Jonathan Rhys Meyers is ready to rock once more. After playing a David Bowie-esque character in Velvet Goldmine and channeling Elvis Presley in the TV miniseries Elvis, the Irish actor has strapped on a guitar and a snarl to portray Joe Strummer, frontman of the influential punk band the Clash, in the coming-of-age tale London Town.
Directed by Derrick Borte and set against the social turmoil and strikes of Britain’s “Winter of Discontent,” the film is less a biopic than the story of a wide-eyed kid (Daniel Huttlestone) whose mind and world are exploded by the Clash’s music.
Strummer looms large over the film, but as Rhys Meyers told EW in an interview, “It’s not a biography of the Clash. It’s a story about a boy and a girl, and Joe Strummer appears as this boy’s sort of punk fairy godfather.”
The Clash provide much of the film’s soundtrack — with Rhys Meyers doing his own singing and guitar playing — and Strummer also pops up at key moments to mentor Shay (Huttlestone) as the teen juggles his musical awakening, family responsibilities, and budding romance with cool girl Vivian (Nell Williams).
Rhys Meyers said he approached the Strummer role with a sardonic edge, partly to match the movie’s lightly fanciful tone but also to explore another side of the punk legend.
“We remember him for the collar up, with the cigarette in his mouth,” Rhys Meyers said. “Or him on stage with his electric guitar and the sweat pouring off his head. That’s what we remember — those iconic images of the rock star.”
He added, “The problem with somebody being an iconic rock star is that’s what people think they are. They forget that they get up in the morning and have a cup of tea and brush their teeth. … The Clash didn’t wake up in the morning looking cool as f‑‑‑; there was a little bit of work that went into it.”
Watch Rhys Meyers as Strummer performing “Clash City Rockers” in the clip above. London Town opens Oct. 7 in theaters and on VOD.