Jeremy Irons attended the Private View opening of son Sam Irons’s new photography exhibition at the Tim Sheward Projects in London’s Bankside.
Event photos by Laurie McShea
Sam Irons’s work will be on display until 02 November 2013.
Max Irons is featured in The Times from Thursday 15 August 2013.
The full article is for Times subscribers only and can be found HERE.
However, the text of the article can be read on the photos below. Click to enlarge them to full size:
Published in issue 11-MM
11th March 2013
Author – Ralf Kaminski
British actor Jeremy Irons (64) is among the very biggest stars of international cinema. Since his breakthrough in 1981 with the TV, “Brideshead Revisited” and the movies with “The French Lieutenant’s Woman,” he is constantly present in movies and television. His specialty are shady characters, whether it be the 40-year-old literature professor who falls in “Lolita” (1997) for precocious 12-year-olds, or the ruthless bank boss in “Margin Call” (2011), the financial crisis in the largest provides a way to rake in more money.
Irons has been married since 1978, with the Irish actress Sinéad Cusack, they have two grown sons, one of whom, Max, is also an actor. The couple lives partly in Oxfordshire (UK), and partly in a self-renovated Irish castle in West Cork. In the coming weeks, Jeremy Irons is seen in three ways: first as a teacher Raimund Gregorius in Bille August’s “Night Train to Lisbon ‘, based on the novel by the Swiss author Pascal Mercier (in cinemas from March 7). Once head of the family of a witch clan in fantasy film “Beautiful Creatures” (in cinemas from April 3). And finally, also known as Rodrigo Borgia, Pope Alexander VI. in the TV series “The Borgias” (the third season running in the U.S. on April 14 on).
“It’s great fun to play people who reinvent themselves for their own rules”
The British film star Jeremy Irons plays the main role in the film adaptation of Pascal Mercier’s “Night Train to Lisbon”. Before the premiere in Bern, he spoke to the Migros magazine about shooting, his other projects and his penchant for shady characters.
A world star you meet not every day. And British actor Jeremy Irons (64) has a reputation during filming is not always easy to be because of a certain tendency towards perfectionism. The slight nervousness turns out to be unfounded. Irons is not only extremely friendly, he is also very relaxed. Middle of a conversation, he gets up, fishes a tobacco package from his overcoat pocket, rolls a cigarette and walked with it to the balcony door of the hotel room as he continues to answer questions. He then puffing contentedly out into the icy Bern air, behind him on the wall of the room large a Non smoking signs …
Jeremy Irons, in the next few weeks you will be featured in three completely different roles. As a somewhat conservative Latin teacher in “Night Train to Lisbon”, as scheming Pope in the third season of “The Borgias” and as head of the family of a witch clan in “Beautiful Creatures.” How do you choose your roles?
Always for very different reasons. “Night Train” has attracted me in many ways. I like director Bille August, we have worked together before and then also shot in Lisbon, a great city. And I liked the book extraordinary, as I read it then. It seemed, however, that it would be difficult to film because it is so much revolves around ideas and philosophical questions. But if someone hinkriegt then Bille August. So I thought that might be a very nice five weeks, and so it was.
“The Borgias” is a rare excursions into your television, you can delay the first left?
Not really. Nowadays fewer and fewer films are being shot out of the way I like to do: movies, which are directed more to a smaller audience, but still cost quite a bit. More and more writers wander therefore from the television, where he produced many great quality series currently. Neil Jordan, whom I admire very much, did that too, after he had tried once before about ten years ago to make a movie out of the material. And he asked me if I would take on the lead role. It was one of these projects, as I like them, and it’s a really great role. So I said yes and am now engaged in five months.
That’s quite a time commitment, it was therefore already in collisions with other projects?
Until now. Or if so, then my agent told me nothing about it (laughs). So far it has been successful, so to work around.
“Beautiful Creatures” seems to be a relatively unusual choice of roles …
It’s not a movie I would see myself in the movies. But I had not worked for some time for a major Hollywood studio, and I know that this strip as part of “Twilight” are very popular. The figure has wit and a couple of nice scenes. So I thought, why not?
You sometimes take roles because they pay well?
