The ambitious and immoral Steerpike rises from kitchen boy to Master of the Ritual as he plots to achieve ultimate control of Gormenghast. On the day Titus is born, Steerpike escapes the kitchen and begins his stratagem to topple the Groan dynasty. He plays on Fuchsia's yearning for adventure, exploits the desires of Cora and Clarice, and insinuates himself into the castle's daily life. In time, he becomes apprentice to Barquentine, learning Gormenghast's innermost secrets and moving ever closer to total control.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers strongly identifies with Steerpike's restless ambition. "To be honest, I have approached him as myself. I can see something I recognize in him," he says of the humble kitchen boy who climbs the peak of royal influence.
Born in Dublin, Ireland, Rhys Meyers grew up in Cork City, separated from his mother and brothers. At the age of 15 he was expelled from school. Alone and adrift in the city, his salvation appeared by accident. "I got a phone call from a friend who ran a pool hall where I used to hang out. He said these people were in looking for a 15-year-old to play the lead in a film."
Rhys Meyers didn't get the part -- "I was like a horse that was always leading into the final furlong, then finished last all the time," he explains. But the moment was a turning point, motivating him to attend more auditions and eventually acquire an agent. "I've been working ever since."
His breakthrough performance came in 1999's Velvet Goldmine, in which he played mythical rock icon Brian Slade. He has since appeared in such diverse films as Julie Taymor's Titus and Ang Lee's Ride with the Devil. His good looks and natural ability have garnered comparisons with such American stars as River Phoenix and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Without theatrical training, Rhys Meyers, like Steerpike, has had to learn with each role and improvise to succeed. "There is a lot of pain, paranoia, self-doubt, and self-consciousness," he explains. "I have never felt happy or satisfied with anything I've done. You have to push yourself and be hungry."
In Peake's words:
His body gave the appearance of being malformed but it would be difficult to say exactly what gave it this gibbous quality. Limb by limb, it appeared that he was sound enough, but the sum of these several members accrued to an unexpectedly twisted total. His face was pale like clay and save for his eyes, mask-like. These eyes were set very close together, and were small, dark red, and of startling concentration.
-- Titus Groan, "Means of Escape"
|Steerpike | Groan | Gertrude | Titus | Fuchsia | Flay
Swelter | Nannie | Barquentine | Clarice + Cora
Dr. Prunesquallor | Irma Prunesquallor | Bellgrove
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