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Berlin Interview: Jeremy Irons Talks 'Night Train To Lisbon,' 'Beautiful Creatures' And The Rationale Behind His Roles

The Playlist By Jessica Kiang | The Playlist February 22, 2013 at 10:58AM

A quick look through his back catalogue or a few minutes in his company will tell you that Jeremy Irons, despite his Best Actor Oscar (for his creepy, ambiguous Claus von Bulow in 1990’s “Reversal of Fortune”) and despite the many auteurs he has worked with in the past (David Cronenberg, Steven Soderbergh, Louis Malle, Bernardo Bertolucci, David Lynch etc), regards himself, first and foremost, as a jobbing actor. It’s not every esteemed and awarded star, after all, who boasts a U.S. indie, two lavish TV dramas, a small role in a would-be YA blockbuster, a lead in a European co-production and the voice of a bar rag in an episode of the “The Simpsons” as his credits in just the last 14 months or so.
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Jeremy & Max Irons Red Carpet
Irons is not sure his son Max (appearing in the upcoming YA film “The Host”) will be an actor forever.
I encouraged him when he was growing up to find what made him happy and to find a profession that would make him happy. I saw in him that he had the ability to lose himself in a character, so I thought, well he is suited to be an actor in that regard. Whether he is suited to what you have to go through being an actor I am not sure. And I think even now, when he’s been relatively successful, he isn’t sure either, whether he likes the way of life enough. I know he likes earning better money than most people earn, but I think he finds the way of life difficult and doesn’t necessarily see that he’ll always be an actor.

Having made his initial breakthough in the wonderful “Brideshead Revisited,” and now working on “The Borgias” Irons doesn’t find that TV work has changed hugely for him.
The last series I did was ‘Brideshead’ 32 years ago. And there is a similarity between ‘Brideshead’ and "The Borgias" in that we are left alone pretty much by Showtime as we film in Hungary. Though not as much as we were on 'Brideshead,' on that the company would call the producer and ask, “What part of the world are you in now?” They just trusted him and let him do it. American television companies [today] are more hands on than that.

The pace is about the same, though, the pace of “The Borgias” is about the same as shooting a feature film, but I think we’re unusual, because I talk to friends working on other cable TV shows, and it’s much more frenetic, especially the ones made in America. So I would say [for me] it hasn’t changed much really in those 30 years, but what has changed is there are more and more good writers in that area.

Lawrence Of Arabia
Irons’ major influences are mostly culled from the ranks of Great British Classical Actors.
Laurence Olivier for his bravery, Ralph Richardson -- there was really Olivier, Gielgud and Richardson. Ralph never got quite as famous, but he kept until his dying day a childlike quality. Peter O’Toole! I love the wildness and the magic and the Celtic-ness of Peter. Long before I became an actor I remember seeing “Lawrence of Arabia” and thinking “Wow! I would love to be able to do what he can do.” Of course I’ve never got anywhere near it, but then I don’t have his blue eyes.

And up next, perhaps a little more "The Borgias" after which Irons will be talking garbage...
I might go back and do another [season] of "The Borgias" just to finish it off, or perhaps a shortened fourth series, it’s up to Showtime. It would be quite nice to finish the man’s life. I hope nothing before then.

I’m slowly selling and distributing a documentary called “Trashed” about garbage and it’s screening all over the world at festivals, so there’s an opportunity to do a lot of travel. It’s a problem which feeds into many other problems, like global warming but many people are not aware of it, and it’s pretty easily solvable. The real problem is incineration, which we’re told by people who manufacture incinerators is a safe way of turning waste to energy. Bullshit. One of those plastic water bottles -- if you burn that you produce 1/26th of the energy that it has taken to make it, and we live in a finite world with finite resources.

And as to the intriguingly titled “A Magnificent Death from a Shattered Hand” project, slated to be directed by Thomas Jane, to which his name has been attached?
It depends when he shoots it. I don’t think it’s financed yet and, like anything, I think I said you could put my name to it about two years ago when it seemed like a good idea. But when he comes back, it might not be such a good idea...

This article is related to: Jeremy Irons, Interview, Night Train To Lisbon, Berlin International Film Festival


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