I did that about three times in my life, and it’s been a while. “Dungeons & Dragons” is an example, and then there was a film in which I played someone with a white face … I do not come just for the title …
“The Time Machine”?
Exactly. I’ve done both while I renovated our little castle in Ireland. Since it was very useful to get a good fee.
When was the last time you have to audition for a role?
Phew, that was long ago. After drama school for roles in the theater, or about the age of 22. Nowadays, I get offers and decide what I want or do not want.
There are times that you absolutely want to have a role, but do not get it?
It happens, but the last time is also a long time ago. I would have loved to have had Robert Redford’s role in “Out of Africa”, the director Sydney Pollack unconvinced. He and Redford were good friends.
The presentation of “Night Train to Lisbon” discussed many philosophical questions, and religion is a recurring theme. Are you a believer?
These questions were the reason that I was attracted by the project. I’m quite a spiritual person, I believe in a whole lot. But I’m not one to like to hear about a group or club. My wife and my children are Catholic, and I myself was baptized Protestant. But religion is not such a big issue in the family. Whenever we go to church at Christmas and Easter, then a Catholic with us in the area. It is a kind of center for a very widely dispersed community, and follow whatever is completely there. It is always very nice. This church is like the glue that holds together the people.
About 20 years ago, have you ever filmed with Bille August in Lisbon. How he has changed since then, as the city?
He has not changed one bit. More children he has, but that’s it already. I also believe that I have not changed that much. Nevertheless, everything was new, because it was about a whole different story. And we turned in another corner of the city, especially in the old city – beautiful, especially because it crumbles a bit to himself.
Did Bille August? Much freedom left in the interpretation of the figure, or he knew exactly what he wanted?
He knows very well what he wants. But he also looks for the people that he knows that they bring him. If you do something that does not fit him, he says that too. Which is good. A director is a kind of sounding board that you need as an actor. The hope is that you hit the right note, but can never be sure, because you do not even see or hear. Since it needs someone who helps in fine-tuning. This of course requires that you trust the taste of the director what I do at Bille.
But that was it different?
Oh yes, I will not mention names here but.
And then you rebel?
It is often only realized when you see the finished film. During filming, I thought: Well, but that can not be justified. Then I saw the movie and thought, oh no, all wrong, we should do it the way I wanted it.
You have enjoyed your short visit in Bern during filming last year, I have read. How well do you know Switzerland?
Not very good, unfortunately. I go once in a while skiing in St. Moritz, and now by the way again after that visit here in Bern. But that’s it for now.
“The Borgias” You’re yes then for television, is somehow different?
Not at all. It’s like being on a movie set, even a bit more luxurious, we have more time and better equipment. But that’s just because it’s a quality series. I have friends in the U.S. turn the soaps, which sounds much less pleasant.
Rodrigo Borgia is a very complex character, a ruthless schemer. And yet you play it so that you like him, and hopes that its work plans.
A very interesting character. I read a lot about him, a lot of research, and has opened up a very wide spectrum character, I can work with. The popes after him have hated him, and their interpretation of it has come to dominate. This has ruined the reputation of the Borgia family rather, with all the stories of incest, for example. I am convinced that this is a caricature, and how I interpret it too. I’m looking for the nuances, the contradictions that we all have within us. We behave sometimes good and sometimes bad.
They like to play these kinds of characters, right? About in “Lolita” …
This role interpretation have taken me some really bad.
You played the seducer of a 12-year-olds to “nice”?
I was asked: How could you do that? My answer: people who do bad things are not necessarily bad.
However, you seem to play the bad guys like to correct: “The Time Machine,” “Die Hard with a Vengeance” …
Oh yes. Why are bad guys bad? Because they do not follow the rules, they find their own way, outside the conventions of society. It’s great fun to play people who invent their own rules. And it gives the audience the opportunity to watch people who behave like they normally can not, but secretly would probably also like.
You once said that you are particularly proud of “Dead Ringers,” “Lolita” and “The Mission”. Does that still?
In “Lolita” I could not really show all that I can, it is certainly my most complete film. On the other two I’m still proud, though I’m never as good as I would have liked.
“Lolita” was a risky role, you smoke, you ride a motorcycle – you obviously like to flirt with danger.
