Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd has been a mainstay of historical dramas for the last two decades. His conventional good looks and solid acting skills have earned him a decent ration of leading male characters over the years. So, let’s take a look at some of his historical roles!
Ioan stars as the protagonist, Pip, who falls in love with a girl far above his station and has to come to grips with the fact that he is not who he thinks he is. Dickensian romance at its most tortured.
Solomon & Gaenor (1999)
A love story between an Orthodox Jewish man and a Gentile woman in the early years of the 20th century, with absolutely zero chance of a happy ending. You have been warned.
Another Life (2001)
Based on the true story of Edith Thompson and Fredrick Bywaters, a couple caught up in an adulterous relationship that leads to murder. Ioan Gruffudd plays Bywaters.
The Forsyte Saga (2002-2003)
Despite the lavish costumes, I have gone on the record on this blog more than once about the fact that I cannot stand The Forsyte Saga. Just something about the sprawling plot and unlikable characters all swapping partners with one another…
King Arthur (2004)
Gruffudd plays Lancelot in this completely a-historical fantasy film, but I know that if I didn’t include it, someone would be upset with me in the comments.
Gruffudd plays William Wilberforce in this film about Wilberforce’s campaign against slavery in the 18th century.
The Secret of Moonacre (2008)
Another fantasy film that has just enough historical veneer that if I didn’t include it on this list, one of you would be cranky about it.
The Adventurer: Curse of the Midas Box (2013)
Someone tell me if this film is worth watching, because I have no idea.
The Professor and the Madman (2019)
A film starring Mel Gibson and Sean Penn about the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary, with a bunch of other famous actors, including Ioan Gruffudd. I remember seeing it pop up in previews and thinking it looked interesting, but I still haven’t seen it.
What’s your favorite historical Ioan Gruffudd film? Share it with us in the comments!
Amazing Grace and Forsyte Saga are favourites with the Hornblower series next.
King Arthur is the only thing on the list that I’ve seen him in. I did like him in Forever with him playing an immortal. While taking place in modern America it does have flashbacks of the character’s previous lives in other eras.
I tried to find photos of him in Forever that weren’t in modern dress, but I couldn’t turn any up through Google image search. But he is SMOKIN’ hot in that show, so clearly I need to revisit it.
I have a number of photos that I saved from both the Twitter account and the network website soon after airing. Most of the period flashbacks are from the WWII era with Abigail through to about the 1950s. There is however one episode (Memories of Murder) for which the flashback was set some time in the 1800s. It’s been a REALLY long time since I actually watched it. So I don’t remember when exactly it’s set, only that the nurses are wearing hooped skirts! I could email any that you’d be interested in.
I also liked Forever! I was bummed it didn’t survive. Neither did it’s quite similar predecessor, New Amsterdam, which starred Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as a 15th century Dutch settler/immortal/21st century cop. I think Forever was better (although it was fun seeing the other one basically make furniture as he had 400 years previously to sell as a rare find antique for funds). I was on CW’s website (maybe CW Seed?) to watch Taskmaster and noticed Forever being advertised, and I think all their stuff is free online (with ads).
I also love Forever, as well as New Amsterdam and was sorry neither survived. Both men were smokin’.
You might be the only person I’ve come across who remembers New Amsterdam! I think Forever was better but both were enjoyable. For some reason I thought I’d bought NA on iTunes but I don’t see it there so I guess not. It was a bit silly to have that whole soulmate storyline but sometimes it was very sweet (like with his son).
New Amsterdam was a good show, one of quite a few that my spousal unit and I enjoyed but then disappeared after a season or two. I didn’t recognize Jaime Lannister as the main character from NA, but it had been awhile. I’ll have to look for Forever, it sounds promising.
It’s a very similar premise (immortal helping to solve crimes) but the main character is from I think the 19th century and is a medical examiner, rather than a cop from the 16th century. If you’re in the US, CW has it on their sister site, CWSeed, for free. Also I just looked and… I guess they finished out the season? I only remember 8 or 10 episodes. Hm, I’ll have to go back for it!
I loved New Amsterdam! I was so upset when it ended
I haven’t seen any of these (technically I saw half of Titanic but I got bored and turned it off), which is strange because I instantly recognized his face. I suppose I might have recognized him from a non frock flick production. But now I have several things to add to my watch list.
Anyone else think the promo image for Great Expectations looks like a prom picture? Awkward posing and all lol
He is in a ton of modern shows and movies, so no doubt that’s why. I also instantly recognized his face when Kendra suggested doing a post about him, but then realized I had no idea what his name was. And then realizing he was in all these historical films I’ve seen over the years… But I do think he does primarily modern roles, so that’s part of the reason why he’s got face-recognition but not necessarily name + face recognition across the board.
See, I’ve always thought of his as primarily a ‘period’ actor – perhaps it was just because I first encountered him as Hornblower when I was at an impressionable age…
(althought one of the more heartbreaking roles I’ve seen him is was the more contemporary ‘Warriors’ – a telling of the experiences of the peacekeeping forces in the former Yugoslavia (fairly young in that too, with a young Damien Lewis and Matthew Macfadyen)
I always think Ioan Gruffudd looks a little like Rupert Graves. Not identical, but enough that they could be brothers. Made it very believable in Forsyte when, after Bosinney (Gruffudd) dies, Irene goes for Young Jolyon (Graves). She certainly has a type.
I’ve seen quite a few of these. I definitely love Horatio Hornblower and I’m confident I’ve seen all of them, because back in the early 00s, A&E used to show ITV and BBC miniseries. Solomon and Gaenor is definitely heart-wrenching, but worth a look.
