Born and raised in South Wales, Luke Evans made the leap from West End musicals to Hollywood blockbusters with his 2010 appearance in Clash of the Titans, and has gone on to land leading roles in The Three Musketeers, the Fast & Furious franchise and Disney’s live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast.
Returning home to Wales
Picture the scene: you’re rambling along a country lane somewhere in the South Wales Valleys when a car pulls over. The window rolls down and peering out from the driver’s seat is none other than Luke Evans, star of films such as Beauty and the Beast and The Hobbit trilogy, in need of some help locating a nearby pub or restaurant.
It might sound surreal, but it’s seemingly not all that implausible.
The Hollywood actor, born in Pontypool and raised in the Rhymney Valley town of Aberbargoed, says he likes to return home (where his family still live) as often as he can – but admits that the score of recent building developments in the area can throw off his internal navigation.
“I love going back home, but the place looks nothing like it did when I was younger – there seem to be plush new buildings and new roads everywhere,” he says. “A few times, I’ve got hopelessly lost and had to pull over to ask people for directions.”
Determined to fulfil his dream of acting on the stage, Luke moved to London when he was 18, scoring roles in a melange of West End productions over the following decade, including Rent, Miss Saigon and Avenue Q. Despite leaving Wales as a young man, his formative years in the country still hold a real resonance for the actor.
“Some of my best childhood memories are of the Welsh coast. We’d go on holiday to Saundersfoot, in Pembrokeshire, with my cousin and his family, and stay in a caravan,” says Evans. “I’ve got so many fond memories of Tenby town centre, the harbour with the row of houses painted in a palette of pastel colours, and the boats bobbing around on the water.”
“We’d also go night fishing,” he adds, “but we spent more time losing our wellington boots in the sand than catching anything.”
Epic driving routes in Wales
These days you’re more likely to find the actor, who also has film credits in The Girl on the Train, Dracula Untold and the long-running Fast & Furious franchise, lounging on yachts or hanging out in cities like Bogota during his downtime, but he still finds a unique joy in a holiday in Wales.
“I wouldn’t call myself a petrolhead, but give me a nippy sports car and a day to spend driving down through Wales and I’ll be happy,” Evans says. “A few years ago, I followed the A470, also called The Cambrian Way, all the way from Llandudno on the north coast to Cardiff in the south. The part that goes through Eryri (Snowdonia) is truly amazing.”
Every twist delivers another show-stopping view – and you’ve still got the Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) to come."
Top three Welsh beaches
Evans also has his top three Welsh beaches nailed down.
“I’ll always love Barafundle Bay in Pembrokeshire, and not only because I like saying 'Barafundle', which is a magnificent word,” he says. “It’s a perfect, private little beach, hemmed in by sand dunes and pine trees, where you can take the dogs and make as much noise as you want.”
“Then there’s Three Cliffs Bay on the Gower Peninsula, with its ruined castle and wooded valley at the top,” adds Evans. “And my third choice is Tresaith, near Cardigan, which is only a very small detour off the Wales Coast Path – and best paired with a stop at the nearby Ship Inn!”
Following recent roles in big-budget television series The Alienist and Nine Perfect Strangers, Luke’s career appears to be going from strength to strength, with the actor travelling all over the world to film. Despite this, it’s actually an experience in Wales that currently tops his bucket list.
“When I took part in Wales’ Year of the Sea promotional campaign, we did some filming from a light aircraft,” says Evans. “We followed the coastline south from Eryri (Snowdonia), and in the footage you could see porpoises and dolphins playing in Cardigan Bay. I’m planning to take a boat trip to get a closer look – we’ve got one of Britain’s biggest populations of bottlenose dolphins out there!”
Hopefully finding them won’t require any stops for directions.