Jeremy Irons – The A.V. Club Interview

Read the original interview HERE.

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Jeremy Irons on Shakespeare, The Simpsons, and enjoyable inconsistencies

by Will Harris January 31, 2013

Jeremy Irons’ filmography encompasses everything from Disney to David Cronenberg, plus a 1990 Best Actor Oscar win for Reversal Of Fortune, but his first efforts as an actor were on the stage, and one of his initial entryways into the dramatic arts came via Shakespeare’s work. Which explains why he was tapped to host an episode of PBS’ new documentary series Shakespeare Uncovered; Irons’ instalment, airing February 1, will cover Henry IV and Henry V. In conjunction with the show, Irons spoke to The A.V. Club during the Television Critics Association winter press tour about how he came to participate in the program, which of the villains he’s played is the most Shakespearean, and how his training prepared him to play a bar rag on The Simpsons.

The A.V. Club: What was the initial pitch when you were approached about Shakespeare Uncovered?

Jeremy Irons: Well, it was that we were going to make a documentary about the plays, about the locations, where they were written, the historical occurrences around the period, and where Shakespeare diverges and where he follows history, and why. They said to me, “We’ll do it all in four days for you. Do you want to do it?” And I had the time, and I thought it was a very interesting idea. Because anything that opens up Shakespeare to an audience is good. You know, he has a lot of disadvantages. But he’s often taught badly, and people haven’t seen great productions, so they sort of think, “Mmm, I don’t think so. I think that’s a bit heavy.” So anything that can make people realize that he’s a fantastic playwright, a fantastic story-writer, and open it up for them in their minds… well, it must be a good thing.

AVC: Did you have carte blanche to select which plays you wanted to tackle for your episode, or did they say, “Hamlet’s off the tableDavid Tennant gets first pick because he used to host Masterpiecebut anything else is up for grabs”?

JI: [Laughs.] No, I was doing Henry IV at the time [for BBC2’s The Hollow Crown], so they thought it would be interesting if I did the one that included the two plays that I was doing.

AVC: What was your first introduction to Shakespeare?

JI: I think it was The Winter’s Tale… Well, no, no, no, it wasn’t. I’ll tell you what it was: It was reading ’round the class in my English lessons at school. And I think perhaps once a week in English, we would choose a bit of a Shakespeare play, and we’ll all take characters, and we’d sit at our desks and read them. But it wasn’t until I began to see productions at Stratford and… I can’t actually remember the first Shakespeare I saw, though I think it might have been the Hollow Crown series, with Alan Howard. Peter Brook’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, I remember seeing. That was pretty early on. And suddenly I realized how theatrical Shakespeare is, how alive, how wonderful it is when it’s opened up by a great director and a great company.

AVC: Was it Shakespeare that made you want to become an actor?

JI: He was one of many. No, I wanted to become an actor because I wanted to become a gypsy. [Laughs.] I wanted to live the gypsy life!

AVC: You mentioned The Winter’s Tale a moment ago. That was the first Shakespeare play you actually performed, correct? At the Old Vic?

JI: The Bristol Old Vic, yeah.

AVC: The Winter’s Tale is one of the lesser-adapted Shakespeare plays when it comes to film and television. Do you have any theories as to why that is?

JI: Hmm. No, I don’t. But I’d actually love to film it. It’d be very interesting to film, because it’s all about two sorts of people. It’s about the really buttoned-up and the very loose people, the people who are always touching, which is like I am. The so-called Bohemian people. [Laughs.] Especially now, in this world where we’re so politically correct, and you’re not allowed to hold the hand of a little girl under the age of 14, and you’re not allowed to do this, you’re not allowed to do that, you’re not allowed to smack your children… You have to be so correct. And you compare that with the ’60s and ’70s and that time, with hippies and free love. And to have those two societies rubbing up against each other, which you have in The Winter’s Tale, it’s interesting.

AVC: Watching your episode of Shakespeare Uncovered offers a reminder of just how many of Shakespeare’s lines have filtered into pop culture, such as Christopher Plummer delivering the “dogs of war” speech in Star Trek VI

JI: [Laughs.] Yep, yep, yep.

AVC: Do you have a favorite example of Shakespeare being adapted for current tastes in popular culture?

