Dubbed Britain's "very own Leonardo DiCaprio" after his role as the ship officer who rescues Kate Winslet in Titanic, Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd (pronounced "Yo-wan Griffiths") went from relative unknown to rapidly ascending Hot Young Thing in just a few short years. Bearing the kind of looks that inspire more than a few torrid fantasies, the arrestingly photogenic actor has proved to be the hottest Welsh export since Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Hailing from Cardiff, where he was born on October 6, 1973, Gruffudd enjoyed a fairly happy childhood. Raised as one of three children by parents who were Welsh language educators, he developed an early interest in performing. This interest was directed at music, rather than acting, and Gruffudd developed into an accomplished oboist and singer while he was growing up. At the age of eleven, he decided to give acting a whirl, and two years later, he became a professional actor with a role in the Welsh soap opera Pobol Y Cwm (People of the Valley). Gruffudd's interest in acting proved lasting, and he was accepted at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art when he was eighteen. He studied there for three years, and, following graduation, he landed a part on the popular BBC series Poldark. He made his film debut in 1997, playing one of Oscar Wilde's lovers in Wilde. That same year, in his small role dredging Kate Winslet out of the Atlantic in Titanic, he managed to make an impression on more than a few viewers.
In 1998, Gruffudd again went out to sea, in the acclaimed BBC series Horatio Hornblower. His title role in the series, adapted from C.S. Forester's 18th century tales of adventure on the high seas, made him a star in the UK, and soon there was no shortage of articles detailing everything from his physical attributes to his personal life. Thus, it was only a matter of time before Gruffudd got his first starring role on the big screen, and a year later, he did just that. 1999 saw him star in Solomon and Gaenor, a love story between a Jewish man and a Welsh woman set in turn-of-the-century Wales. Gruffudd won strong notices for his performance, and that same year he earned additional raves for his work in the BBC television adaptation of Great Expectations. He then exchanged period etiquette for contemporary perversion with his role in the BBC miniseries Love in the 21st Century, playing a man whose obsessive interest in masturbation threatens his relationship with his wife.
2001 saw Gruffudd showing off his American accent in the critically-acclaimed cinematic retelling of the bloody Battle of Mogadishu. The film cast him alongside several other up-and-comers such as Orlando Bloom and Eric Bana. Following roles in smaller fare like Happy Now and This Girl's Life, Gruffudd was cast opposite Clive Owen and Keira Knightly as Sir Lancelot in director Antoine Fuqua's gritty King Arthur. Gruffudd joined the cast of Fantastic Four in 2005, and again for its sequel, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, in 2007. The actor was praised for his role as Tony Blair in W. (2008), Oliver Stone's biopic chronicling the life and career of former President George W. Bush. Playing the part of self-made millionaire Andrew Martin, Gruffudd co-starred with Sarah Michelle Gellar in Ringer, a short-lived television series from The CW.