In fact. Risks brings enrichment to life. I’ve also never regretted. If something does not work out as hoped, then I say to myself, okay, but it seemed to make sense, as I have decided to make it so. So, what the heck. Do not regret, but just keep going. I try not to look back, not forward, but to live in the moment.
They always say that it had to do with smoking, that you have such a great voice. But I know some smokers, and none has such a voice! How do you do that?
(Laughs) I have no idea. She just is. Good genes! And of course it’s great to have something that stands out.
Is it true that on a film set can sometimes be difficult because you are a perfectionist like that?
That was probably one way, but I’ve put it behind me. Today I am much more relaxed and try to have a good time especially. If all fun and relaxed, it increases the chance that they will do a good job.
Your wife and your sons are indeed also worked as an actor. Look at each of your films to give advice and criticize?
That’s what we do. However, the movie business has changed dramatically since the time when we started. This makes it difficult for us, a young actor to give career advice. But it is important to know what we think of his work. The same goes for me and my wife when it comes to our films.
Has your wife ever really criticized heavily for one of your works?
Oh yes, and how. I once played some time ago in London theater. She looked at the dress rehearsal and then said: “Thou art really bad in the play” (laughs)
Very often, you do not look likely. All are constantly traveling somewhere and making films. Is not it hard sometimes?
Oh, because we have become accustomed, it was ever thus. We meet when we can. Our sons both live in London. And if we are spending time together, we enjoy it even more.
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.
From the London Times, Saturday 23 June 2012.
Ben Whishaw, Jeremy Irons and Tom Hiddleston are bringing the history plays to the BBC. Andrew Billen talks to them.
Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown — uneasy even, one imagines, if it is worn merely for Harry, England and the BBC. Any actor playing the king in Shakespeare’s second tetralogy of English history, the Henriad, composed of Richard II, the two parts of Henry IV, and Henry V, must feel the crown’s weight. It has rounded the mortal temples of Alec Guinness, Paul Scofield, Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance (among the Richards), of John Gielgud, Jon Finch and Tom Fleming (the last of whose Henry IVs became the voice of royal ceremonial for the BBC), and, most burdensomely, of an army of hyper-distinguished Hals led by Ralph Richardson, Laurence Olivier, Richard Burton and the just-knighted Kenneth Branagh.
But for Ben Whishaw, Jeremy Irons and Tom Hiddleston, who sequentially play the kings in the BBC’s new cycle, The Hollow Crown, there is another responsibility. Shakespeare on TV has fallen out of fashion. The once familiar BBC Shakespeare production — there were more than 60 between 1945 and 2000 — has disappeared to be replaced by the occasional BBC film of a hit stage version. Even with Ian Holm as Lear, David Tennant as Hamlet, and, tomorrow on BBC Four, Jeffrey Kissoon as the RSC’s current Julius Caesar, this is not quite the same. The BBC’s last Richard IIs, for instance, were Fiona Shaw (from the gender-swapping 1995 National Theatre production) and Mark Rylance, filmed at the Globe in 2003. Incredibly, there has not been a BBC Henry V for 32 St Crispin Days. That play begins by apologising for cramming “so great an object” within the “wooden O” of the stage. Today, the question is whether Shakespeare, with his worrisome language, lengthy scenes and habit of arriving DOA in classrooms, is interesting enough to fill our great plasmatic rectangles.
Well. I have seen all four films in the BBC’s The Hollow Crown series, and my living room echoes resoundingly “yes”. When the BBC announced the project in September 2010, the histories seemed an odd place to begin a Bard revival. Now, in the summer of the Jubilee, as the kingdom again ponders a succession, they seem oddly relevant, if not as controversial as when Richard II’s abdication scene was removed from print editions so as not to offend the first Elizabeth. Politicians now, as Shakespeare’s monarchs then, strain for legitimacy amid shifting alliances. Nor is there anything remote about sending young men abroad to die for opaque causes: as the grunt Williams tells Henry V just before Agincourt, when he dares to speak of the justice of his cause: “That’s more than we know.”