JI: Well, I mean, I saw Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus, which was a very interesting way to show the play. Ian McKellen’s Richard III. Again, an interesting film. I suppose you could argue The Lion King, in a way. [Laughs.] We always say that he has entered our language with so many of these colorful phrases that we use in life. I suspect that they were phrases that were being used at that time, which he used in his plays. I’m not sure he necessarily invented them all.

AVC: You mentioned The Lion King, but looking beyond Scar, who would you say is the most Shakespearean villain in your back catalog?

JI: I think Simon in Die Hard With A Vengeance, a man who enjoys creating mayhem and living his own rules. Quite Shakespearean.

AVC: Earlier today, you suggested that you might have a performance of King Lear lurking within you somewhere. Is that something you anticipate letting out anytime soon?

JI: Oh, I don’t know. How soon is soon? [Laughs.] In the next 10 years, let’s say. I’d like to do Iago [in Othello], who is a wonderful character. A smiling villain. I’ve also never done a Don John, in Much Ado [About Nothing], who is a really unhappy man. I’ve always tended to play people who relish playing against the rules.

AVC: Rodrigo Borgia on The Borgias seems to qualify for that category. 

JI: Oh yes. He is wonderfully bad, isn’t he? [Laughs.] He’s a man who… well, one of the great things about Shakespeare is that his characters are inconsistent, and that’s something I think makes him a writer above most writers, because inconsistency is what we as people are full of. We maybe don’t see it in ourselves too often, but we are inconsistent. We think one thing one day and something else another day. We act a certain way one day and another way a second day. And Shakespeare knew that. Now, that’s very hard to play on film. It’s very hard to get a writer who will write characters who are inconsistent. They see it as somehow a failure. But when playing the Pontiff, the great thing is, I’ve had time to develop those inconsistencies. The fact that he was no doubt a man of God—maybe his faith wavered sometimes, but he was a man of God, as most people were then—and yet he is able to authorize assassinations and live in a way which we would think, “Well, that’s not very godly.” But then you look at George W. Bush, and you think, “Well, he was also calling himself a man of God,” but he also sanctioned actions around the world—basically in Iran—where thousands of innocent civilians were killed because of his decisions. So we all contain a bit of that.

AVC: Many actors admit to taking certain TV and film projects solely to subsidize their theater work. Has that ever been the case for you?

JI: It’s sort of incidental, really. I mean, you manage a career, you have to pay bills, and… sometimes I have done work to subsidize my life. [Laughs.] And to subsidize other works, yes. Less so now. Now I’m lucky enough to be comfortable enough that I can just choose what I want to do. It sort of doesn’t matter too much what I’m paid for it, and I do what I enjoy doing now. But when I was starting, yes, very much, television would subsidize my theater work.

AVC: In what way did your Shakespearean training prepare you to play a bar rag on The Simpsons?

JI: It taught me the importance of the smallest character, the most insignificant character, who not only has a great history, but who is as involved and as caring and as emotional as the largest character, the most active character. So it taught me not to take the bar rag for granted and to realize that he was, in his soul, Hamlet. How’s that? [Laughs.]

The Lion King Directors on Working with Jeremy Irons

Read the full interview at Flickering Myth Movie Blog

Friday, 23 September 2011

Special Features: Q&A with The Lion King directors Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers

Flickering Myth was one of a number of sites invited to take part in a virtual roundtable interview with Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers, co-directors of The Lion King, to discuss the 3D re-release of the animated Disney classic, ahead of its arrival in the U.K. on October 7th.

The resulting two-hour Q&A covered a whole range of topics including the making of the original film, its recent conversion to 3D, traditional animations vs. computer animation, the future of the industry and much more.

Here are the excerpts which pertain to Jeremy Irons:

Q:  Can you share with us some memories of working with Jeremy Irons?

Roger Allers: Jeremy is a gentleman and a brilliant actor. He always gave us extra interpretations of lines which were fantastic.

Q:  I think that Scar is the best villain of all Disney`s movies.What do you think about Jeremy Irons voice performance?

Roger Allers: I think I’d put Jeremy’s performance up on the top of all time best vocal performances.