I grew up on Hornblower books (my dad was a sailor) and he did a good job of bringing the character to life. I saw Solomon and Gaenor when a friend lent me a couple of Welsh films on DVD. It was indeed heart-wrenching.
King Arthur isn’t really a fantasy film, since there’s no magic in it. It’s a swords and blood epic and… I kinda like it. Seen most of these, since I see a lot of period pieces.
The Professor and the Madman is good but also sad, since one of its main characters is shut up in a mental asylum.
I hate all the characters in The Foresye Saga; it’s an exploration of pure selfishness!
When I was in school in London, the Forsyte Saga books were recommended as the best history of the British middle class, but I’ve never seen the series.
I have tried to watch on several occasions, and with several different versions, but I just couldn’t find any characters I actually liked.
Loved him in the Hornblower series. Had no idea that he had done so much more Ha!. And Poldark! Well eell well. And I thought Aidan Turner owned the role!
Ioan is a longtime love of mine, so I’m delighted to see him featured here. I don’t think he gets enough recognition in the U.S. I fell for his dashing Horatio Hornblower and thought he was one of the best things about The Forsyte Saga. It’s great to learn about some projects here that I didn’t know he was in.
All Ive seen him in historically is King Arthur, Poldark and Hornblower, so I’ll go with Hornblower.
Amazing Grace is a film I really love and he was great in it (along which quite a few other excellent actors–small film, but so well done). As I mentioned above, I also liked Forever, although that’s mostly modern set. I have heard good things about Horatio Hornblower, too, and given that I did enjoy Master & Commander quite a bit, and it seems like it’s in a similar vein, I’m surprised I’ve missed it so far. Plus whatever teasing the Brits do among themselves, I find it quite nice to listen to Welsh accents. The women are melodious and the men seem quite resonant (see also Richard Burton and Anthony Hopkins).
I’m also glad to see him featured here because I think he should have had more prominent roles than he’s generally ended up with. He may also have lost at least one opportunity due to his then-girlfriend (now wife) rebuffing Harvey Weinstein, so if that’s the case who knows what might have been.
Hornblower is excellent – with a great cast – Jamie Bamber as Archie, and later ones have Paul Mcgann as Lt Bush. (getting his Napoleonic drama at last – he was the orginal casting for Richard Sharpe, until he broke his leg!)
I really should re-watch it at some point.
I had my laptop noises all taken from extracts from the Hornblower series at one point, when it seemed a fun thing to do – it’d load up to the opening music!
Fun! I’ve had the MASH and Stargate:SG1 themes as ringers in the past but now I just keep my phone on silent all the time so it’s just a standard one and I don’t recognize it at all. I really should check out Hornblower; I grew up in an area with sailing/trading history and a fishing industry so I always have an affection for the sea.
Hornblower is just fine wherever they took the plot directly from CS Forester’s original books. Wherever they got screenwriters in to write some original material, sadly the results are at best clunky and at worst beyond ludicrous. The Grand Turk is a lovely ship though.
Thank you for doing a MCM for Ioan – he’s been a favorite for a long time!
Amazing Grace. Period💐💐💐💐
I always liked him and thought he should have a shot at the “A-List” as it were. He got it, however briefly. He was seemingly everywhere in the early 2000’s but now sadly he’s in far less.
I thought King Arthur (2004) had a great ensemble cast that was sadly wasted on a middling film that completely belies its own premise.
First time commenting but long-time reader!
Ha, I completely forgot “The Secret of Moonacre” existed. Loved the movie when I was a teen but mostly because of Dakota Blue Richards.
About “The Adventurer: Curse of the Midas Box”: it’s loosely (very veeeery loosely) based in the Mariah Mundi series of books. I watched the movie first because it’s very steampunk and the costumes are beautiful, so if you like that late 19th/early 20th century steampunk aesthetic, it’s a must! But that’s it. I remember enjoying it a lot and when I read the book I realized how awful of an adaptation it was.
He is soo handsome. I agree with the person who said he should be more well-known in the States. He first made an impression on me in King Arthur, so I’m gonna go with that one as my fave out of the other few movies I’ve seen on this list. Even though it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, I enjoyed it as a Arthurian tale. I never saw Forever. I was intrigued by promos, but I thought it wasn’t gonna make it, so I didn’t want to invest any emotional energy into it. I never heard of the Oxford English Dictionary movie. I’m thrilled about the premise, but horrified by those mustaches! Good Lord, how can you make Ioan Gruffudd AND Jeremy Irvine look ridiculous!#$%$
Sarah, Re: your comment on Hornblower (which we have the DVD set of) I’ll take your share of watching shows with boats. Himself can attest that I’ve been known to find a pretty boat more swoon-worthy than a pretty leading man :-)
‘The Secret of Moonacre’, a.k.a. ‘The Little White Horse’ is a fantasy children’s novel by Elizabeth Goudge. Much loved by myself and then my children. I did not know it had been made into a film. I shall have to search it out and hope that the book was not ruined. Loved ‘Hornblower’, but not ‘The Forsyth Saga’ (at least this version), although I love the books. For me, ‘Amazing Grace’ wins hands down. Think I will go and watch it again now. Thanks for the remonder.
He is quite the yummy. I first got the hots for him when A&E showed Hornblower in the late ’90s. Thank you for finally featuring him!
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Even if some aspects are looking wrong, Gruffud is the perfect Hornblower, because he can reflect the complexity of the character very well.
Amazing Graze is not my favourite, although Gruffud had a great performance.