Greg dares to dream of Hollywood glory

He may be set to star in a new blockbuster with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and lives in Los Angeles but for actor Greg Ellis, Lancashire will always be home.

And though the Southport man says the exclusive district of Venice Beach has much to offer he can't get his favourite dish of sausage and chips, washed down with dandelion and burdock, to save his life.

In Mr and Mrs Smith, Jolie and Pitt play married assassins who are hired to kill each other. Greg takes a cameo role as a baddie in a bar scene.

The multi-talented celebrity, who was born in Wigan, took to the stage early, performing in productions of Oliver, The Sound of Music, and Once in a Lifetime.

He has even voiced that other famous alumini of Southport, Dan Dare, in a cartoon of the comid strip star.

The Mekon's nemesis was created by Southport men Rev Marcus Morris and artist Frank Hampson. Their contribution to British comic book history is marked with a bust of the character in Southport Arts Centre.

Greg, 35, spoke from his Hollywood home to reveal details of his brilliant career.

Previously known as Jonny Rees, he changed his name at the age of 16 so he could join the actors' union Equity. His friends and family still know him as Jonny. He said: "I was born in Wigan but soon moved to Southport and was raised in Ainsdale where I went to High School. I didn't do drama there but I did go to Southport Operatic New Generation society."

At the age of 17 he hitch-hiked to London where he stayed in a YMCA and launched his career, staying in the city for 11 years.

Greg now lives a lavish lifestyle in America.

He said: "Southport will always be home. Even though I've lived in London, home is where the heart is and that is up north."

Gregg's sister, Lindsey Rees, lives in Fulwood, and works as a nurse at the Royal Preston Hospital.

His mum, Sheila still lives in Ainsdale, and his dad, Brian lives in the Lake District. He also has a brother, Nick, 36.

Greg said: "Every time I come to England I come to Southport. It is good to keep your feet on the ground and coming back to where I am from does that. Chips and gravy will always bring me back to Southport."

In Mr and Mrs Smith, Greg plays an Irishman in a cameo role alongside Brad Pitt.

He said: "I'm in an Irish bar and all my stuff is with Brad. He is one of the loveliest guys I have worked with."

As an up-and-coming actor in America, Greg said: "My mum said when we were in Southport that I had to get a proper job so I was an assistant lab technician. But, I only lasted an hour.

"In America the weather is better, the sea is clearer but the people are not as down to earth and they don't do double sausage, chips and dandelion and burdoch."

Ellis first television role was as a policeman in the BBC series "Bread" in 1986.

Apart from television roles, Greg has also made a name for himself in London's West End, appearing in Starlight Express and Miss Saigon.

Also an accomplished singer and songwriter, he has performed for The Queen at St Paul's Cathedral. But one of his more demanding musical ventures has been recording an album with Nick Heyward of Haircut 100 fame. He has made the top 40 three times in Europe.

Ellis went on to play parts in some of the biggest cinema smashes in history, among some of the world's best known celebrities.

His credits include a part in Pirates of the Caribbean with Johnny Depp, Kiera Knightley and Orlando Bloom.

He also appeared in the epic Titanic as a steward on the ship that rescues Kate Winslett.

His latest starring role is as evil power broker Michael Amador, in the cult series 24 alongside Kiefer Sutherland, which started its new series on Sky One a week ago.

e-mail: stef.beaumont@lep.co.uk