Jeremy Irons was photographed for The New York Times Style Magazine, in Budapest, Hungary, by Monika Hofler.
Jeremy Irons was photographed for The New York Times Style Magazine, in Budapest, Hungary, by Monika Hofler.
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Google translated from German:
Jeremy Irons:. “I sing only for friends or at the pub”
On the day of the gala premiere of “Night Train to Lisbon” Oscar winner Jeremy Irons met at the Bellevue Hotel in Bern for an interview. His immense presence was already being felt from a distance. Irons sat on a chair in front of the open balcony doors and smoking a cigarette when I entered the room. Without being asked then, Irons grabbed a chair and placed it next to his and put the receiving device on his right. This rootedness and openness, he also presented in the conversation about the Bernese nightlife. Miscast in his “Night Train to Lisbon” and his role in the TV series “Borgia”
Backstage: What memories do you have of the filming here in Bern last year?
Jeremy Irons: Oh, very happy memories. But short. We were only here for two days. Still, it was wonderful to come to Bern. I knew the city was not before. I also love cities that are located along rivers. I love these big, high bridges here and the architecture of the shops. The arcades are perfect because you despite snow and rain can enjoy the shopping. Yes, I have happy memories of Bern, very happy. And to the people. These certain slowness in Bern and the pleasant pace fascinated me. It stands in stark contrast to London and New York, where everything has to happen very quickly. People there do not have much time for each other. In Bern, this is totally different. Here you have time to chat and that’s very nice.
Backstage: Do you have the novel “Night Train to Lisbon”known before the film?
Jeremy: No, I had only heard of the novel, when I was asked to do the film. Then I read the book and loved it. When I was with the book, suddenly people came up to me and said, “This is my favorite book.” That was very strange, because I’ve never heard of it before. It is a very interesting book. It provides the readers questions like “What are you doing with your life? Is that what you want to do? ‘. These are very important and good questions, I think. I thought that it will be a difficult book to be implemented, since a lot of philosophy is contained therein. But Bille (Director August, editor’s note) has created a very concentrated version, I think, captures the spirit of the book. What is your feeling? How did you find it?
Backstage: Yes, it is a shortened and condensed version, some characters such as Florence or Fatima are not treated, but that does not make a big difference. The essence of the book is there.
Jeremy: Yes, the essence of the book is there, I think so.
Backstage: Some critics have but perhaps struggling with the fact that Gregorius – the hero of the story, which you embody – decides after only 15 minutes of play, to put up in the night train to Lisbon …
Jeremy: Yes, there are some things for which there is not enough time in the film. That’s the problem, you understand me?
Backstage: Absolutely. The film is a different medium than the book.
Jeremy: Exactly, it is a different object. I think it is not in a manner fair to compare the two. But it is legitimate to ask whether the one reflects the essence of the other. It is as if you have a diamond and a picture of the diamond in front of him. There are two completely different subjects, but the painting can give you a feel for the diamond? If it is a good painting, they do so perhaps. Ok, maybe that’s not a good analogy, but you know what I mean, it’s a different medium.
Backstage: Are you an amateur philosopher?
Jeremy: I think so, but I do not spend much time talking about philosophy, but when I stumble across it, I love it. In this way, I’m a little like Gregorius. What fascinates him about Amadeu’s book is, indeed, that he found written down ideas that were lying somewhere in his head. If we come across a book that in a figurative sense speaks our language, share our unformed thoughts, we feel connected to the book. Someone else has solidified our meandering thoughts. And that makes us naturally clear that we share a common humanity. The same fears and concerns. I love historical biographies and read many biographies, I like it noted that other people have encountered in their lives to the same thoughts and problems as I did in mine.
Backstage: What similarities do you have with Gregorius?
Jeremy: We have very few similarities. Every time I drive to work, I get on a night train to Lisbon. I find new people. I love to learn more about other people, explore new places and live in different worlds. So I make my living. But what Gregorius and I have in common is that we are the same (laughs). But we think differently. Although I often think of very boring, like Gregorius.
