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The Borgias returns to Showtime on Sunday 8 April 2012 for Season 2 with its first episode entitled “The Borgia Bull”.
Jeremy Irons is back as bad guy on ‘The Borgias’
BY LUAINE LEE
British performer Jeremy Irons didn’t enter acting to become an actor. He joined to become a gypsy, he says.
“I had this sort of romantic vision of the life I wanted. I always say to kids now, ‘Find out what makes you happy and try to make a life that gives that to you, whatever that may be doing.’ I wanted a job which allowed me to move from society to society, not to be stuck in a conventional rat race,” he says in the courtyard of a hotel here on a chilly winter’s day.
He considered three options: life in the circus, the carnival or the theater. “I went and looked at circuses and carnivals, and I looked the accommodations they gave to the staff, and I thought, ‘I think I’m too middle-class for that. I don’t think I could live in something that small. I think maybe I’ll look at the theater.’ So I went and joined a theater in Canterbury when I was 18.”
The actor, who has illuminated the screen in films like “Reversal of Fortune,” “The Iron Mask” and “Die Hard: with a Vengeance,” returns Sunday as the evil Rodrigo in Showtime’s “The Borgias.”
It doesn’t matter whether Irons is playing the consummate hero in “The Man in the Iron Mask” or the Machiavellian pope in “The Borgias.”
“I’ve always been interested in gray,” says Irons, who is dressed in ochre pants, a khaki jacket trimmed in leather, and a black scarf circling his neck.
“I think we all have shades of gray in us. Nothing is really black and white. Yes, I play some people who carry their ‘bad sides’ to extremes, but I think that’s what the storyteller should do. What happens if you hit the edge of acceptable behavior or go over it? Why is that edge there? ‘Lolita’ is a perfect example — a man who broke social mores and acted in a way that was unacceptable. But why is it unacceptable? You see what happens to both him and the girl by the end of the picture, and you realize that that is why we say the behavior is wrong, because it destroys people.”
When he first started out he was hammering flats and holding candelabra on stage as part of the “scenery.” For a time he was even a busker. “That means I would sit on the street corners and play music for money,” he says.
“Performing was something I felt comfortable with, and I loved the communication, between an audience and the storytellers, in the same way I loved the communication when I was singing a song well … and I enjoyed the process.”
He enjoyed the process so much that he became an arch perfectionist — a curse to those around him, he says, as he rolls a brown cigarette in a machine he takes from his pocket.
“I realized that I was caring so much about my work and trying to make it absolutely perfect that — you will have to forgive my language here — there is a very thin line between a perfectionist and a complete (expletive). And I think I was falling over that line,” he says.
“Perfection, you can’t seek it because it doesn’t exist. I was worrying about it so much and making it fairly difficult for people who were working with me to work with me. And I sort of realized that the most important thing is to have fun with what you are doing. … Learn your lines, learn your character and then have fun with it. So I sort of pulled back and thought there is no way that an actor can make something perfect, you have no control over the finished project. Try and make it fun for everyone.”
Dissatisfied with his achievements, he actually quit for a while. “I turned 50. I found I was doing film work which I was bored by, and I wanted something that would absorb me completely. And I think it had something to do with the fact that in my 30s and 40s I was playing leading roles and then in my late 40s and 50s I was playing guest characters, and smaller roles. You don’t feel the same when you show up for a month instead of being there the whole time,” he says, rescuing a tea bag from his cup.
“I found a ruin (castle) in Ireland, and I spent two years just working on that. I had a large crew, but I was running it. And then I began to run out of money because I was paying 40 wages a week, and so I started acting again here and there over the next three years so six years over all. It was the greatest project I have done. I came back a slightly different person and started off again.”
He still owns the 15th century Kilcoe Castle and he and his wife of 34 years, actress Sinead Cusack, stay there when work permits. They have two grown sons. Sam is a photographer and Max, alas, is an actor. “My boys are 33 and 25, and you still ache for them if things go wrong,” he sighs.
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