Ioan Gruffudd biography

Ioan Gruffudd

Last updated: 19 April 2010

Welsh icon Ioan Gruffudd may now be famous due to his portrayals of superhero Mr Fantastic and the dashing Horatio Hornblower, but his acting career started in a more humble manner in Welsh soap opera Pobol y Cwm.

Ioan Gruffudd was born in October 1973 in Llwydcoed, Aberdare, the eldest of three children to his parents Peter and Gillian Gruffudd, both of whom were teachers.

A few years after he was born the family moved to Cardiff, where Gruffudd's grandparents had previously run an amateur dramatics society.

Gruffudd's first acting break came in Austin (1986), a BBC Cymru Wales television film written by Hazel Williams. From 1987 to 1994 he acted in the Welsh-language soap opera Pobl y Cwm, but left at the age of 18 to enrol at Rada to formally train as an actor.

In his final year at the Academy Gruffudd was cast as George (Jörgen) Tesman in Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, which in part led to him winning the role of Jeremy in the 1996 remake of the BBC's Poldark series - his first major English-language role.

The following year he played John Gray in the film Wilde, which starred Stephen Fry. Gruffudd's star was by now firmly in the ascendant, and soon after he played Fifth Officer Harold Lowe in James Cameron's Hollywood epic Titanic.

In 1998 Gruffudd landed the role of Horatio Hornblower in ITV's production of CS Forester's novels, a production he would continue to work on until 2003.

1999 saw Gruffudd star in BBC drama Warriors alongside other British talent Damien Lewis and Matthew Macfadyen. Directed by Peter Kosminsky, the drama focused upon UN peacekeepers in Bosnia during the Lašva Valley ethnic cleansing in 1993.

Gruffudd also appeared as Pip in the BBC's 1999 dramatisation of Great Expectations, played the lead in BAFTA award winning Welsh film Solomon a Gaenor, and even voiced the part of God in the Welsh animation Gwr y Gwyrthiau (The Miracle Maker).

The turn of the century saw a step up the Hollywood ladder for Gruffudd as he won the role of Kevin Shepherd in Disney's 102 Dalmatians (2000). It was while working on this film that Gruffudd met future wife Alice Evans; the pair married in Mexico in 2007 and live together in Los Angeles.

"I had lived in London for 12 years and to be honest with you I haven't missed Wales - I've hardly missed London, I love Los Angeles that much," he told the Daily Post. "When you live here and get to know the place, it's just wonderful, such an easy way of life. I'm surprised that the place has offered me so much pleasure and I really enjoy it."

Gruffudd starred in Very Annie Mary and the acclaimed Black Hawk Down in 2001, with appearances in television serials The Forsyte Saga and Man and Boy the year after.

At the 2003 National Eisteddfod he was inducted into the Gorsedd of the Bards and a year later landed the role of Lancelot in Antoine Fuqua's King Arthur, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and starring Clive Owen and Kiera Knightly.

Gruffudd's performance as Dr Reed Richards (aka Mr Fantastic), in the first of the Fantastic Four series in 2004 (based on Marvel Comics), won him adulation from his ever-growing fanbase though critical reviews of the film were mixed.

Two years later Gruffudd played abolitionist William Wilberforce in Amazing Grace and in 2007 starred in the second of the Fantastic Four series, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.

Gruffudd continued his journey upwards in Hollywood casting circles when picked to play former Prime Minister Tony Blair in Oliver Stone's 2008 satirical biographical film W. He also starred in a film adaptation of the children's novel The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge, The Secret of Moonacre, in the same year.

And with Hollywood directors paying close attention, and a versatility which sees him turn his hand to everything from costume drama to sci-fi blockbusters, he could well follow Richard Burton and Anthony Hopkins into the league of Welsh Hollywood greats.

Gruffudd became a father for the first time in September 2009 as his wife Alice gave birth to a daughter, Ella Betsi Evans Gruffudd.

In the autumn of 2009 he was involved in the Animated Myths project for the BBC Wales History website; he narrated the story Morgana's Secret Island, written by Welsh author Catrin Dafydd.

Spring 2010 saw Gruffudd begin filming on Foster, in which he stars with Toni Collette, Hayley Mills and Richard E. Grant. He is also set to star in forthcoming film The Kid, an adaptation of the international bestseller on the life of Kevin Lewis, alongside Rupert Friend and Natascha McElhone.

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