Taking advantage of the nation’s widescreens, the executive producers Sam Mendes and Pippa Harris have opened the dramas out, cinematically, into Britain’s countryside, castles and cathedrals. The plays’ respective directors, Rupert Goold, Richard Eyre and Thea Sharrock, have encouraged their casts to deliver often heavily-cut speeches conversationally. Soliloquies, following the convention of Olivier’s 1948 Hamlet, are delivered as voiceovers. But what casts! Not even counting those kings, to whose number one must admit the dourly brilliant Rory Kinnear as Richard’s successful challenger Bolingbroke, there is the fat-suited Simon Russell Beale as a delicate, scheming Falstaff, Joe Armstrong as Hotspur, and, down in Falstaff’s unruly alternative court in Eastcheap, Julie Walters as Mistress Quickly. Again and again, actors we have taken for granted prove true Shakespeareans.
But it is when the kings wrangle over the crown that the films electrify. Ben Whishaw as Richard, reluctantly persuaded to abdicate in Bolingbroke’s favour (“Here cousin!”), bursts into tears, almost hands over the crown, takes it back and finally rolls it truculently towards Kinnear, who is wearing an expression that might be texted as “WTF?”.
“When someone is that deluded about themselves, it is always slightly comic,” says Whishaw, last seen in The Hour on BBC Two, and, at 31, two years younger than Richard at his deposition and death. “I felt his story was the story of someone who was forced to confront their vulnerability, who has constructed an identity of power and invulnerability and godlike authority, and whose illusions about himself are shattered.”
Whishaw dresses for his sacking in a priestly white gown trimmed in orange. In an earlier beach scene, in which he makes a stage of a rock, he wears his crown over a scarf worn a la Lawrence of Arabia. Mixed in with his divinity is a dessert helping of camp. “What Rupert [Goold] and I talked about was a Michael Jackson parallel. That was our reference in terms of his theatricality, the sense that everything is a performance and everything is about maximising the mystery around him. And like Jackson he is surrounded by people who just say yes to him.”
But there are more mundane parallels for an age of economic uncertainty. Whishaw sees Richard both as a megastar and a bloke who loses the job that defined him. Yet, once reduced to nothing, in his cell, his imagination spring opens and he identifies with others, even his old horse. “When I had finished working on this play — and maybe all Shakespeare is like this — I had the sensation that the play seemed to be about everything in life,” Whishaw says. “It is at once very specific and completely universal.”
For Jeremy Irons, who takes over from Kinnear as Henry IV in the two plays that follow Richard II, the story burrows towards the particular and the personal. Henry, so assured when he was Henry Bolingbroke, a duke unjustly exiled by the whimsically despotic Richard, is now plagued by ill health brought on by guilt at having usurped a divinely anointed king. The barons, not liking their new monarch much more than the last, again divide the kingdom. Any actor playing this Henry finds the plays’ form following their content. He is the star in title only. In performance he vies for attention with his tearaway son-and-heir Hal, his rebellious rival Hotspur, and, above all, Falstaff, who not only represents that hedonistic boozer faction in the English character but is a dissolute second father to his son. For many theatre-goers over the centuries, and for Orson Welles in his movie Chimes at Midnight, the star ofHenry IV is Sir John Falstaff.
Irons’ solution to the plays’ divided attentions is to make Henry’s throne its own centre of gravity, turning it into a virtual sick bed. Irons, 63, six years older than Henry at his death, wears the hollow crown over a hollow face, in a performance informed by his research into the real Henry, a “dazzling youth”, champion jouster, unjustly exiled and rightly outraged when Richard takes the estate of his dead father (Patrick Stewart’s John of Gaunt). “You would think he would be perfect, but in fact illness got him,” Irons says. “He used to have these fits. He would lie there apparently dead for ten, 20 minutes and then he would revive. No one quite knows what it was.” But it adds to the scene when Hal believes his father dead.
In a 1979 Henry IV, the BBC gave Jon Finch’s king leprosy, allowing for some Pilate-style hand-washing undermined by an off day in the continuity department that resulted in the king both wearing and not wearing gloves at the time. This time Richard Eyre determined leprosy would only mean Irons getting up even earlier into make-up. Instead Irons complicates his malaise with a father’s despair.
“For me it is a domestic play and a play about a father and a son — quite common themes: I am missing a boy who is not there and is up to I-know-not-what. I think quite a lot of fathers go through that time with their sons when they are demanding their independence. I certainly had it with my first boy. He pulled away and some years later he came back and realised how similar he was to me.”