 

Irons Man Two: Max Irons

Max Irons is featured in the London Evening Standard in an article from 11 March 2011, by Richard Godwin.  Photographs by Hamish Brown.

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Max Irons walks into a West London café dressed in a slim black overcoat, smelling slightly of tobacco. You can tell he’s a bit of a rebel as he is brazenly drinking from a carton of Ribena. For some reason – his regally handsome looks? family connections? – the waitresses don’t seem to mind.

I had been warned that Irons – 25-year-old model, actor and son of Jeremy Irons and Sinead Cusack – would be rather shy, but, on the contrary, he’s wholly self-assured. He talks about his dyslexia, which was so bad he couldn’t write his name at eight; his expulsion from boarding school for getting caught in flagrante with his girlfriend just before his A levels; what it was like watching his dad have sex with a minor on screen in Lolita (‘weird’, but it’s one of Max’s favourite films); and the family’s controversial holiday castle in Kilcoe, Ireland, the colour of which has become an obsession of the tabloid press. ‘Listen: pink was the undercoat, it’s now a nice rusty orange,’he says.

And if his CV is still looking a little sparse given the hype that surrounds him, Max ought to put that right with his latest projects. After training at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and appearing in a couple of plays on the London fringe, he is about to appear as a drug-addicted pornographer in the Sky mini-series The Runaway and, before that, in a big-budget reimagining of Red Riding Hood by Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke. ‘You’ve got to forget about what you know about Little Red Riding Hood and inject a bit of sexuality,’he explains. I thought Little Red Riding Hood was all about sexuality? ‘Well, yes, it’s about rape. But it’s very subconscious…’

At any rate, this version has a sexuality that’s precision-tooled to set young female audiences’hormones raging, with Amanda Seyfried as the hooded heroine and Irons as her rich suitor. Clearly, there’s an invitation to follow the Robert Pattinson route to teen idol (Hardwicke describes Max by saying, ‘He’s 6ft 3in, drop-dead gorgeous, and has this crazy magnetism’), but Max is wary of being typecast as a heart-throb. He recently ‘found’ himself talking to Disney about Snow and the Seven, a similarly racy reboot of the Snow White tale. ‘I was thinking, if I get this, they would probably pay a bit, there would be a lot of exposure – but I could pretty much bank on not having the kind of career I want.’He talks admiringly of Andrew Garfield and Tom Hardy, two young British actors who have made interesting career choices, and speaks of his love for Pinter and Stoppard: ‘I want to have a career that lasts 60 years, not six.’

He has a wariness of Hollywood and laughs at the ridiculous diets and the punishing vanity. ‘At the end of a really, really, really horrible workout, the only thing I want to do is… have a smoke,’he laughs. (He started smoking at 13, liquorice roll-ups, same as his father.) He remains a Londoner, commuting back and forth to LA, where he met his girlfriend, the Australian actress Emily Browning, 22, who has just starred in a sexy Australian take on the Sleeping Beauty story and is shortly to hit our screens in the big-budget teen flick Sucker Punch (no relation to the recent Royal Court play). For the moment Max continues to live with his parents in a cottage on a cobbled mews in West London, to which we retire halfway through the interview, when the din at the café becomes overwhelming. The Irons residence is cosy and bohemian, with an overflowing ashtray, a warm red colour scheme and battered leather sofas. A note pinned to the front door, on Sinead Cusack-headed notepaper, addresses itself to the family cyclists with the word ‘HELMET!’.

Max is touching when talking about his parents, whose marriage is the subject of endless tabloid speculation, though it has lasted more than three decades. The gossip doesn’t bother him, he says. ‘I remember there was a story – I must have been about ten – and it was about him reportedly kissing a co-star. And they said to me, ”Look, there’s going to be a story in the papers tomorrow. It’s not true.” And that was fine. You learn very quickly not to Google yourself.’

He grew up between the family’s Oxfordshire estate, where the novelist Ian McEwan was a neighbour, and London. He was sent to a state boarding school, where, funny to think now, he was mercilessly bullied for his pudding-bowl haircut and the ‘fucking medieval’ inverted yellow glasses he wore to correct his reading. Otherwise, he describes his childhood as happy and stable. One parent, usually Cusack, would try to stay at home while the other was away filming.

