Rhys Ifans was born Rhys Owain Evans on 22 July 1967, in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire. His first language is Welsh. He is the son of Beti Wyn and Eirwyn Evans.
Ifans grew up in Ruthin, North Wales, and received his primary education at Ysgol Pentrecelyn, before attending Ysgol Maes Garmon, a Welsh language secondary school in Mold, Flintshire, where he sat his O levels and A levels.
He also attended youth acting schools at Theatr Clwyd, Mold and trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
He appeared in many Welsh-language television programmes before embarking on his film career, as well as performing at the Royal National Theatre, London and the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester.
He first came to prominence in the now cult 1997 Swansea-based film, Twin Town in which he played twin Jeremy Lewis, opposite his actor brother, Llŷr Ifans. He went on to gain international exposure in his role as Hugh Grant’s slovenly room-mate Spike in the 1999 film, Notting Hill.
His eclectic film roles have allowed him to showcase the breadth of his acting skills; he has played such diverse characters as Dr Curt Connors/The Lizard in The Amazing Spider-Man; Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford in Anonymous and Xenophilius Lovegood in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1.
In 2005, Ifans won a BAFTA for his portrayal of comedian Peter Cook in the TV film Not Only but Always. He has a recurring role as Mycroft Holmes on the CBS series Elementary and he gained fame in the United States for playing Nigel Gruff, a footballer turned American football player with a gambling addiction in the 2000 film The Replacements.
In December 2006, he returned to the London stage in Michael Grandage's production Don Juan in Soho at the Donmar Warehouse. He had appeared previously at the Donmar in 2003's Accidental Death of an Anarchist. Earlier stage work includes Hamlet at Theatre Clwyd, A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Regent's Park Theatre and Under Milk Wood and Volpone at the Royal National Theatre.
In July 2007, he received an Honorary Fellowship from Bangor University in north Wales, for services to the film industry.
As well as acting, Rhys Ifans enjoys a singing career, and was briefly lead vocalist of the Welsh rock band Super Furry Animals. He currently sings with Welsh psychedelic rock band The Peth. He has also had cameo roles in several music videos including the Oasis single "The Importance of Being Idle" for which he accepted their award for Video of the Year at the 2006 NME Awards. He has also made appearances in the music videos for "God! Show Me Magic", and "Hometown unicorn" by Super Furry Animals; "Mulder & Scully" by Catatonia, and "Mama Told Me Not To Come" by Tom Jones and Stereophonics.
Keen to foster the Welsh language, in September 2012 he became patron of the newly-formed Living Paths Society, to further and develop the Welsh language Wikipedia: Wikipedia Cymraeg.
In 2015, Swansea University awarded an Honorary Degree to Rhys Ifans. On receiving his award, Mr Ifans said: “It is a great honour to accept this award. Having one's work acknowledged is always a lovely thing, and having it recognised by such a prestigious university in a city that I have great affection for means the world to me. Diolch yn fawr iawn.”