Sam Irons is a photographer, but Max Irons is already, at 26, a Hollywood leading man (Red Riding Hood). He has talked openly of being expelled from Bryanston when a master caught him having sex. “Now Max is trying to steal my crown,” his father jokes. “But you also think of our current Prince of Wales. He is not up to making a fool of himself, but he has no function and he is trying to find his place. Of course, like Hal, as soon as he gets the job, I am sure he will be magnificent.”
Richard Eyre rang Tom Hiddleston to say he had won the part of Hal/Henry V on the wedding day of Prince Charles’s elder son two Aprils ago. Tom said yes. Now 31, barely two years older than Henry at Agincourt, he had been alerted to the “muscular, visceral” Shakespeare as a schoolboy when he saw Branagh’s 1989 film ofHenry V. Over a term at Rada, he paperbacked his way through Shakespeare at a Café Nero near Archway, London. “I distinctly remember the weekends I read the histories. When I got to Henry IV and Henry V, I thought to myself, very privately: ‘What a prospect that character is! What a journey he goes on!’ ”
No prep, however, could forearm him for his first day of filming, which, owing to the professional commitment of Beale, was onHenry V (15 weeks later Hiddleston’s reverse journey would end in the studio that mocked up Eastcheap in Henry IV). “It was an extraordinary thing. Day one, take one, slate one was riding along the moat of Arundel Castle and then delivering, ‘Once more unto the breach.’ ”
Branagh renders the Harfleur battle speech from a white horse, crisply and at speed, revving up the “r” in “tiger”. Olivier before him, riding an equally pristine steed, waits for perfect quiet and speaks unlisping Churchill. But Hiddleston dismounts and kneels amid a group of soldiers, fixing them in turn. Breathlessly, almost desperately, he gives his pep talk as if the English are one-nil at half time and he is going on himself. The playing owes much to the realism of HBO’s Band of Brothers (which, of course, owes much to Shakespeare).
“The play is an examination of war through the eyes of this one man,” Hiddleston says. “There are brutal speeches in there that are not pretty. I must be careful. Thea Sharrock has not made an anti-war film but it is certainly a pro-peace film. When Henry tells Williams ‘every subject’s duty is the king’s, but every subject’s soul is his own’ it is an exhortation to accountability. Take responsibility for who you are and what you stand for.”
Hiddleston, who has played in several father-son struggles (Randolph Churchill to Albert Finney’s Winston in The Gathering Storm, Loki to Anthony Hopkins’s Odin in Thor last year) clashed lightly with his scientist father about whether to go into acting. One of the funniest moments of his Henry is when he delivers a perfect Irons impression down at the Boar’s Head. But the Henriad has got to him deeper than that, either that or 4am starts, pre-dawn runs and filming till dusk did.
“I don’t want to sound too pompous or pretentious but people I have spoken to who have played Hamlet and other huge, totemic parts say they change you permanently. And having played Henry V, I tend to agree. Part, I think, of the appeal and strength of Henry V as a character is his astonishing ability to back up words with action. I truly think I understand the nature of responsibility a little more.”
The responsibility of returning Shakespeare to television was not the three kings’ alone, but Whishaw, Irons and Hiddleston have more than delivered. As Whishaw says, we are told, and sometimes think, that Shakespeare doesn’t work on television: “His poetry needs a space to live in. It is metaphorical. Blah, blah, blah.” The Hollow Crown refutes such pessimism. Shakespeare is as intimate as television and as outsized as its widest screen. Our wooden O is the box in the corner of our little rooms, confining mighty men, and liberating them too.
The Hollow Crown begins with Richard II on BBC Two, June 30 at 9pm
The photography exhibit “I don’t want to get over you” by Sam Irons, is on display from 31 May – 12 June 2012, at the A. Elfes Monumental Masons, 17 Osborn St., E1 6TD London, England.
Thank you to [you know who you are] for this account of Jeremy at the 2011 Tuscan Sun Festival:
(Photos at the bottom of the post…)
“The evening was a mix of theater, music and ballet and told the story of the 9 year long relationship between Chopin and female writer George Sand. Though I really like Chopin’s music and they played the pieces pretty well, I just wished there were less music and more Jeremy.
