Ioan Gruffudd

Ioan Gruffudd pronounced "Yo-an Griffith" isn't changing his name, and that's official. Many have tried to convince him he'd be better off with something a bit more, well, manageable, "but I like it just the way it is," says the hunky Welshman. The pronun-
ciation of his name has certainly not hindered his soaring career.

Born in Cardiff on October 6, 1973, the eldest son of two schoolteachers, Ioan is perhaps best known internationally for his role as Lancelot in King Arthur and Mr Fantastic in the comic strip movie Fantastic Four. His acting career in Britain took off long before he appeared these major productions, however. Aged 16, he landed his first part in the long-running Welsh soap opera Pobol y Cwm, and from there it was simply a matter of time before he packed his bags and headed for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London.

After graduation, the young Welshman made a few minor TV and theatre appearances before landing the lead in a 1996 big screen adaptation of the Poldark saga. Many felt the role would catapult him to stardom, but the film proved less popular than the original TV production, and Ioan had to wait a little longer for his big break.

This came two years later when he won the title role in Hornblower, a mini-series based on CS Forrester's novel about the adventures of an 18th-century naval captain. His performance received a rapturous reception from the critics, and his status as a leading man was confirmed.

Having established his reputation on his home turf Ioan started looking to the international movie scene, where, in 1997, he scored a double whammy, appearing as 5th Officer Lowe in Titanic and John Gray in Wilde.

There's more to Ioan than good looks and remarkable acting, however. English is actually his second language Welsh being his mother tongue and in 1998 he took time out from high-profile productions to lense Solomon and Gaenor, a story of anti-Semitism in 1911 Wales. The film, which starred his fellow countrywoman and rising talent Nia Roberts and Maureen Lipman, was made in two versions, one entirely in Welsh, the other in English, Welsh and Yiddish. Ioan's performance he learned Yiddish for the role helped earn the work a best foreign film Oscar nomination.

The following year saw him playing Pip in a TV version of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations. This outing was quickly followed by a leading role in the BBC film Warriors, a gritty story of British troops serving in Bosnia which won a clutch of awards and consolidated his reputation as one of the UK's leading home-grown talents.

Turning to lighter fare, he pitted his wits against Glenn Close's Cruella de Vil in the 2000 production 102 Dalmations, on the set of which he met his girlfriend, fellow thesp Alice Evans. Public demand for Captain Hornblower remained strong though, and Ioan signed up for two more instalments Mutiny and Retribution, before going on to star as Philip Bosinney in the hugely popular mini-series The Forsyte Saga in 2002.

More recently he has appeared in a BBC adaptation of Tony Parsons' best-selling novel Man And Boy, which tells the tale of Londoner Harry Silver who is left to care for his son after his wife walks out him. But it was the title role in the 2005 blockbuster Fantastic Four which brought him to the attention of audiences on the other side of the pond.

With his professional life going from strength to strength he's been tipped as a future James Bond in 2002 Ioan joined fellow South Wales thespians Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones in moving to California, where he shares his Los Angeles home with girlfriend Alice.
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