Vulture Visits Jeremy Irons’s Impressionism Dressing Room

Vulture Visits Jeremy Irons’s Impressionism Dressing Room
4/8/09 at 5:15 PM

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Photo: Wendy Goodman

Last week, the legendary Jeremy Irons invited us into his dressing room at Broadway’s Schoenfeld Theatre, where he’s currently starring in Impressionism with Joan Allen. His current backstage alcove is the exact same one he had in 1984 when he starred with Glenn Close in The Real Thing, for which he won a Tony. He spoke with us about the room’s paint job (tomato red) and its other previous occupants, and what he does in between performances.

Can you tell us about your history with this dressing room?
Well, this is the room I had 25 years ago with The Real Thing, and that is the door that I met, I mean everybody. The door would open and there would be Paul Newman, or Bette Davis. My autograph book [takes it out and shows it to us] has all their signatures. There we are — Rosemary Harris, Louis Malle, Candice Bergen, January 5, 1984. There we are.

How was the room when you had it in 1984?
It wasn’t this color. This is the color I asked them to paint it this time, because when I came back it had been turned into an office. And I said, “Do you need that office?” And they said they didn’t need it, and I said, “Well, could I have it back as my dressing room?” So they took all the cupboards and the shelves out, put it back as it was, and painted it this color, which I think is a nice warm color, and gave me a couch that I can sleep on, and a table.

Can you tell us about that painting? That I borrowed from a friend, although it is actually a painting of my castle in Ireland. She was given it by someone else, and she wasn’t hanging it so I said, “Well, I’ll put it in my dressing room.” So that’s why that is there, to remind me of home.

Do you stay here between the matinee and evening performances?
I often do. I often do my fan mail, have a sleep, have a bit of a read. I nip out and have something to eat, but I usually do stay here.

What’s the most important thing about a dressing room for you?
What I love is that I can open that door and everybody going up to their dressing rooms, or coming down, I can talk to, I see on the stairs, so I am not cut off. I am really in the middle of things, I love that. I have a window, I can see the street. I like that. It is not too big. It is just big enough, because I like boat-sized things, and it is a good size in that way. And I have a shower and a loo, which is all you need. I have a window that opens so that I can keep it cool. It just has a nice feel and it also has a memory. Amazing people have been here. One of the original occupants of this dressing room, someone was telling me the other day, a producer who had worked with her … not Bette Davis … Who was it who said, “Is that a gun in your pocket or are you excited to see me?”

Mae West!
Mae West! Mae West had this dressing room! Which was fantastic, and a lot of great people had this dressing room. There is a great spirit in here, and I love that sort of feeling of continuity.

Photo: Wendy Goodman
By: Wendy Goodman

Jeremy Irons refuses to engage with us – from W Magazine

blog_irons.jpgAfter 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.