As for his acting: he was breathtaking… I was very curious whether he could do a convincing Chopin. Not only because he had to play a young man (half of his age), but because of Chopin’s character, who was a fragile, angelic man, ill all the time, sophisticated and sensitive in a sort of feminine way (while Sand was the more dominant, stronger party in the relationship). And yes, he did it… He transformed completely, especially in the second half of the play, when he becomes more and more ill and lonely and finally brakes up with Sand. You just wanted to take him to your arms carefully and protect him – just like George Sand must have felt about Chopin.
I’m not sure if I have ever seen him being so painfully beautiful like this evening. His hair was something like in Appaloosa, curly at the back, and his skinny, fragile figure was emphasized with long, narrow-fitted clothes. And his face… it was truly expressive, lost, and dreamy (do you remember the last scene of M Butterfly? I could compare his between-genders presence to that). Every bit of him was alive, his playing was so subtle, sensitive and expressive!
As for the set, they had two armchairs and a table at each side of the stage, Sinead on the right, Jeremy on the left. At the back, in the middle the piano. Simon Trpceski played the pieces, while Jeremy sort of pretended to play them either sitting on a chair with his back to the audience or standing at the side of the piano.
There was an ovation at the end of course, they got flowers, and Jeremy threw his to the audience with a cheeky smile before he disappeared behind the curtains. Outside of the theater the crowd waited for them. The musicians came, then the dancers came, God knows who else came, but not them. I waited at least an hour but they must have left through a stage door or something, which was a bit disappointing. Both Max and Sam were there with girlfriends. I saw them briefly, they walked away on foot. Now they are at the charity dinner.”
London-based label Percival has tapped Sam Irons to photograph its Autumn/Winter 2011 lookbook:
Click on the thumbnails for larger images:
Red Riding Hood star Max Irons talks to Bazaar’s Stephanie Rafanelli about wolves, nudity and his famous dad
Max Irons and I are playing The Guessing Game; in this case, over the identity of the lycanthrope killer in the 25-year-old actor’s debut feature Red Riding Hood, a gothic thriller adapted from the original fairy tale. So, who is the werewolf? Is it him, Red Riding Hood’s (Amanda Seyfried) betrothed; or the woodcutter she really loves? The suspiciously hairy wolfhunter (Gary Oldman). Or in an implausible twist, Julie Christie, the tales’ sagacious matriarch? “I cooould be the werewolf. I’m definitely a werewolf suspect!” he chuckles, his eyes widening at the mere thought of such a betrayal. “Okay. I’m the werewolf! Red Riding Hood’s the werewolf! Everybody’s the werewolf!”
Tranquil, post-11am roll-up, Irons stares hypnotically into the log fire at Blacks in Soho; his carved cheekbones and distant jade eyes, with the potential to slip into anguish or fervour, a clue to his genetic inheritance (he is the youngest son of thespian heavyweights Jeremy Irons and Sinead Cusack; and the grandson of Cyril Cusack, Julie Christie’s 1966 Fahrenheit 451 co-star). It is a heady cocktail that director Catherine Hardwicke, the woman responsible for Robert Pattison’s appearance in Twilight (spawning mass hormonal surges amongst the global pubescent population), clearly responded to. Especially as her reinvention of the fairy tale, one of the first in a spate of upcoming films, promises to be as rife with smouldering teen eroticism as the hitherto dominant Vampire genre. “I heard that Robert got chased down the street in Paris in his car, before the film even came out. Two black eyebrows rise, sardonically, to form a triangle in perfect symmetry. “I really don’t think it will come anything close to that.”
Though his name recalls a strident comic strip hero, by contrast, he is gently self-effacing (“American actors are all muscular, tanned, white teeth and they have this indestructible confidence. We British are all…Dare I say it? Pessimistic”). He is also somewhat apologetic both for the brands he is sporting (Dior boots, and a Prada Jacket – scruffed beyond recognition) as for his turns as a model, during his drama student years, in Mango (2007) and Burberry’s 2008 ad campaigns. “It was about 7am Saturday morning. I’m living in this basement bedsit with no fucking kitchen and barely a window. Smells of death. My phone goes off and someone says do you want to be shot by Mario Testino with Kate Moss. I didn’t have an agent so I said yup!” He fidgets uncomfortably. “That campaign has haunted me a bit. It has a smell of ‘you’ll do anything to be in front of the camera’.”
