claim in American cinema, helping him land supporting roles in "102 Dalmatians" (2000) and "Black Hawk Down" (2001). Though not a household name by any stretch - thanks in part to his name's difficult pronunciation - he did manage to make himself a recognizable face when he played Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic in the feature comic book adaptation, "Fantastic Four" (2005). After a successful reprisal in the 2007 sequel, Gruffudd was well-established as one of the most talented Welch exports this side of Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Born on Oct. 6, 1973, in Cardiff, Wales, Gruffudd and his siblings - a younger brother and sister - were raised in a household of teacher parents, and steeped in the Welsh language, literature and culture. Gruffudd went to school at Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Aberdar, Ysgol Gymraeg Melin Gruffydd and later Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Glantaf. As a child, he was gifted in music, singing and playing the oboe for many years, by the time his acting career had begun at age 12.

A year later, at age 13, he was cast as the child of a landlord on the popular "Pobol y Cwm (People of the Valley") (1974- ), Wales' long-running soap opera. After finishing with his A-levels at the age of 18, Gruffudd headed to London to attend the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. During his London days, he would spend six years splitting a bachelor pad flat dubbed "The Welsh Embassy" with fellow classmate and childhood friend, Matthew Rhys. After graduation from RADA in 1995, Gruffudd began to work locally, appearing in his first onscreen English language project, "A Relative Stranger" (1995), playing the son of a man waking up far into his own future, followed by the role of Jeremy Poldark, son of the Poldark mining family in the updated "Poldark" series (1996).

Gruffudd's subsequent onscreen projects would soon gain him some early recognition. First, he appeared as John Gray, the lover of famed poet Oscar Wilde in BBC's television movie "Wilde" (1997), and within months, could be seen as the 5th Officer Harold Lowe aboard the doomed ocean liner of James Cameron's "Titanic" (1997). It was this combination that got him cast in ITV1's series "Hornblower" (1998-2003), which quickly skyrocketed his visibility. Horatio Hornblower began as a 17-year-old midshipman in the first installment, "Hornblower: Even Chance" (1998), which focused on his duel with a cruel shipmate. Gruffudd quickly made a succession of more elaborate "Hornblower" episodes, rising to the rank of lieutenant in 1998's "Hornblower: The Examination for Lieutenant" and facing peril while escorting a captured French vessel and an English duchess back home in "Hornblower: The Duchess and the Devil" (1999).

Gruffudd immediately followed production of "Hornblower: The Frogs and the Lobsters" (1999), which found Horatio and a team of British troops enmeshed in the madness of the French Revolution. In 1999, he was the star of BBC's "Great Expectations," winning rave reviews as the poor, orphaned blacksmith's apprentice Pip of Charles Dickens' novel, who aims to win the heart of Estella and join high society. With a severe interest in feature films, Gruffudd was also keen to expand his resume on the big screen. He studied Yiddish intensively in order to play the Jewish salesman Solomon of "Solomon and Gaenor" (1999), who embarks on a secret love affair with a Welsh woman in early the 20th century.

Gruffudd had stirred quite a sensation in England by the time 2000 came around. That year, rumors had swirled that he might take on the role of James Bond, as Pierce Brosnan was considering vacating the series. Brosnan ultimately did not depart at that time, but a flattered Gruffudd was not left without a glimpse of his future in Tinseltown. He was cast in Disney's live-action sequel "102 Dalmatians" (2000), shot mostly in England and in Paris, playing an animal rights supporter forced to help stop the dog-napping ways of Cruella de Vil (Glenn Close).

The film was a light entry for Disney, but marked some heavy changes for Gruffudd, who met his girlfriend, actress Alice Evans, during the shoot. The "Hornblower" episodes "Mutiny" and "Retribution" followed "Dalmatians," as did work on "Black Hawk Down" (2001) for director Ridley Scott. Gruffudd made his presence known among the ensemble as Beales, part of a team of American soldiers sent to provide aid to Somalians in a mission turned deadly.

In 2002, Gruffudd went to Los Angeles in hopes of landing more work in Hollywood productions, but returned, having had little success. American actress Christina Ricci crossed the Atlantic to headline the UK-produced independent film "The Gathering" (2001), a thriller that recruited Gruffudd as her onscreen love interest. If Hollywood still seemed somewhat unresponsive, the UK was certainly still crazy about him.

