Interview – Motorrevü Hungary – Jeremy Irons
2012-09-20, Written by: Ivan Zomborácz, Catherine Burner , Pictures: Peter Kőhalmi
Gallery at the bottom of this post. Click on the photos for full size.
Translated from Hungarian
Though being an Oscar-winning actor, he arrived without bodyguards, only his make-up artist was sitting behind him in the saddle. He wore simple canvas pants, leather boots and a shirt ripped at his elbow. For someone with such a strong presence, he doesn’t need a fuss around him – as he arrived, the air thickened around him, Mr. Irons has a presence of weight. Although it was the first time we’d first met, he greeted me as an old friend.
MR: You have not started riding too early. What made you start riding at 30?
Mr. Irons: I think I started to be interested in motorbikes because of my brother. He had a BSA He advised me not to sit on the motorbike until I had driven a car for at least 10 years. You need this amount of time to learn how other drivers behave, one of whom may be your murderer one day. You need to get used to how to get around in the safety of four wheels. I took my brother’s advice, so I committed my first mistakes driving a car. By the time I was 30, I knew that I was not invincible, that I could die. It is missing from young people.
MR: Almost at the same time that you started to ride, you settled your family life, and started up your acting career. What happened to you at age 30, that brought about so many changes in your life? Do you see a relationship between these?
I: I think it’s just a coincidence. If someone learns to be an actor, he spends his twenties with learning the profession and starts building his career. By the time he crosses 30, he’s picked up a lot of knowledge and begun to attract attention. So the really interesting things start happening for people in their 30s and 40s when they are still full of ambition and energy. At that time I lived in London, and was driving a little Honda 50. But it was enough for me. I remember once we went on a Christmas shopping trip, behind me my wife and our newborn baby, and our dog, and all the presents we bought. We looked like the Chinese. I was once in China, and I saw how they drive the motorbike there. Ladder, and anything that you can pack up on their bikes. So, there I was in London and I looked like them.
MR: When did you feel like leaving the Chinese feeling behind and move up a category?
I: When I passed 40, I stopped for a few years, until I moved to the countryside and reminded myself that I always promised myself a bigger bike. So I bought my first BMW, second hand. It was a RT100’s, which I really loved. I remember when I bought it, I did not even know how to start it at first. In addition, I wanted to go to London that evening to pick up a friend for dinner and watch a movie. So I called her and told her to wear pants because I would be with a bike. But when I got there, she appeared in a long black skirt that was cut up high at one side and left her entire left leg free as she sat up on the motor. I thought immediately that it was worth it.
MR: Have you stuck to BMW?
I: I loved the RT100. When I heard that they would stop the complete production and adjust to a new model, a boxer engine, I bought one of the last RTs on the market. I use it to this day. Unfortunately, in the last 22 years I only put 87 thousand miles on it. I like it because it is so reliable, and because … it is not a computer. It’s so simple. If there is a problem, there’s a good chance it is the carburetor that I can adjust. Of course, it has no ABS, but I have never had a need of it. I evaluate the road on the basis of the abilities of the machine. Its wheels are a bit narrow, but still I love it.
MR: You have been in Hungary many times, you did hiking too. Do you have a favourite motorcycle route? And what would you recommend for the Hungarian bikers in Europe, that they shouldn’t miss?
I: Unfortunately, due to my work, I do not have much time to hike. But there is a section in the mountains, at the old capital city, Esztergom. I love that route. But I know there are a lot of good routes here. Once I headed east, but I found that area too flat. I could not yet get to the south. I know that there are a lot of good routes in Hungary, but you should not ask my advice. I love Slovenia. There are beautiful roads there, once I went down to the sea on little serpentine.
MR: Do you prefer travelling alone or with a passenger?
I: With a passenger, because I think the most interesting part of the ride, when you stop, talk, relax and explore. It is just the opposite of when you only drive and concentrate and go on. Of course, that also has its own beauty, but then you stop at one point. To smoke a cigarette, drink a cup of coffee while browsing around. And it’s very good to have someone there with you, with whom you can share the experience.
MR: What do you think of the Hungarian transport morals?
I: When driving in town, you musn’t forget that people can be tired, crapulent, or nervous because they are late, or they are simply old, and it can have thousands of other reasons why they may not notice the rider. Then the madness of young people on their scooters! However, I do not think that Hungary is more dangerous than any other country in the world. Every country has its own particularities. In Italy, for example, everyone is driving fast, but exactly for this reason, they concentrate more, even if they drive on the other side of the road sometimes. You can’t do anything about it, you need to get used to it. Budapest is not more dangerous than anywhere else, where you need to pay attention to a lot of people. For example, at each overtaking I try to see where comes an intersection, where one could suddenly turn on you without signalling.
MR: Is the Guggenheim motorcycle club still operating whom you are a founding member of?
I: It’s having a rest now, but we’d like to organize a trip in the memory of Dennis Hopper. Organizing is a problem though, since I have been very busy in the last 18 months. So, it’s on ice now. Where was the last tour? Spain, perhaps, 1.5 years ago, when the rest of them toured the Basque Country. Unfortunately, I could not be with them. So the heart of the club is still beating. Gently.
MR: When it comes to motorcycle clubs, what do you think of the classic motorcycle clubs? Do you attend some?
I: I do not like motor clubs. I mean, for me, riding is about to get a break from people. You may take your loved ones or a very small team with you, but big companies are not for me. There are enough people in my life, I do not like to ride with more than two or three, because with them you can still disappear. I do not like noisily letting the world know, I’m here.
MR: In 1995, your license was withdrawn for fast driving. Does speed still attract you?
I: I like to go fast, as fast as is safely possible. This is variable. I’m trying to remember also, where the cameras are and trying to drive safely. I believe that it is much safer to go a pace that is allowed by the motorcycle and the road, than to balance at the edge of the speed limit all the time. So much easier to concentrate and enjoy the journey, which is the point of the whole thing. You can’t feel this in a car. You have to concentrate on a motor, see where the rocks are, and the water flows, and what the road and other drivers let you do. Personally, I’m trying to slow down when I see a camera. And I do not compete. Some people go nuts, when they see that someone gain on them. There are many sides to this, but I think I am a careful and conscientious driver. But fast, too.
MR: One of your sons is following your path in acting, have you infected either of them with motorcycling?
I: No. I gave them the same advice that I got back then. Wait with the motor until you had driven a car for at least 10 years. My older son has been driving since he was 18, so he could even change now. It would make sense, too, since he lives in London. Interestingly, my younger son is not interested at all in riding. He drives, too, but only got the driver’s license at the age of 24 in America. He’s simply not attracted to the idea. Although when he was little, he drove a quad on our farm, he jumped with that everywhere. As I would not advise anyone to be an actor, I would not say to buy a motorcycle. Or buy, but be aware of the dangers. Because there are. Though nothing more than in the case of horse riding (which I also like very much). But the motor riding, just like horse riding and anything else that is exciting, carries potential risks. Therefore, be sure you are very good at them. So, you have to be careful with such an advice. One day the sign will come anyway that you are ready and you can go and buy your bike and start up on the thing.
MR: You live in a medieval castle that you restored. Do old engines attract you in the same way as old buildings?
I: I like looking at them. I really liked the exhibition that was organized by the Guggenheim Museum, but I’m not obsessed with technology. I think I like motorbikes, because they give me freedom. I am interested how reliable they are, how well they work, how nice they look, but I am not crazy obsessed with them. What I enjoy in bikes is what they do to my life.