After a 24-year hiatus, Jeremy Irons has brought his poetic, weather-beaten face back to Broadway in Michael Jacobs’ new play, Impressionism. The actor shares the stage with Joan Allen, playing a photographer dealing with his fractured, emotionally stunted past while looking really handsome. Mr. Irons, who has inhabited both Franz Kafka and Scar from The Lion King with very little apparent effort, is obviously a serious minded individual, so perhaps we should have realized that he wouldn’t respond to our (admittedly silly) questions with witticisms of his own. Still, it’s not everyday you can get love advice from Mr. Irons, so here goes:
What about Impressionism lured you back to Broadway after such a long absence? Is it because you enjoy dressing up as an international photojournalist and wearing dashing scarves?
No, it wasn’t the clothes. Most of them are mine anyway. But a new play is always a challenge, and one that deals with adult love and the barriers we put up to protect ourselves seemed a good subject.
In Impressionism, you play a mincing English man bowled over by a strident American woman. Why do you think there are so many plays, movies and sitcoms about that particular dynamic?
So many of us who have been damaged by romantic or parental love put up a barrier, lest we be hurt one more time. Thomas, a damaged man himself, recognizes the gentle heart beating within the strident exterior of this particular lady, and patiently waits while he gets her trust, before exposing his feelings for her.
When American women happen to be strident, is it better for her male counterpart to be diabolical or mincing (as you have played both)?
I think cities are, paradoxically, a difficult place to find a partner. Stridency is a manner many people find they are compelled to adopt, just to survive in the rat race. But patient, careful love will eventually triumph.
You have been in a lot of period mini-series. Do you miss them? Do you feel as if you have a particularly period face?
I suspect I have a face that will play any period. There are so many great stories that need more than a feature’s length to play themselves out, and many of those are set in the past. These are ideally suited to the mini series. One of the sad effects of having so many television channels is that the advertising revenue is now spread so thinly amongst them all that it becomes harder for any one channel to afford the investment required to make a series such as Brideshead anymore.
What could I, and all of us, do, to revive the age of the period mini-series? Must we protest?
I don’t know how we can alter perceived market forces except by as many of us as possible watching the good work when it is aired. Perhaps the most effective method of encouraging these shows is to support public broadcasting channels such as PBS and cable networks such as H.B.O.
See? We told you.