Gruffudd scored with two consecutive projects - first as a newly single father connecting with both his son and father in the sweet-natured BBC drama, "Man and Boy" (2002), then in the network's more ambitious miniseries "The Forsyte Saga" (2002), in which Gruffudd captivated hearts as the visionary architect Phillip Bosinney who was embarking on a scandalous affair with a married high society woman.

Despite his growing success at home, the thoughts of Hollywood continued to weigh on Gruffudd's mind. He knew it was where he wanted to be to further his career under its particular brand of moviemaking. Gruffudd's Horatio returned to UK television screens in "Loyalty" and "Duty" in 2003, but at the start of the year, he and Evans had moved to the United States, settling in Los Angeles. It was a decision that quickly was validated, with Gruffudd tapped for the role of Lancelot, a knight of the Roundtable of Jerry Bruckheimer's summer tentpole, "King Arthur" (2004).

Making the rounds, he was also a weekly presence in homes with the CBS series, "Century City" (2004), the resident squeaky clean lawyer of a law firm handling the urgent case topics of the future. Neither project made a huge impression, but "Arthur" shined a light on its cast.

Come the summer of 2004, as audiences witnessed the slow end of "Century," America learned what the UK had been chirping about all along. That year, Pierce Brosnan had considered vacating his Bond post again, and Gruffudd's name - along with others like his "King Arthur" co-star Clive Owen, Daniel Craig and Australian hunk Sam Worthington - surfaced yet again on a short list of possible actors to play the British superspy. Once again, Gruffudd was at a loss, as Craig snagged the part, but a different franchise awaited his presence.

He was not overly familiar with the Marvel Comics creation of Reed Richards at the time, but would nonetheless be the one donning the blue suit and the graying temples for "Fantastic Four," battling the sadistic metal-faced Dr. Doom. Released in the summer of 2005, "FF4" immediately took its place among the other successful members of the expanding comic book adaptation genre. With his theatrical future in place, Gruffudd asked his own leading lady to marry him, prompting their engagement that New Year's Eve.

Gruffudd's name was firmly entrenched in the minds of admiring viewers who were now seeking out the correct pronunciation, and the actor took a detour from the world of blockbusters into some smaller character-driven films. With a passionate display of English pride, he stepped into the heavy shoes of William Wilberforce, the18th century abolitionist who helped end slavery practices in England and inspired the movie's titular hymn, "Amazing Grace" (2006). As a sympathetic BBC executive navigating the loopy world of television development and trying to steer David Duchovny's fictional TV writer out of his miserable pilot experience, Gruffudd's own fascination with Hollywood was as evident onscreen as it was off, with his performance in the feature, "The TV Set" (2007).

Rescue duty called once more in 2007, so Gruffudd suited up as Reed Richards - Mr. Fantastic - for more body-bending action in "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" (2007). The sequel saw its newest gliding intergalactic foe arrive on Earth for a mysterious, but ominous purpose. Meanwhile, with the Bond-like "Agent Crush" (2008), he brought his voice to animation filmmaking for the first time. Saving the world yet again, albeit in graphic form, Gruffudd got his spy movie in after all. In perhaps his most anticipated role, Gruffudd played British Prime Minister Tony Blair in "W" (2008), Oliver Stone's controversial, but surprisingly even-handed look at the troubled life and presidency of George W. Bush (Josh Brolin).

After co-starring roles in the drama "The Kid" (2010) and the thriller "Sanctum" (2011), Gruffudd had a cameo in the American comedy "Horrible Bosses" (2011) and co-starred with Toni Collette in family comedy "Foster" (2011). Gruffudd returned to American television in the short-lived drama "Ringer" (CW 2012-13), followed by a supporting role in adventure film "The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box" (2013). After co-starring opposite Aubrey Plaza in the romantic comedy "Playing It Cool" (2014), Gruffudd starred in the fantasy drama "Forever" (ABC 2014-15), in which he played Henry Morgan, a New York City medical examiner who is secretly immortal.

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