Backstage: Do you think that they were the right choice for Gregorius?
Jeremy: No, I do not think so. I think we do not see very similar. Gregorius I have a little older, balder and presented uncharismatic. And as an actor I think I have a certain charisma. This I had to suppress it for the role in some ways.
Backstage: Was that difficult?
Jeremy: Hmm, I think the one he needs a little bit of charisma, because it is also a love story and the audience has to be worth watching Gregorius. I hope that one of the reasons why I got the role, the one was that I feel very comfortable here, to play characters who do very little. So that viewers still see the change in him, even if I do not do great things. Through this production, I was reminded of how much can be achieved with small gestures. As an actor, you have to act sometimes less. Instead of playing a lot more you have to think about and somehow it adds also to the outside, as one is perceived. Years ago, I played in a series called “Brideshead Revisited” with. That figure was similar to Gregorius. Charles was a simple man who meets this wonderful aristocratic family and is absorbed by it. He was all the time the observer bringing the audience into the story, she let him feel the same. And so even Gregory does in this movie.
Backstage: You played so Gregorius, although it does not feel right for the character?
Jeremy: If I had a choice to make, I would not have chosen.
Backstage: Who you would cast in Gregorius?
Jeremy: Who I would choose? I do not know … maybe Rush… Anthony Hopkins, Geoffrey and William Hurt …
Backstage: How was it working with Bille August?
Jeremy: Wonderful. I’ve been using for Bille “House of Spirits” worked many years ago, so I knew him. And I liked it, liked the way he works. He is very accurate, fast and he is very polite. On his sets it’s going to always be very cheerful and so forth. He knows what he wants, unlike many directors who filmed everything going on it until the actors are tired and bored with the scenes. Bille has a good flavour, it matches the illustrations in small ways, so that it all fits together and works. You can trust him, so I enjoy working with him. For me there is a better director.
Backstage: And how was it working with the other actors?
Jeremy: Also wonderful because all the actors are very good. Unfortunately, I have not shot with the youngsters, but my God, we were very lucky, just think of Bruno Ganz. Or Martina Gedeck, an actress I’ve seen in “The Lives of Others” and that impressed me greatly. I met her in Budapest when I was there she made a film with Istvan Szabo (The Door, editor’s note). We spent a little time and I really liked her. As they would then suggested for the part of Mariana, I found this fantastic. Charlotte Rampling, is also a good actress, with whom I had previously been worked. And Portuguese actor, whose name I can not remember just not the one who plays the hotel owner. I love him, we had a lot of fun on set. Lena Olin, another leading actress, with whom I played in “Casanova.” When you work with so many good actors, it is so easy to. It really adds to the enjoyment. They were very happy filming, which is rare, but this shoot was really nice.
Backstage: You could also visit very beautiful places …
Jeremy: Absolutely. I love Portugal, but I was the last time for the filming of “House of Spirits” there. But this time around. To a completely different part, in the historic centre of Lisbon, which is very crumbly, romantic and simply wonderful We can shoot for this very lucky, it is not always so nice.
Backstage: Gregory is a teacher at the Bern Kirchenfeld High School. If you were a teacher, what subject would you teach?
Jeremy: Well, I would probably teach drama as this is my job. Strangely, I wish in a way that we would teach all one afternoon a week something. They spend an afternoon, for example, about journalism, or tell about writing. So we could pass our enthusiasm for our work to the children. I think that teachers do a great job with everything they do and how they do it year after year. I think everyone has something in his life that he can pass on to students that to help children gain a better understanding of life. I think this should be something that we offer to the children on a regular basis.
Backstage: Your latest TV production is a series called “Borgias”. Do you think the episode is interesting shape for a performer, because the characters have more and longer time for deployment?