He lights up when I mention how much I loved the 1989 film of Roald Dahl’s Danny, the Champion of the World, which starred Jeremy Irons as an unconventional widower trying to raise his son (played by Max’s older brother Samuel, now a photographer). ‘I was two when the film came out, but I watched it so much as a kid, and it made me cry terribly.’Is there a parallel with his own father-son relationship? ‘I would like to say yes,’he says mysteriously, before deciding, ‘Actually I would say there is. My dad’s not lawless but he’s got his own set of morals and ethics which don’t always agree with other people’s – like in the movie. It’s not unjust what they do, or unfair, but it’s unconventional. I kind of respect that, especially these days.’

That unconventional streak emerged in Max when he was sent to Bryanston, a mixed boarding school in Dorset. He was always getting suspended. ‘Nothing serious, only girls, booze, cigarettes. My parents always said,”You’re really bad at getting caught.” I replied,”No, I was just doing it a lot.” That way, statistically, you’re more likely to get caught.’His parents once sent him to observe a school in Zimbabwe, just after Robert Mugabe had come to power, to remind him of his privilege – with mixed results. He was kicked out of Bryanston prior to his A levels, after a teacher caught him having sex.

His parents also exercised caution when he announced that he, too, wanted a career in acting, pointing out that they were in the ‘zero point one’per cent who were successful. They are not overly involved now, though ‘every now and then, there’s a bit of fatherly advice but it’s mainly to do with what to expect from Los Angeles, not how to actually do the acting’.

In fact, he tells me, the dyslexia was the bigger factor in his career choice. ‘The teacher would come along and say, ”Are you finding it all right?” and I would say, ”Yeah, it’s brilliant, I’m loving it, easy,” and that was a bit of acting in itself. You have to rely on charm a lot.’

At first, scripts terrified him, as he was unable to read them, but now he studies his lines beforehand. ‘When I applied to drama school, they had this sheet you had to fill in saying whether you had any disabilities and I called up and asked,”Does dyslexia count?” and they said,”It’s practically a qualification.” ’

I ask him if he’s scared of not being taken seriously. ‘No. I know I have to combat the fact that my parents are actors at least for the next ten years. It’s tied up with dyslexia. You want to give the impression you’re successful. That you’re well, often when you’re not.’He pauses. ‘When you’ve got parents who’ve done what you want to do, as much as they’re proud of you, they can’t be as amazed by it, because they’ve done it themselves. The only person I can amaze is me. I’ve got to do it for me. So… fuck the world, to an extent.’It’s an attitude that has served other members of his family rather well.

Red Riding Hood will be out in cinemas in the US from 11 March and in the UK from 15 April.

Click on the thumbnails for larger images:


Jeremy Irons Talks About Law and Order: SVU

From Daemon’s TV:

LAW & ORDER: SVU is known for attracting high profile and talented guest stars, and that streak continues with the “Mask” episode, airing on NBC January 12, when Oscar winning actor Jeremy Irons makes his American network television debut.

Irons plays Captain Jackson, the estranged father of a woman attacked by a man wearing a haunting mask. Jackson’s work as a sex therapist becomes an obstacle to Detectives Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Stabler (Chris Meloni) as they try to gather evidence in their investigation into his daughter’s attack. A. J. Cook (Criminal Minds) is also guest starring as the victim’s girlfriend.

A Best Actor Oscar winner for his role as Claus Von Bulow in ‘Reversal of Fortune,’ Irons has acted in films ranging from ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’ and the uber- creepy ‘Dead Ringers’ to ‘Die Hard with a Vengeance’ and ‘Being Julia.’ He also voiced the villainous Scar in Disney’s ‘The Lion King’ and has appeared in British and American cable television movies and miniseries like ‘Brideshead Revisited’ and ‘Elizabeth I.’ He will be seen later this year as Rodrigo Borgia in Showtime’s new drama series The Borgias.

Daemon’s TV was there when Irons and Law & Order: SVU executive producer Neal Baer talked about how this guest appearance came about, what we can expect from Captain Jackson, and which role has been Irons’ favorite.

