'I've messed our lives up': Alongside the fame and the fortune, Ronan Keating had the perfect family – until he made the
biggest mistake of his life
00:29 GMT, 21 July 2012
Ronan Keating’s first movie role – without the safety blanket of Boyzone or his successful solo career – is that of a marine scientist whose long spells away from home lead to serious marital problems.
It is, he admits, uncomfortably close to his own life. In April his 14-year marriage to his childhood sweetheart Yvonne broke up in the aftermath of his affair with one of Boyzone’s backing dancers, which began while the band were on tour.
‘I spent too much time away,’ he says sadly. ‘I missed Yvonne, I missed my children, and I made a mistake. We tried to get over it, but we couldn’t, and now I’m a single man again.
Ronan Keating with his family last year in happier times
Being on my own is all new to me. I was young when I got married – just 21. So to be suddenly on my own, at 35, is weird.’
Yvonne told him to leave after she found saucy text messages on his mobile phone and discovered he’d had an affair with dancer Francine Cornell on tour two years ago.
Though he’s since attempted a reconciliation, she couldn’t forgive him. ‘It’s heartbreaking,’ he says. ‘Nobody wants to go through a relationship and have kids and think it’ll ever break up. I see myself as a failure.
‘It’s been devastating for the children [Jack, 13, Marie, 11, and six-year-old Ali] and I’m still trying to deal with it. Yvonne and I drifted apart – it wasn’t working any more, sadly.’
Ronan and former model Yvonne, 38, have however managed to remain good friends for the sake of their children. ‘We still spend as much time together as we can. It’s all amicable but it’s been hard.’
Though Ronan has sought a reconciliation with Yvonne, she couldn't forgive him
He’s had to pull himself together after losing a stone in weight, drinking too much and becoming depressed after the break-up.
Today when we meet in the South of France, Ronan speaks falteringly.
‘We obviously don’t have the closeness we used to have. That’s the hardest thing to bear. Now I’m a free spirit for the first time in years, but I didn’t want that. I realise I liked being in a relationship.
‘My greatest fear is to be alone; that and failure. I don’t feel lonely now because I’ve been travelling, but when you’re on your own at home it hits you.’ He admits he’s ‘messed up’, and tells me he has huge regrets over the breakdown of his marriage.
Ronan has moved out of the family home in Malahide, Ireland, and now lives a couple of hundred yards away, so the children can visit him and stay over. They threw him a little house-warming – ‘More sweets than wine’, he laughs.
He’s also bought another home in Australia, where he’s a judge on The X Factor. ‘I’m not looking forward to this new stage in my life.
‘Finding my feet again is very strange. But there is a 100 per cent friendship with Yvonne, and our children are our priority. I’ve been so worried about the effect all this change has had on them. I see them as much as possible.
'When I can, I do the school runs in the morning and I’m here when they finish school every evening if I’m not working.’
Ronan recalls how difficult it was to explain the break-up to them. ‘This has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to contend with. The hardest thing Yvonne and I have had to do together.
'This whole split has been incredibly painful. Although I’m single now, I can’t contemplate dating again. That’s the last thing on my mind. The thought terrifies me.’
He says there’s no new man in Yvonne’s life, but she’s following her own interests while remaining a devoted mother. To try to maintain as much family unity as possible, Ronan and Yvonne have agreed they should all take a summer holiday together.
'This whole split has been incredibly
painful. Although I’m single now, I can’t contemplate dating again.
That’s the last thing on my mind. The thought terrifies me'
‘It will make things seem normal for the kids,’ he explains. They’ve already been to Australia, where his new film was shot. ‘They loved it there,’ he says, smiling over their excitement at embarking on such a long journey.
In the film, Goddess, Ronan is married to a young English mother, Elspeth, played by West End musical star Laura Michelle Kelly.
‘There are a lot of love scenes, so I made a point of getting really fit, as the script called for me to take my clothes off.
'I think I spend more time undressed in the film than I do dressed,’ he says, ‘but I didn’t mind that. I wanted to give it my best shot, as this was my first feature film.’
Ronan plays Elspeth’s husband James, who is away from home on long trips campaigning to save the whales. To relieve the boredom, she films herself on a webcam singing songs in her kitchen about domestic drudgery, and posts them on the internet.