Jeremy: This is the joy, exactly. I have now shot 30 hours of “The Borgias”, which are about 15 films with the same character. The challenges to the rise in screenplays. It is important to ensure that the books are not simply be a repetition of the events in different ways, but the characters are expanded and share an inconsistency that makes it really interesting too. Because we are all just inconsistent and we behave in our being. Shakespeare, for example, was a poet who brought this issue to their best advantage. Characters in movies are usually more stable, less in books where there are more opportunities for inconsistencies. Inconsistency allows it to display an actor depths and the true reality. There is therefore a great privilege for me to play in this series. Alexander is also a very interesting one, an exceptionally broad man, a great administrator, a man of God, but also a man with enormous sensual appetites. Mix all of these facets together to be able to make me a lot of fun.
Backstage: Soon again you come out with a movie, “Beautiful Creatures.” What can we expect?
Jeremy: I was told that the movie to “Twilight” genre is one, but I have “Twilight” is not seen, so I can not say exactly. My son Max has (written by “Twilight” author Stephenie Meyer, editor’s note) is also a movie called “The Host”, which also belongs to this genre. In “Beautiful Creatures” I play the father figure Macon Ravenwood. He is described as incubus, but I’m honestly not quite sure what is meant by an incubus (An incubus is a kind of strange dream-eating demon, editor’s note). He is someone who has been, as it was required of him, as it’s just so many people. The story takes place in South Carolina in the United States. Macon is a man who lives alone and is happy here. A gentleman of great style, wit and knowledge. But the story is basically a love story between two young people.
Backstage: Christopher Lee confessed in an interview today that he’s releasing a heavy metal album.
Jeremy: Did he really?
Backstage: Yes. He is represented with his vocals on it. What about you? Can you imagine for a music album or sing for a musical such as “Les Miserables”?
Jeremy: I think my voice is not good enough for that (laughs). The actors in “Les Misérables” all have an excellent voice. But I used to sing a little when I was younger. In musical theater productions. But when I last sang? (Thinks). I made a recording of “My Fair Lady” with Kiri Te Kanawa, but now it was years ago. Today I sing only for friends or pub.
Backstage: Will we hear you sing today in Bern at a pub?
Jeremy: I’m afraid, but I have not enough time (laughs). Is there really a lot of good music in Bern Local?
Backstage: No, unfortunately there are not that many for himself singing, actually practically not a single good place to eat.
Jeremy: Are you serious?
Backstage: Bern is unfortunately no “Nightlife City” …
Jeremy: So not much of nightlife in Bern? I thought so. I remember when I came here for the first time and then someone asked if Bern is a party town. Having been told the following: “However, we all have a good time here. If it’s nice outside, we sit in front of the cafes and drink “and I was like,” Ok, understood “(laughs).
Jeremy Irons is featured in the March/April 2013 issue of Cigar Aficionado magazine.
This magazine is a must own for any Jeremy Irons fan. Be sure to buy a copy at your local news stand, book seller or cigar store.
Here are scans and photographs of the magazine. Click on the thumbnails to enlarge the images and read the text.
All images © Cigar Aficionado Magazine [Text by Marshall Fine - Portraits by Jim Wright] No copyright infringement intended.
Read the original article HERE.
In the Candida Brady directed documentary, Trashed, actor Jeremy Irons turns civilian as he ventures across the globe in search of solutions to the ecological crisis, while uniquely casting himself as a protagonist. And Irons also ponders during this exclusive interview when phoning from a set in Budapest, what the ultimate responsibility of an actor’s voice should be in the real world. Here’s Jeremy Irons, talking Trashed.
1. Do you recall when you first became alarmed about the harmful and destructive problem of waste on the planet, and decided to do something about it?
It didn’t happen quite like that. I wanted to make a documentary about an important subject. A subject which I thought should be brought to people’s attention. And Candida Brady, the director of Trashed, imparted some information to me. So I thought, this is an amazing subject. This is something we have to get on the screen, to make people aware of the situation. So it was really from her that I got the idea. You know, I always think of myself, I’m an actor and a storyteller. I normally tell fictional stories. But I see no reason why it isn’t a logical progression, to tell real stories. And I think the story of Trashed is worth telling.
