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.]

Jeremy Irons Talks about “Shakespeare Uncovered” on PBS

Shakespeare Uncovered premieres on PBS stations on January 25, 2013.

Learn more HERE.

In a unique series of six films, Shakespeare Uncovered combines history, biography, iconic performances, new analysis, and the personal passions of its celebrated hosts — Ethan Hawke, Jeremy Irons, Derek Jacobi, Trevor Nunn, Joely Richardson, and David Tennant — to tell the stories behind the stories of Shakespeare’s greatest plays.

‘Night Train to Lisbon’ to Premiere at Berlinale 2013

Jeremy Irons’s film Night Train to Lisbon will have its world premiere at the 2013 Berlin Film Festival.  Jeremy will be in Berlin for the premiere.

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| Berlinale | Press | Press Releases | All Press Releases – Berlinale 2013: Competition Now Complete.

Find more information HERE about the screening dates for Night Train to Lisbon.

Tickets for the screenings are available to purchase HERE.

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‘The Borgias’ Season 3 Promos

The Borgias, Season 3 Premiere – Full Episode


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The Borgias season 3 promo – “Father, Son, Unholy Spirit”


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The Borgias season 3 short promo – “Give in to Sin”

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The Borgias season 3 promo – “Nothing is Sacred. Everything is a Game.”

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The Borgias : Season 3: Episode 1 Clip – We are at War


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The Borgias : Season 3: Episode 1 Clip – There is a Plot


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On the Season 3 Premiere of The Borgias:


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‘Trashed’ DVD Release Date

Trashed will be released on DVD (Region 2) on April 22, 2013.

Pre-order your copy from Amazon.co.uk

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Product details:

Actors: Jeremy Irons
Directors: Candida Brady
Format: PAL, Widescreen
Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe)
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Blenheim Films
DVD Release Date: 22 April 2013
Run Time: 97 minutes

Review
TRASHED– 5 stars – New York Daily News – Jeremy Irons takes us through a tour of the world s grotesque garbage consumption and failure to dispose of its trash, which inspires horrified reactions from both him and us. This is appalling , our Oscar-winning guide says, sitting on a debris-strewn beach in Lebanon. Seem bleak? It s supposed to, as director Candida Brady uses a thriller-ish tone to show the state of the planet. And if facts about 150 years of plastics, dioxins and dangerous castoffs don t jolt you, a visit to a hospital for malformed children will. Yet for all the poisonous truths in Trashed, there are also solid grass-roots solutions that, as presented, feel do-able and politically digestible. That helps, because everything Irons finds puts you off food. Crucial viewing for realists and alarmists both. —http://www.laweekly.com/movies/trashed-1494726/

This is appalling, says the actor Jeremy Irons, surveying a reeking mountain of consumer waste fouling a once glorious beach in Lebanon. That spoiled shoreline is only one of many revolting sights in Trashed, Candida Brady s down-and-dirty documentary about our inability to neutralize safely much of what we throw away. Taking us on a global tour of escalating rubbish and toxic disposal options, Ms. Brady rubs our faces in the poisonous consequences of littering the planet with substances that, like bedbugs and French mimes, are almost impossible to get rid of. But if we must talk trash, Mr. Irons assisted by a scientist or two and Vangelis’s doomy score is an inspired choice of guide. Soothing and sensitive, his liquid gaze alighting on oozing landfills and belching incinerators, he moves through the film with a tragic dignity that belies his whimsical neckwear and jaunty hats. Every sterile whale and plastic-choked turtle is a dagger in his heart (and will be in yours too), to say nothing of the farmers ruined by chemically contaminated livestock. By the time Mr. Irons visits a Vietnamese hospital for children with severe birth defects the legacy of Agent Orange that plastic water bottle in your hand will feel as dangerous as a Molotov cocktail. –www.nytimes.com

The world is in a heap of trouble — make that heaps: giant, toxic mountains of garbage that endanger our oceans, marine life, the atmosphere and humanity in general — without an end in sight. That is, unless citizens, industry and governments get deadly serious about such solutions as mass recycling, composting, plastics reduction and more. Such is the global crisis that’s vividly, relentlessly detailed in the vital documentary starring dulcet-voiced zero waste advocate, actor Jeremy Irons. Guided by writer-director Candida Brady, Irons (genial, studious) travels the globe visiting some of the most egregious, noxious examples of trash disposal and waste mismanagement; vast, open-air garbage dumps in Lebanon and Indonesia that infect its waterways and coastlines are particularly horrendous. It’s not a pretty picture, to say the least, with a stop in Vietnam to examine birth defects linked to wartime Agent Orange spraying proving a deeply grim offshoot of the film’s central thrust. Then there’s the garbage calamity’s most insidious culprit: non-recycled, non-biodegradable plastic. The movie, as have other eco-documentaries, chillingly examines how endless bits of the toxic material routinely flood our oceans, harm its inhabitants and find their way into the fish we eat. Scientists, doctors and academics weigh in as well, though flipside input from corporate interests and government policymakers would have added welcome dimension to this crucial discussion. —www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/moviesnow/la-et-mn-trashed-capsule-20121214,0,7515915.story

Jeremy Irons at the Winter TCA Press Tour for PBS

Actor/host Jeremy Irons of the television show “Shakespeare Uncovered” speaks during the PBS portion of the 2013 Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour at the Langham Huntington Hotel & Spa on January 15, 2013 in Pasadena, California.

Jeremy Irons prefers Shakespeare to ‘Abbey’ – USA Today

Album of HUGE, high-resolution, original photos on the PBS Flickr Page – Shakespeare Uncovered All photos in that set should be credited to Rahoul Ghose/PBS.

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‘Trashed’ to be Screened at the Houses of Parliament

Jeremy Irons will join a host of MPs and campaigners at a special screening of Trashed at Portcullis House, on Thursday 7 February 2013.

The filmmakers of Trashed are sponsoring a contest to win two tickets to the screening. See all of the details HERE.

Entries must be made as soon as possible. The winner will be announced on 28th January.