Celebrity status and addiction appear to be natural bedfellows, and in many cases the problem is allowed to continue unchecked until the individual reaches a breaking point. In some cases, the one “rock bottom” moment is enough to shock the star into making a concerted effort to get better.
In the case of Jonathan Rhys Meyers, the star of NBC’s “Dracula,” this wasn’t the case. After a string of relapses, the network was driven to take an extreme course of action, delaying much of the star’s $100,000 per episode salary until filming was completed. Rhys Meyers has a long history of addiction, so while the network’s course of action is understandable, it’s natural to wonder whether it was driven by concern for his well-being or rather by a selfish desire to get the takes they needed to put together the show. In either case, whether the star will be able to maintain sobriety is uncertain.
Rhys Meyers’ Troubled Childhood
Addictions often take root in childhood, and Rhys Meyers’ formative years were plagued with trouble. The Irish star was born with a heart problem and his father left the family when he was 3. Two of his brothers went to live with his grandparents, while he and another brother remained with his mother. Money was tight, and with his mother drinking away much of the family’s welfare money, the house was devoid of modern comforts. Rhys Meyers had to steal to get enough food to eat, and was eventually expelled from school.
Relapses and Problems With the Law
His problems first caught public attention in 2005, when the star started to get in trouble for drunken fights. Clearly aware of his problem, he was bouncing in and out of rehab, and after his second visit, he got into further trouble in 2007 for abusive behavior at the airport in Dublin. Around this time, his mother passed away, and reporters in the UK had photographed him drinking cider at 10 in the morning. He was arrested after his outburst at the airport, and his lawyer issued an apology on his behalf, claiming the incident was “out of character.”
Two years later, another altercation broke out at Paris’ Charles De Gaulle Airport, where the star reportedly punched an employee while under the influence of alcohol and was arrested by French police. After a few hours in jail to sober up, he was released, and his behavior didn’t attract attention again until 2010 when he got into trouble for using abusive racist language at JFK airport in New York. This string of events must have become clear to Rhys Meyers, because he checked himself into rehab again soon after.
‘Dracula’ Salary and Relapse
After high profiles roles in films such as “Match Point” and the TV series “The Tudors,” Rhys Meyers secured the leading role in the 2013 series “Dracula.” Although he’d previously overcome his demons, he suffered yet another relapse during filming. He jetted off to London for a short stay in hospital, and returned to set to finish his filming with a “sober companion” accompanying him.
NBC Chairman Bob Greenblatt worked on “The Tudors,” and was therefore well aware of Rhys Meyers’ problems with addiction. The network was unsure about hiring him because of the risk, but eventually agreed and decided to offer the star a small per diem payment so he could support himself, but to withhold the majority of his salary fearing a severe relapse. When filming of the first 10 episodes was completed, Rhys Meyers returned to rehab.
Getting Better – Will It Stick This Time?
The network’s role in this offers some type of explanation for how celebrities are allowed to continue damaging themselves as long as they’re still doing their job. NBC didn’t request that Rhys Meyers attend rehab or see a counselor about his undeniable cravings for alcohol prior to filming; instead they held his salary (as a parent may withhold a child’s allowance) until he’d done what they wanted him to. Assumedly, after this point they were happy to hand over the best part of $1 million to an actor with a problem with alcohol. Their concern only extends to situations in which his addiction could affect their income.
Thankfully, Rhys Meyers still appears determined to kick his addiction. His story is a reminder that relapses are an extremely common feature of recovery, and that it’s essential not to get discouraged in the event of a relapse. If Rhys Meyers truly wants to get sober, the most important factor for him is to identify his triggers and cues to drink, deal with his mother’s influence on him and come to terms with her death in the absence of the dulling effects of alcohol. It may not be an easy road ahead, but if he sticks at it, he can get better and keep moving forward in his career.