2. And what led you to be part of this film as not only the narrator, but the very unusual position of protagonist in a documentary?
Well, I narrate many documentaries. But now to be there in a way, as an audience member, somebody who knows nothing about the situation. Although I did of course know a little bit about it. But I wanted to ask the questions that the audience would have asked, had they had a chance. And I felt it was very important to be meshed into it, in that way.
3. And how would you compare and contrast your very different roles as actor and activist?
Well, inquiry is needed in both. If I’m playing a character in a drama, I have to inquire about the world he lives in. And the sort of person he is, and what he’s done with his life. So I have to discover all of that. And the great advantage I have as an actor, is that I’m known. And therefore people will listen to me and watch me. And I feel in a way, that’s a responsibility. I have a voice. I should use it. And not just with drama.
4. Jeremy, talk about the most horrific part of Trashed, the deformed children even decades later in post-war Vietnam.
As far as all those deformed fetuses in the bottles there, which was very upsetting, it was important to show that. And war I think, is something we have to fight against. You know, it’s hard to see the upside of any war. It may seem like a good idea at the beginning, but by the time you finish you think really, we shouldn’t have done that.
5. How does it feel to make that major switchup personally, from celebrity to just another civilian venturing out into the world among people, to talk about environmental issues. Rather than say, people venturing into theaters to see you?
I love it. I’ve always believed that to be an artist, an interesting artist, you have to be involved in life. You have to care about life. It’s an enormous privilege, doing the work I do. It brings me into people’s lives, sometimes into people’s hearts. And not to use that intimacy that I have with my audience, to tell them something that I believe is important, would seem a terrible thing. And an abuse of my position.
6. And how do you feel your activism concerning the environment has changed you?
When I see how people are amazed by this film, it gives me some of the joy maybe a teacher gets, when he sees people being really affected. And of course it’s the people in the audience who will get things changed. These big changes that we have to make to the way we behave and the way we live, they take time. And they build on themselves. And I see our film as being part of that process.
7. What about the challenge of opposing the huge corporations, and their stranglehold on the government?
I think it’s an enormous shame, that governments have seem to lost the voice of the people. And who don’t want to be controlled by vast, amoral corporations. We cannot live in that way. And I think our governments have to fight corporations on our behalf. For instance, plastic makes money for a lot of people. But nobody has discovered a way to get rid of it. Our governments should be our guardians. We elect them to look after us. And not just to make people rich.
Jeremy Irons attending the opening reception of the 2012 Art Market Budapest on 7 November 2012.
Jeremy was interviewed at the Art Market Budapest opening and it aired on Hungarian radio: http://hangtar.radio.hu/kossuth
Interview starts: (Translated from Hungarian dubbing)
Magyar Radio- What captures you?
Jeremy Irons- It’s very personal I think what captures you in art. The great thing about this show is the different artists. That so many different artists’ work are exhibited so I would be very surprised if somebody wouldn’t find a piece that he likes. It’s fantastic even if sometimes the meaning of two objects next to each other is completely different. It’s true that there’s only one or two objects from the same artist, but you get inspired. For example, I saw a painting from this artist from Budapest and I’ll ask for further information about where I could find more of his works. So, I hope that everyone who has an opportunity, not only from Hungary, but from Austria, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia will come and see these pictures and will find something they like. What that thing is is personal. I was captured by a picture because it was created in such a beautiful style. There are colours in it and it tells a story, it conveys a feeling. But my taste is not everybody else’s.
Magyar Radio- I was wondering if artists can be distinguished on the basis of where they are coming from. Which country or region?
Jeremy Irons- No, I don’t think you can identify their origin. If you see the pictures in the National Gallery here in Budapest, you will see something similar as in Prague. You can feel some Central European effect that you won’t meet in Paris or London at artists from the same age. Maybe the approach was more romantic. But as for modern artwork, it’s very difficult to distinguish. Perhaps, there’s some kind of humour in the Central European art that you can’t find in the same form in Western Europe. Humour I like.