Like his father before him, Irons is wary of trading on his looks (the veteran actor rose to fame in The French Lieutenants’ Woman and Brideshead Revisited in 1981 thereafter avoiding being cast as the dashingly decadent love interest) or being hyped by the Hollywood machine. “Actors like Rebecca Hall and Andrew Garfield don’t play the celebrity game. You don’t even know who they go out with. Once you become the story off-screen, you are less likely to be the onscreen one.” But his brief track record already suggests that he is an actor of a similar mould. He received critical acclaim for Tom Stoppard’s Artist Descending A Staircase, and was nominated, alongside Hall, for the Ian Charleson Award in 2009 for his work in Wallenstein at Chichester Festival Theatre. (Hall and Irons became acquainted on tour with Sinead Cusack in Sam Mendes’ the Bridge Project that year: “After the last performance in Greece, everyone went skinny-dipping naked, drinking vodka including my mother I think”)
Puffy-eyed from jetlag from a recent “charm offensive” meeting agents in LA, Irons is on a four-day London stopover (which included presenting a BAFTA’s with Eva Green). A few weeks ago, he bumped into Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes. “I spent time with her when my dad was filming House of the Spirits, and her daughter Gracie and I shared the same tutor. She’d recognised me and came up to me. I was so, so touched.”
Growing up, Irons divided his time between Oxfordshire and his parents stage and film locations; though he was too young to witness his father’s favourite film.“I watched The Mission again on a plane to LA recently and I was in floods of tears. My older brother, Sam, was there, and they spent six months living with the villagers. I mean, Christ – what an amazing time.”
As a teenager his holidays were spent in Country Cork where, in 2000 his father bought and renovated Kilcoe Castle (“Err well it’s more like two towers joined together.”): “He’s become like a local.” He shakes his head.”He does this steeplechase where they stop on their horses at the pub every hour for a pint. Imagine what it’s like at the end of the day. Jumping over huge stone walls, going through rivers. They’re all pissed. It’s crazy.”
With such global adventures under his belt, has he inherited his father’s gung-ho spirit? “I’ve got my dad’s height and smoking habit. But I think I’ve got my mum’s looks and sensibilities.” He smiles warmly. “My dad’s very outspoken. He’ll say what he thinks. We’ve had some fruity political arguments across the kitchen table. They are both quite political, but mum more so. She’s very active [she is president of the Burma Campaign UK] and I seriously love that.” Iron’s half-brother Richard Boyd Barratt is also a political activist, like his biological mother Cusack, with whom he was re-united, around seven years ago, after she gave him up for adoption in 1968. “It wasn’t really that she‘gave him up for adoption.’ He was taken away by the Catholic Church; as was the way in those days, because she conceived out of wedlock.” Irons explains. “It was only in around 2004 when the Irish government ordered the Church to make the details of these adoptions available. I think within a week of that happening they’d been reunited. It’s amazing. And they’re so similar and they get on so well considering they missed 43 years of each other’s lives.”
Such is the rich heritage of Max Irons, filled with moving real life epics as well as thespian and cinema classics: a mighty well from which to draw inspiration in his future acting career (and from Irons’ fledgling projects, one senses there will be a future…). For now, he is adding the finishing touches to Runaways, a six part series for Sky One set in Seventies Soho. “The Italians and Irish gangsters are fighting for control of the sex district. I play this kid who ends up O-Ding nastily on a concoction of cocaine, amphetamines and vodka,” he winces. “But I get to wear flares and kind of woollen tanks tops [laughs]. I’ve got really shit hair though. I had to have a perm!.” He has two secret Hollywood projects in the fire (“If I told you, I’d have to kill you”), after which, Irons is keen to return to the stage. “Donmar. Royal Court. Okay. Put that in.” He leans forward and enunciates into the dictaphone. “I’ll do anything. Naked. Anything! Equus – I’ll do it.” And with that, he quickly pulls out a pack of tobacco, deftly crafts a cigarette (“I’m gagging for one”), before sauntering off into Dean Street. For sure, a roll-up is the only thing Irons need be desperate for right now.