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 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.