Magyar Radio- Working here you perhaps gained some personal experience about this mentality?
Jeremy Irons- Yes, to a certain extent. And I am very happy that I could experience it.
A Great Evening with Skyfall
The British Embassy Budapest organised an exclusive film screening of the most recent James Bond movie in Cinema City Arena on 26 October.
The British Embassy welcomed Hungarian politicians, business leaders, ambassadors as well as representatives of Ministries, British companies and like-minded Embassies at the event.
British actor Jeremy Irons, Hungarian Minister for National Development Zsuzsa Németh and olympic silver and bronze medalist swimmer László Cseh also came along to watch Skyfall on the day of the world premiere.
Before the screening British Ambassador Jonathan Knott delivered a short welcome speech in which he highlighted the areas of British excellence and emphasised the great British charasteristics of James Bond.
Translated from Hungarian:
Jeremy Irons, there is no better system
Jeremy Irons has spent a long time shooting in Hungary. The Academy Award and Golden Globe winning British actor has been happily married for decades. His wife is actress Sinéad Cusack, they have two sons.
Marriage provides a framework to raise children. There are countries where it is useful to be married due to the tax system, in other cultures it signals that “off with your hands”! Personally, I believe it is still the best institution to raise a child. If I had fallen in love with someone, with whom we hadn’t wanted children, I would not have been interested in this bond, but if your intents are serious, then marriage is the only way. There are storms in all marriages, but the kids need two parents, even if you argue sometimes – says Jeremy Irons, who believes in marriage.
Not that marriage is a walk in the park, but it is important in raising children. My kids have already flew out, but every parent knows that kids do not ever really fly out. They need maternal-paternal care even when they are over thirty. And deep down it is important for them to know mum and dad are fine.
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.
Jeremy Irons, tired of filming in scorching Budapest, decided to travel around the Slovak mountains with friends. He booked a room at the last minute and his only requirement was a view of the lake. He stayed in a single room at the Kempinski Grand Hotel High Tatras, and soon after breakfast, he returned to Budapest, where he went back to filming again.
He parked his bike by Lake Strbske and walked around the lake. He visited the most luxurious hotel in the High Tatras. He was served by Kocák chef Gabriel, who came to the Tatras from Michelin restaurant Hangar 7 in Salzburg, Austria.
Jeremy relished Irish lamb as a main dish, preceded by foie gras. Despite trying to be inconspicuous, he couldn’t escape guests looking at his table and was sent a bottle of champagne. The actor praised the hotel’s wellness ZION SPA overlooking the Tatra peaks and peaceful body of water Lake Štrbské.
The actor channels his innate “touch of melancholia” to create an addictive crime-family patriarch in Showtime’s epic drama “The Borgias.”
11:44 AM PDT 6/6/2012
by Marisa Guthrie
This story first appeared in the June 2012 Special Emmy Issue of The Hollywood Reporter.
A rainy April afternoon in New York finds Jeremy Irons, 63, chain-smoking hand-rolled cigarettes (he buys the tobacco at airport duty free shops) in his suite at the Upper East Side boutique Lowell Hotel. He is enjoying a moment away from his peripatetic work schedule: In addition to playing the lead on Showtime’s The Borgias, which shoots in Budapest, the British Oscar winner (Reversal of Fortune) also has completed work on Bille August’s Night Train to Lisbon, shot on location in Portugal, and is shooting Richard LaGravenese’s Beautiful Creatures in New Orleans. With his signature candor, Irons shares his take on the “bullshit” of fame, how a revealing dinner at the Vatican prepped him for his role as Renaissance Pope Rodrigo Borgia and the two American actors who have intimidated him.
The Hollywood Reporter: What drives you to keep working?