On how this SVU appearance came about:

According to Baer, “We go and ask actors whom I’ve loved watching on television and in the movies. All they can say is no and if they say yes then we work as hard as we can to give them a part they will they enjoy.” He added, “I know that is what keeps the show fresh–that you get these unexpected actors who can deliver these soulful performances.”

For his part, Irons was intrigued by the offer of a guest spot on SVU because he had never done network television before and several of his friends are big fans of the show, so he watched some episodes. “I thought it had great style and reminded me of those paperback crime novels which move very fast,” he said. “I like the way they tell the stories. I like the way they were done.”

As for the character of Captain Jackson, Irons teased, “I like playing characters who are not necessarily what they seem. I like playing enigmas. I like playing people who live outside our normal life experience. To play characters that have or live experiences on the edge–possibly good, possibly not, I find very interesting.”

Irons also likes taking roles that might surprise people. He explained, “One has to work within the parameters of what one is offered as an actor, but I always try to put my foot, so to speak, in a place where it is not expected as I walk in my career.”

On Captain Jackson:

The role of Captain Jackson was written specifically for Irons. Baer said, “When there are actors we really want to work with, like Jeremy, we go to them and see if there’s any interest and then we develop a story specifically for them. We go after various folks and design stories that we think they’ll be interested in and will challenge them and raise some important questions in the minds of viewers. I think ["Mask"] does that. It’s not just a straightforward mystery, by any means. ”

Captain Jackson is a recovering sex addict and alcoholic seeking amends for his past behavior who is now one of the country’s foremost sex therapists. When his daughter, estranged from him due to a past incident, is attacked by a rapist, a link emerges between Jackson, his daughter, and the investigation. Jackson is apparently quite the divisive character because Baer said that the “Mask” episode “pits our characters against each other, particularly B. D. Wong and Chris Meloni, around Jeremy’s character.”

Irons liked the complexity given Jackson. “I thought he was multidimensional, which is hard to find. and he contained enigmatic qualities. He was a mystery–basically a good person but a person who had fought his battles in life. I thought it was a multi-layered role and something I’d like to get my teeth into.”

Baer could not be happier with Irons’ performance. “He’s brilliant in the episode. When you see him, he fits into the show quite well, and yet there`s something about him– and this is what I think separates the great actors from actors–you want to know him. From the moment he steps on the screen you want to know him. He brings to the show this intensity and that is very alluring, I think, to an audience,” Baer explained. “That’s what we wanted and that’s certainly what Jeremy gives in this performance and it’s a very interesting performance because as he was alluding to, his character is a very multi-dimensional character who is struggling with some very real emotional issues that he’s able to bring to the surface in a way we can all identify with. Even though there are things about [Captain Jackson] you won’t like, you empathize with him.”

On his favorite role:

Irons said that there are definitely projects he’s enjoyed more than others, adding “SVU is way up with those I’ve enjoyed. It’s a lovely team of people.” He also loved the fast paced shoot and said, “I watched [Mariska Hargitay and Chris Meloni] in awe as they worked.”

There was actually quite the mutual admiration society between Irons and Meloni. When asked what stood out the most about his experience on SVU, Irons replied, “I enjoyed working with Chris a great deal. He’s a tremendous actor.” Meanwhile, Baer said, “Chris kept texting me throughout out the shoot, ‘I love Jeremy Irons,’” to which Irons retorted, “We are talking about getting married.”

When asked what role was dearest to his heart, Irons said it was one that might surprise us. “I think it’s a movie called ‘Lolita.’ I thought it did everything that a movie should do which is stir up people and make them question things. It was a very well-played film [directed] by Adrian Lyne that sadly got very small distribution because studios were probably frightened by the subject matter.”

Law & Order: SVU airs on NBC Wednesdays at 10pm eastern/ 9pm central with “Mask” airing on January 12.

 

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Jeremy Irons returns to EPCOT

For the 2009 EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival, the Jeremy Irons narrated film “Seasons of the Vine”, a now extinct attraction from Disney’s California Adventure, is being shown.

The film is playing inside the former “Making of Me” theater inside the now extinct Wonders of Life Pavilion.

This is the first appearance by Jeremy Irons since he was narrator of Spaceship Earth last on July 7, 2007.

SeasonsoftheVine2

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