Welsh-born Ioan Gruffudd (pronounced Yo-an Griffith) makes no apologies for wanting his unusually spelled name to be a boldfaced one. ''A lot of my peers want an opportunity to really act, but that side of my actor's ego is satisfied,'' says Gruffudd, 33, best known as the swashbuckling hero of A&E's Horatio Hornblower (1999-2003). Now reprising his role as Mr. Fantastic, the geek-stud at the center of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, he calls it ''a chance to play a leading man, and that's something I could do the rest of my life.'' Gruffudd was said to be up for the ne plus ultra of leading men: Bond. ''It was a delicious rumor,'' sighs Gruffudd, who says 007 wasn't in the cards because of his commitment to don Fantastic spandex. That doesn't stop him from praising Daniel Craig in Casino Royale: ''I believed this guy was a trained killer who would beat the s--- out of you.'' Meanwhile, Gruffudd's content to wait as long as it takes for the role that will send him into the stratosphere. ''The blessing with us guys,'' he says, ''is we get sexier as we get older.''