Jeremy Irons: It’s a bit of a drug. But it’s important that you have a very strong life with other passions that counter balances the work so that you know why you’re working. Fame and success are valueless. We have a culture where everybody wants to be famous. And you think, why? Because we’re being told that will bring happiness. And it’s all bullshit. Admittedly, it’s very nice wandering down the street and people saying, “Hi, love your work”; and going into a restaurant and people saying, “Oh, we’ll find you a table.” The whole world’s your village. But you have to put up with everybody wanting to know your business.
THR: How long do you see yourself playing Rodrigo Borgia?
Irons: I ask myself that every day. And I ask [creator and executive producer] Neil Jordan that every day. When they originally asked me to do it, they said, “Listen, it might run for four years.” And I gasped! But Neil is a filmmaker. So in a way, he’s educating himself to write for television. This makes the series a little slower than Showtime would like. But we’ve picked it up a bit, shorter scenes and more [snaps fingers] in season two.
THR: Do you like Borgia as a character?
Irons: You can’t play someone and not like him. You are inside him, and they are you. I like Borgia’s appetite; I like that he eats life, won’t take shit and that he has flaws. He’s not a good guy, he’s not a bad guy, he’s a guy. He’s power hungry; he doesn’t want to waste his time in this life. I share that with him. I’m not power hungry, just easily bored and want to make the most of the four score years and 10, if I’m lucky, while I’m on the planet.
THR: I read somewhere that when Borgias started shooting, you had dinner with an archbishop. What was that experience like?
Irons: Yes, it was at the Vatican. When he asked me in the door, he said, “You are now safe; no one can get you here; you are diplomatically immune.” I thought, “Well, that’s nice to know; I’ll put that address in my book.” We shared a bottle of wine in his kitchen, which was pretty spartan. And around 11 o’clock, we went to the roof to have a cigarette, and he pointed over the rooftops to a cell of lighted windows and said, “There’s Rodrigo Borgias’ modern counterpart; he’s still awake, doesn’t sleep much, sits and plays his piano.” Then we went downstairs, by which time [the archbishop’s] mistress had arrived.
THR: You’re allowed to have a mistress in the Vatican?
Irons: It would seem so.
THR: Who was this person?
Irons: It would be wrong to mention names. But all I can say is that nothing really has changed. We now think that the pope is next to God. Well, in those days the pope was head of the Church but behaved as any man would behave — or most men would behave.
THR: Are you Catholic?
Irons: Not really. I was baptized Church of England. My children are Catholic; my wife is Catholic. But I’m not really a club member, never have been. I go to Mass because I enjoy times of reflection. But I’m not a regular at all.
THR: How pigeonholed have you felt as an actor?
Irons: You’re always pigeonholed a bit. I do play the occasional American character, but I’m thought of as an “English actor.” I’m tall, slim and do bring a certain thing. You can’t get away from that. I’m never going to be cast as a sort of Danny DeVito character.
THR: Well, you have done a few projects with comedic elements.
Irons: Glad you’ve noticed! I seem to be known as enigmatic: Is he good, is he bad? Can we trust him, or is he just evil?
THR: But certainly no one has accused you of being Mr. Sunshine.
Irons: No, but I can show you a few films where I was Mr. Sunshine — although there’s always a touch of melancholia. I try not to put my feet in the footsteps that I’ve been in before. All actors have a certain smell. You can say that’s a Jeremy Irons role, that’s an Al Pacino role, or that’s a De Niro role. My biggest competition for roles is maybe Alan Rickman, in a way, or Bill Hurt. It’s all about the work you’ve done that adds up to your aroma.
THR: You’ve worked opposite fellow Oscar winners Meryl Streep, Kevin Spacey and Helen Mirren. Do better actors make you better?
Irons: Yes. It’s like tennis; it ups your game if you have someone playing good tennis against you.
THR: Have you ever been intimidated by one of your co-stars?
Irons: De Niro used to intimidate me. He doesn’t give any quarter, but he’s mellowed now. And Al Pacino is quite intimidating.
THR: Any leading ladies?
Irons: Intimidated me? No.
Email: Marisa.Guthrie@thr.com; Twitter: @MarisaGuthrie