They go viral and she becomes a global star, which shocks James when he returns. He doesn’t like what’s happened, and their marriage is threatened when their family becomes the unwelcome focus of international attention.
Mikey Graham, Ronan, Keith Duffy and Shane Lynch from Boyzone
This is why he could so easily identify with what was happening to his character in this film role. ‘James still wants to keep in contact with his wife and children, but because he’s away so much she becomes bitter. That’s not the case with Yvonne – she’s not bitter. It’s about the sacrifices women make, like Yvonne, who gave up her modelling career to be at home with the children. So I could relate to this. When I was with Boyzone I was always travelling – it was just like someone going off in search of whales.’
With Boyzone so much in demand at the height of their fame, and his own solo career thriving, how did he deal with that ‘I tried hard to find a balance. I tried to get the family on the road with me as much as I could. Every spare second I had, I tried to get home to see them. That wore me down, but I wanted to be there to see my kids growing up.’
Although Ronan’s been a pop idol for 20 years, it was never enough to satisfy his ambitions.
He’s secretly been trying to break into acting, even from the early days of Boyzone. ‘I’ve been reading for parts and attending auditions for almost all my career,’ he admits, ‘but I never quite managed to convince directors I could act.’
Although Ronan’s been a pop idol for 20 years, it was never enough to satisfy his ambitions
He read for the film Moulin Rouge with Nicole Kidman, but the role went to Ewan McGregor. He then read for the 2004 Hollywood film King Arthur, which ended up with the cast led by Clive Owen and Keira Knightley.
‘I wasn’t anywhere near good enough. I just wasn’t ready, even though I believed I was. I’d been in 45 music videos, so I thought I could act. But no, I couldn’t. I realised there’s a massive difference between videos and movies. I had to work at it.’
Goddess was well received at the Cannes Film Festival in May and is due for release later this year. Ronan mixed with the likes of Brad Pitt and Gerard Butler at an A-list party in Cannes.
‘Brad invited me to his place for a private drink after the premiere. He’s a nice guy. I want to get straight into another film off the back of this as soon as possible. But I want to do different things. No romantic comedies – I’m drawn to gritty thrillers and action films.’
Ironically, his daughter Marie had less difficulty getting a film role than her father, and has just finished her first lead in a horror film called Dark Touch.
Ronan and Yvonne celebrate their 10th Wedding Anniversary in 2008
‘She made me feel very jealous,’ he jokes. And his six-year-old, Ali, has been reading for a film part as well. Isn’t he protective of them entering such a harsh and competitive business so young
‘The kids can do whatever they want,’ he insists.
‘You need to support them, be there for them and love them. When you do that, they can do anything. With someone like Britney Spears and her mother, the parents take control and create more problems than need be.
‘I can’t deal with celebrities with attitude. They drive me crazy. I’ve never surrounded myself with bodyguards just to go to somewhere. I’ll go where I want to go. I’ve got good friends who I’ve known my whole life and they’re still there.’
He says filming is purely a game at present to little Ali. ‘I don’t know how serious she is about doing it. I think because her big sister is in the movies and now her daddy is, she wants to do it. But I don’t think she really understands it all.’
As for Ronan, there’s no chance his own film career, if it develops, will put his music on the back burner.
He’s currently finishing a new album for release in August – his first album of original songs for six years – which will be followed by a British arena tour.
And next year a reunion with Boyzone is lined up to mark the band’s 20th anniversary. It’s when he’s talking about the reunion that his voice drops as he reflects on the band member who won’t be there – his best friend Stephen Gately, who died from an undiagnosed heart condition while on holiday in Majorca in October 2009.
As a tribute to Stephen, who had a Superman tattoo on his chest, Ronan has also had one.
‘The week after he died, all of us in the band got Superman tattoos.’ He pulls up his T-shirt to show me his others.
He’s proudest of an anchor he had done after swimming in a relay across the Irish Sea last year for Cancer Research, which he’s supported since his mother Marie died of breast cancer in l998. His newest work is on the side of his body and says ‘Always have courage’ in Italian.
‘It was a saying that came from Pope John Paul. I was lucky enough to meet him and to perform in the Vatican. It’s a phrase that had so much meaning for me. Whatever you do in life, whether it’s getting in your car, to making a decision about your career or whatever, just always have courage.’